March 3, 2024

Modellflyg

Yo Quiero Techno

How to Choose the Right Watercolour Pencil

10 min read
Assorted Artists

Watercolour Pencils let you combine the very best of your drawing and painting techniques – all in one tool. Incredibly versatile, they’re capable of making the same dry marks as a standard colouring pencil, but with a touch of water they’ll turn into rich washes. In this blog post we’ll take a look at our whole range of water soluble coloured pencils and compare their properties side by side to help you find the best pencil for your work.

Assorted Artists' Watercolour Pencils photographed on a painted background.

Watercolour Pencils offer more versatility than a standard colouring pencil, but they do have a slightly steeper learning curve. With a single watercolour pencil you’ll essentially have two colouring tools in one and you’ll be able to make a whole variety of different marks. Use watercolour pencils dry and you probably won’t be able to tell them apart from a standard colouring pencil. Their texture may feel a little drier, and they may not layer quite as effectively – but overall they’re very similar. There’s nothing stopping you from using your watercolour pencils dry and never activating them with water. However, be careful not to splash your drawing or the colour will run and you could ruin it.

You can also combine watercolour and traditional pencils into a single drawing. Just make sure you use water soluble colour in your initial layers, otherwise the traditional colour pencil will act like a resist!

Read on to find out about our entire range of watercolour pencils, or use the links below to navigate to particular topics.


Comparison Notes

Lightfastness is rated using either the Blue Wool Scale (ISO 105) or ASTM D-6901. Lightfast colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions. Find out more about lightfastness and how it is tested in our ‘Lightfastness Explained’ blog post. Some manufacturers do not disclose which of these methods they use, so comparisons between brands may not be exact.

Lightfastness Percentage is calculated from the percentage of colours rated Very Good (6 ISO 105 / I , II ASTM D-6901) or Excellent (7, 8 ISO 105 / I , II ASTM D-6901) in each pencil range. These ratings were taken from the manufacturer’s colour charts that can be downloaded on each of the product pages on our website.

Measurements are given for core sizes but these can vary up to 10%.

Layering performance is rated over 12 layers of colour.


What is a Watercolour Pencil?

Watercolour Pencils are made similarly to a standard colouring pencil. They have the same wooden barrels that encase a coloured lead. Each lead is made from the same kinds of ingredients as a coloured pencil, but with the added benefit of a water-soluble binder. This binder allows you to use watercolour pencils either wet or dry. Use them dry and you’ll be able to apply and blend colour like a traditional pencil. However, their beauty really comes out when you combine them with water. Use a wet brush, mist with a spritzer or spray bottle, or draw directly onto wet paper to create all kinds of interesting marks.

The wooden barrels of assorted artists' watecolour pencils showing brand names like Caran d'Ache, Derwent and Faber-Castell.

You can also lift colour directly from the lead – like you would a traditional watercolour pan. However, this will weaken the lead, making it harder to sharpen or draw with. It can also cause water to leech into the wooden barrel and will affect the useable life of your pencil.

6 thumbnails showing various watercolour pencil techniques.
You can use Watercolour Pencils with all kinds of techniques (from top left to bottom right): shavings activated with water, wet nib on dry paper, wet splatter on dry paper, wet nib on wet paper, wash made from wet on wet splatter and strokes activated with water.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils

Inktense

Derwent Inktense Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 4mm Colour Strip | Round Barrel | 71 Colours (+1 non water soluble outliner) | Firm Texture

88% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Good
  • Erasability: Poor
  • Colour Intensity: Excellent
  • Layering: Excellent
  • Point Strength: Very Good

All colours are vegan friendly.

Derwent Inktense are one of Derwent’s best-selling pencil ranges. They dry to a permanent finish, meaning you can layer up vibrant, translucent colours without disturbing the colour beneath. Inktense don’t limit you to using only paper – try them out on card and fabric to achieve the same permanent colour. They’re suitable for all kinds of craft and fine art projects. They offer much more intense colour than the rest of Derwent’s water soluble pencil range. Inktense pencils feature Derwent’s signature colour flash at the end and include both the colour name and indentification number stamped on the barrel. No specific lightfastness or pigment information is given on the pencil.

