Using Watercolor Pencils

By Nicole Tinkham

Recently, we had one of our art specialists do a demo featuring watercolor pencils at a Super Saturday Sale. Participants sat down at the demo table and experimented with the pencils on pre-drawn goldfish. The various techniques were astonishing and the end result was a blend of unique goldfish. For those of you who were not able to make it to that Super Saturday demo, we want to explain the magic of watercolor pencils (although, we agree that trying them out yourself is the best way to understand them).


Watercolor pencils combine qualities of both colored pencils and watercolor paints. They can be used alone as regular colored pencils or with the application of water. When applying water, the final piece will resemble a watercolor painting and the way the colors blend together will blow your mind! If you have trouble with watercolor paint (puddles of gray), watercolor pencils may be the media of choice for you. They tend to have vibrant colors and are easy to clean up.


When working with watercolor pencils, you should always use watercolor paper. It will hold up to water and re-working whereas other paper will not. Even when using watercolor pencils without water, it may be a good idea to work on watercolor paper just in case you decide to add water later on in the project. Our Watercolor Paper blog post will explain your paper options and help you choose the correct type for your project.


  • Without water: Just because they’re called watercolor pencils doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be used with water. They can be used like regular colored pencils and will produce the same type of look.
  • Dry then wet: You can use watercolor pencils without water first (like regular colored pencils), then go over the colors with a wet brush. You are then able to blend and push the colors around on the paper, similar to watercolor painting. You will notice that the pencil strokes will disappear with the addition of water and the more water you add, the more it will look like a watercolor painting.
  • Wet the pencil tip: Another method is to dip the watercolor pencil in a cup of water first then apply to the paper. It’s as if you’re using a regular colored pencil; the vibrant colors flow onto the paper like a watercolor painting. This method works great – you just have to continually wet the tip of the pencil.
  • Wet the paper first: Dip your brush in a cup of water and run it over the area you are working on. You can then add color onto the wet surface with your watercolor pencil. To get a richer color, wet the tip of the pencil before going over the wet surface. Please note that your colors may bleed together (especially when using a lot of water on the paper).
  • Mix and match: Feel free to mix and match regular colored pencils or watercolor paint with your watercolor pencil piece to achieve different looks.

To truly understand watercolor pencils, give them a try! Experiment with them to find out which technique gives you the results you want. They come in sets of various sizes or individually so you don’t have to buy a bunch at once. This gives you the opportunity to build your collection up. Ready to run out and get your own?


  • Faber-Castelle
  • Derwent
  • Prismacolor
  • Lyra Rembrandt
  • Cretacolor Marino

If you want to learn more about watercolor pencils, write us on Facebook or stop in to speak with our art specialists! Leave a comment below if you want more information on this topic, or others that are important to you.

8 thoughts on “Using Watercolor Pencils

  1. I was wondering about the specific type of watercolor paper that would be the best for my project. I plan to purchase a set of derwent inktense watercolor pencils. I will possibly use them with regular colored pencils. I’d like for the finished product to be as detailed as possible. From the research I’ve done so far it seems like 140# hot pressed is the way to go. Does anyone have any suggestions?


  2. I am usually just a colored pencil kind of girl but was seeing cool drawings with the watercolor pencils so I thought I would try them out. They are Sargent Art brand and dont seem to be working at all. I have watched a few videos & when the water is added its amazing! When I add water to mine it barely does anything. Do you know anything about this brand & if they really do suck? Just wanted to know what brand is the best to use. Apparently not Sargent. Thanks for any input.

    1. Jenny,

      We aren’t quite sure why your watercolor pencils aren’t working the way they should but we do know that we love Faber Castell. These are quality watercolor pencils that we highly recommend!

  3. Might I also suggest YUPO watercolor paper. It’s a synthetic paper that allows nearly 100% wipe out capabilities. Typically no stretching or taping of the paper is needed. My preferred w/c pencils are Prismacolor & Derwent Inktense.

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