Draw, shade and paint: find the best watercolour pencils for your art practice in this guide.
Watercolour pencils are an exciting art material that can be used in a number of different ways. They allow artists to switch between drawing and painting without changing mediums.
In this review, find best watercolour pencils for your practice, to incorporate with your current watercolour palette, or to use them in their own right.
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Faber-Castell: Albrecht Durer Watercolour pencils
A versatile pencil, the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencil performs to a superior level in its wet and dry state. The cores are strong and the colours mix wonderfully when water is added. They come in sets of 12, 24, 36, 60, 120 so there’s more than enough colour choice to satisfy any art application.
The colours match their Polychromos range. To wet, you don’t need too much water, just a couple of brush strokes will activate the pencil, making them behave like classic watercolour.
These are professional grade and archival quality. The paint is permanent when dry, so colours can be layered without blending into one another.
Create watercolour sketches while travelling, or use these fine tipped pencils for the small details in an artwork.
Faber-Castell: Albrect Durer Magnus Watercolour Pencils
Like the regular Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, but bigger. These pencils have 5.3mm thick leads. The soft pencil nibs are perfect for covering large areas of the paper.
There are 30 colours in the range and each colour has a good lightfast rating. When wet, they behave just like regular watercolours and the paint is permanent when dry.
Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Pencils
The Caran d’Ache Museum range of watercolour pencils are some of the finest available. These can be enjoyed by professional artists and beginners alike.
The lead contains a high concentration of extra fine pigment. Results are arguably more vibrant than other watercolour pencils and extremely lightfast. Once colours are down on paper, expect the colour to last and not fade. For this reason, these pencils can be used for professional applications.
The water solubility is excellent as they behave just like regular watercolours once wet. There are 76 colours available, individually or as sets. This gives artist the flexibility to buy smaller sets and top it up with the colours they need.
These are wonderful pencils that have a lustrous, intense colour. When compared to other less expensive pencils, the colours appear much more vibrant.
Caran d’Ache Supracolor
A more budget friendly option made by Caran d’Ache. Each pencil is over $1 cheaper per piece. The pencils are soft, highly pigmented and have high lightfast ratings, making them permanent and suitable for professional work.
There are more colours available in this range compared to the Museum Aquarelle pencils. They are soft in texture and the pencil leads are also break resistant. Supracolors have brilliant coverage when applied to paper. The longevity and covering power makes them excellent value for money. Use with dry or wet media. The pencils have a 3.7mm core and casings are made from cedar.
Koh-I-Noor Mondeluz Aquarelles Watercolour Pencils
These pencils are rich in colour and are made from quality pigment and binder. One of the binders used is bleached kaolin, which is a type of white clay that gives the pencil unique handling properties. The pigment releases evenly and smoothly onto the paper.
The leads measure 3.8mm, are durable and easy to sharpen. With slim cedar casings, the pencils are a joy to hold and feel easy to control, even for the most delicate details. Expect these pencils to last, as they are super durable.
Derwent watercolour pencils
Professional grade water soluble colouring pencils. They are soft in texture, easy to blend and come in 72 vibrant colours. The pencils are significantly cheaper than the Caran d’Ache Museum range (almost a third of the price). But the colours don’t pack as much of a punch and the permanency isn’t as high. That said, these are still a great choice for professionals.
The leads are slightly thinner than other pencils on the market, at 3.4mm. Use them to create intricate details and rich lines.
Cretacolor Marino Watercolour Pencil
The leads of these pencils are slightly harder than the others on this list. This makes them great for rendering sharp details, but can be more difficult to blend.
They feel smooth to use and glide across the paper. Cretacolor Marino pencils only come in sets and can’t be bought individually. Get a set of 12, 24 or 36. The colour range is fairly limited compared to other brands.
The price per pencil is a lot cheaper than the higher end ranges like Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils.
The water solubility is fairly good and the colours appear bright on the paper. However, when compared to higher end pencils, you will be able to see a difference.
Best watercolour pencils for beginners
Our top pick for beginners are the Derwent Watercolour pencils. These pencils marry quality and affordability. They use a high quality binder that feels smooth and colours look rich and vibrant. The water solubility of this pencil is excellent—colours dissolve on the paper readily, allowing you to create smooth blended effects.
However, if you have a higher budget to splash on watercolour pencils from the offset, I would recommend getting the Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle colours or the Faber-Castell Albrect Durer. You could start by buying a few colours from their range individually and testing to see which you prefer.
Professional watercolour pencils
For professional artists, our top pick is the Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencil. These are unparalleled in their quality, vibrancy and permanency. The pencils really are a joy to use, they’re much more opaque than other pencils and they are one of the most lightfast pencils you can buy. If you want to sell artwork, make sure to place it behind museum glass to preserve the colours from fading.
How do you use watercolour pencils?
Draw on paper and use like regular pencils. Shade on dry paper then wet with a brush to blend colours smoothly. Add a little more water and watch pools of colours swirl and mix to create wonderful watercolour effects. For the most well blended effects, use dry pencil on dry paper and wet with water, slightly scrubbing the brush into the paper fibres until no pencil marks remain. Some brands will leave more pencil marks than others.
Another use of watercolour pencils is to wet the tip of the pencil lead and press on the paper for a highly saturated release of pigment. However, careful not to wet the wood casing of the pencil as this can lead to damage. You can also wet the paper first and draw on with a dry pencil for intense colours with soft edges. As you can see there is a variety of techniques you can use with this medium to achieve striking effects.
If you’re interested in exploring the watercolour medium further, check out our watercolour for beginners tutorial. Learn everything you need to know to get a head start with watercolour, like how to stretch paper, choose your supplies and mix colours.
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