Derwent Inktense Pencils are available individually or in sets.

Watercolour

Derwent Watercolour Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.5mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 72 Colours | Soft Texture

49% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Very Good
  • Erasability: Moderate
  • Colour Intensity: Good
  • Layering: Good
  • Point Strength: Good

All colours vegan friendly.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils let you enjoy the delicate beauty of watercolour but with the precision of a pencil. They have a soft core that applies colour smoothly and evenly, and makes it easier to blend and layer colour than it is with other water soluble pencils. You can use them dry, but be aware that even a drop of water will disturb the colours in your drawing. They offer much more subtle colour than Inktense pencils. Like Inktense, these pencils have a colour matched tip to help you quickly select the colour you need. Watercolour pencils are stamped with a colour name and indentifying number but include no pigment or lightfastness information.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils are available individually and in sets.

Caran d’Ache Watercolour Pencils

Museum Aquarelle

Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.8mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 76 Colours | Smooth Texture

92% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Very Good
  • Erasability: Moderate
  • Colour Intensity: Excellent
  • Layering: Excellent
  • Point Strength: Excellent

Only some colours are vegan friendly.

Caran d’Ache list Museum Aquarelle under their vegan products, however the following colours contain PBk9 (Ivory Black) pigment that is derived from calcined animal bones: Brown Ochre, Light Blue and Light Malachite Green.

Museum Aquarelle are the highest-quality water soluble colouring pencil from Caran d’Ache. They contain an exceptionally high level of pigment – giving these pencils brilliant colour that transforms into radiant washes with the touch of a wet brush. Use them dry and these pencils behave much like high quality colouring pencils, but the magic really begins when you activate them with water. These pencils don’t generate much dust and give excellent coverage even on dark paper. You can use Museum Aquarelle as a medium in their own right, or combine them with your favourite watercolour paints andother colour pencils for mixed media work. Each of the pencils has a sleek, matt black barrel with silver lettering and a colour matched tip. Lightfastness ratings and colour names are printed clearly on the barrel of each pencil.

Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolour Pencils are available indivdually and in sets.

Supracolor

Caran d'Ache Supracolor II Soft Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.8mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 120 Colours | Soft Texture

95% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Very Good
  • Erasability: Poor
  • Colour Intensity: Very Good
  • Layering: Very Good
  • Point Strength: Good

These pencils are listed as vegan however Caran d’Ache don’t list any specific pigment information. No colours use PBk9 pigment.

Where Museum Aquarelle could be considered Caran d’Ache’s best water soluble pencil for advanced users, Supracolour are fantastic for those with intermediate skill levels. They don’t offer quite the same vibrance and performance as the Museum range, but still deliver the standard of quality you’d expect from the brand. They have a soft texture that makes it easy to apply and blend colour. However, with the softness you do loose a little in point strength. Like Museum, these pencils really come into their own when wet, but they do work well as a dry medium too. They do generate a bit of dust when dry. Each pencil has a colour matched, varnished barrel that includes the colour name and lightfastness.

Caran d’Ache Supracolor Soft Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

Prismalo

Caran d'Ache Prismalo Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 2.95mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 80 Colours | Firm Texture

83% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Very Good
  • Erasability: Poor
  • Colour Intensity: Good
  • Layering: Good
  • Point Strength: Very Good

These pencils are listed as vegan however Caran d’Ache don’t list any specific pigment information. No colours use PBk9 pigment.

Prismalo are the hobby or beginner grade water soluble pencil from Caran d’Ache. They have a thin, delicate lead that lends itself well to fine detail work. The colour laydown isn’t quite as punchy as either Museum or Supracolor, and you’ll notice even when wet the hues of the pencils aren’t quite as vibrant. That being said, they’re a great pencil for any beginner looking to explore water soluble pencils. Like Supracolor, these pencils have a colour matched, varnished barrel – however the colour information stamped on each pencil is a little sparse.

