A beginner’s guide to watercolour pencil drawing

A fashion print for fabric designed using watercolour pencils and other mediums.

A fashion print for fabric designed using watercolour pencils and other mediums

Watercolour pencil drawing is an art form that combines the precision of a pencil with the vibrancy and fluidity of watercolour paints.

Beginners in drawing and painting will find watercolour pencils an accessible medium, as they offer a lot of creative freedom while still being relatively easy to work with.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the basics of watercolour pencil drawing and provide some tips and techniques to get you started.

What are watercolour pencils?

Watercolour pencils are similar to regular coloured pencils but can be blended when dry or wet.

The lead of watercolour pencils dissolves in water as they’re created from solid pigment and a binder encased in wood.

When used dry, these pencils act like regular colouring pencils. When you add water, they mimic watercolour paints in the effects they can create.

Supplies required for watercolour pencil drawing

Basic art supplies to gather for watercolour pencil art include:

Your project may require extra materials, so plan ahead or use your existing supplies.

How to use watercolour pencils to paint

The basics are simple, so here’s a quick tutorial for getting started with watercolour pencil painting.

  1. Lightly sketch out a plan in pencil on your paper. Don’t use too much pressure, or you’ll leave dents that the pigment won’t cover.
  2. Select a watercolour pencil and start to colour the first section gently. Begin with light colours before moving to darker ones.
  3. Continue to build colour and blend as you would with standard colouring pencils.
  4. Use a damp brush to activate the pigment and blend further.
  5. Leave your work to dry and then go back in with other mediums to add further detail.

Watercolour pencil techniques

A watercolour pencil drawing of a restaurant in Paris, France.

Combine watercolour pencil techniques for stunning effects

As you experiment with watercolour pencils, you’ll discover new and exciting techniques to create depth and add interest to your work.

To get you started, here are several easy ideas to try.

Water on dry paper and pencil

The most common technique involves marking the paper with a watercolour pencil and following it up with strokes of a wet paintbrush.

Always begin with light pencil marks and build the colour up. You can always add more, but you can’t remove what’s already on the paper.

The more pigment applied to the paper, the more vivid the colour will be.

A dry pencil on wet paper

Wash water over the paper with a brush, and then begin drawing with your watercolour pencils. The resulting marks on the page will be bright with soft edges.

Blending isn’t as successful using this method, but it offers an alternative effect.

A wet pencil lead on dry paper

Dip the pencil lead in water, and you’ll apply thick, vivid pencil marks to the paper.

This method softens the lead and could cause problems with the wooden casing, so be mindful of these points if you try it.

Create texture

Instead of standard pencil marks, you can add depth, dimension, and visual interest to your work by experimenting with techniques like stippling, hatching, cross-hatching, and scribbling.

Mask the paper

Use masking fluid or tape to preserve areas of white paper that you want to keep free of colour. Apply the masking fluid or tape before drawing, and remove it once you’ve completed your project and the paper is dry.

Watercolour pencil artists

Beginners, amateurs, and professionals enjoy watercolour pencils, and there are plenty of watercolour pencil artists whose work may inspire your efforts.

Kristy Kutch is known for using coloured and watercolour pencils to create colourful still-life drawings of flowers and fruit.

Gary Greene is another example of an artist who thrives with a watercolour pencil in their hand. Greene’s work boasts crisp realism and vibrant colours — you can learn how to hone your technique by watching his tutorial videos on YouTube.

Final thoughts

Watercolour pencil drawing is a rewarding and accessible medium that can produce beautiful results, so follow our basic techniques and tips for these unique pencils and see what you can create.

Have fun, experiment, and push the pencils to their limits.

You could use your new-found watercolour pencil know-how to paint a portrait, create a still-life scene like Kristy Kutch does, or draw some anime characters.

If you’re thirsty for more art knowledge, you’ll love our blog post on the best pencils for artists.

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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