Caran d’Ache Prismalo Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

Faber-Castell Watercolour Pencils

Albrecht Dürer

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.8mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 120 Colours | Smooth Texture

92% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Erasability: Moderate
  • Colour Intensity: Excellent
  • Layering: Excellent
  • Point Strength: Very Good

All colours are vegan friendly.

Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils have a generous colour strip and a good weight in the hand. They’re professional grade, with the majority of colours ranked highly for lightfastness, so they’re an ideal choice for any artist keen on displaying their artwork or taking commissions. You can use these pencils dry, however you’ll find that they have a slightly drier texture than a traditional pencil. Their beauty really shines with the addition of water. It’s remarkably easy to lift the pencil marks, leaving you with nothing but vibrant, pure watercolour paint. Their soft texture also means you can easily blend colours and they have excellent coverage. These pencils have a colour matched, varnished barrel that has all the colour information stamped on for easy identification.

Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

Albrecht Dürer Magnus

Albrecht Durer Magnus Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 5.3mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 30 Colours | Soft Texture

100% of colours rated excellent or very good

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Erasability: Good
  • Colour Intensity: Excellent
  • Layering: Excellent
  • Point Strength: Good

All colours are vegan friendly.

Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Magnus give the same professional performance as their standard Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils – but with the added benefit of a chunkier colour strip. These thicker pencils are fantastic for covering large areas with colour. They aren’t available in as broad a range as the standard pencil, but there are a good balance of colours. Magnus pencils feel marginally softer in their texture, and slightly more dusty than the standard range.

Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Magnus Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

Goldfaber Aqua

Faber-Castell Goldfaber Aqua Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.3mm Colour Strip | Hexagonal Barrel | 48 Colours | Soft Texture

Individual colours are not given a lighfastness rating as they are part of the company’s hobby range, however Faber-Castell say the whole range has excellent lightfastness.

  • Blending: Good
  • Erasability: Good
  • Colour Intensity: Very Good
  • Layering: Good
  • Point Strength: Very Good

All colours are vegan friendly.

Goldfaber Aqua are part of Faber-Castell’s hobby range. Because they’re part of the hobby range, there isn’t any specific information given about the exact lightfastness of these pencils – however, it’s generally considered to be good. With this in mind, these pencils would be suitable for beginners, hobbyists or artists who don’t make work for display. These pencils are very economical, making them a great entry level tool for beginners looking to try out watercolour pencils. These pencils have a colour matched tip, however there aren’t any colour names or codes printed on the barrel so this strip is the only means of identification.

Faber-Castell Goldfaber Aqua Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Pencils

Studio Collection Watercolour

Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Wax Based Watercolour Pencil on a colourful background

WAX BASED | 3.8mm Colour Strip | Round Barrel | 48 Colours | Smooth Texture

56% of colours rated lightfast

  • Blending: Excellent
  • Erasability: Moderate
  • Colour Intensity: Very Good
  • Layering: Very Good
  • Point Strength: Excellent

All colours are vegan friendly.

Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Watercolour Pencils have a smooth texture and high level of pigment that delivers both excellent coverage and easy colour laydown. While you can use these pencils dry, their colour is at it’s most vibrant when wet. They’re made with a high quality binder, so the leads are very resilient and resistant to both chips and breakage. This pencil range has a rather minimal design. Their white barrel distinguishes them from Winsor’s standard colouring pencil (grey barrel), and like them they feature very little in the way of pigment or lightfastness information. In fact the only information printed on the barrel is the colour name and the Winsor & Newton logo.

Winsor & Newton Studio Collection Watercolour Pencils are available in sets.

We hope this article helps you choose the best watercolour pencil!

If you’re still having trouble working out which of these pencils is best for your project, or if you have any questions about water soluble pencils, just leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help.

We’ve also gathered some of the information in this post into a comparison chart, so you can quickly cross reference all our water soluble colouring pencils in one place. Just click on the image below or the underlined link to download our Watercolour Pencil Comparison Chart.

Download the Ken Bromley Watercolour Pencil Comparison Chart

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