Pencils are no longer constituents of their technical definition. Today, a demand for versatile, mobile, and simplified art tools means that a finger-tactic, cylindrical wooden casing can be filled with pretty much any substance, including wax, pastel, oil, and even the chalky enigma of watercolor paint.
How is a watercolor pencil different than a colored pencil and what does that mean for your art projects? Let’s look into it!
But before we begin, let’s find define what this watercolor thing is all about, so…
What is a watercolor pencil?
A watercolor pencil looks and feels almost exactly (the core is chalkier) like a colored pencil with the exception that once you add a stroke of water, it transforms and behaves like watercolor paint. The pencil itself is a very simple assembly- watercolor paint inserted into a wooden casing.
Putting watercolor paint inside of a pencil casing was actually a brilliant move since the runny nature of this substance makes detail work challenging. Used as a pencil however, it is easy control.
Does water really make a difference?
Comparing watercolor pencils to regular wax-based colored pencils (oil-based fall under the category of wax-pencils- higher wax content) is really irrelevant since they are not the same thing at all.
The main difference, stylistically, between a colored pencil and a watercolor pencil is what you list as your medium. Your finished art work will look like it was made (because it was), with different substances. Even though your tools look and feel like pencils, the translucent blur of your watercolor will contrast sharply with the clean lines of a project made with colored pencils.
So yes, water does make a difference- it actually makes your project different in all the sense of the word.
How to use a watercolor pencil?
A watercolor pencil is fairly easy to blend compared to a regular colored pencil. This is because blending with the latter requires specific blending and layering techniques while water works as a solvent for watercolor pencils, making blending a simple matter of swirling water on the surface with a brush.
That being said, there are tricks to the technique. While a colored pencil requires layers of shading to create depth, the process is very controlled and progressive. With a watercolor pencil, technique is very important as the final application of water can ruin boundaries, wash out color, and bleed unpredictably.
Experience with watercolor paint is definitely an advantage, as watercolor pencils are used mainly to achieve detail with an otherwise unpredictable color medium.
You can also use your watercolor pencil for concentrated color application by dipping the tip in water. This will make the application controlled, but still give you the intensity of a bright paint.
Using a watercolored pencil as watercolor paint makes your project transcend into the paint medium. Your work is no longer made with “colored pencils”, it’s made with watercolor. You can, however, use a watercolor pencil as a colored pencil by not involving a brush. Artists who prefer to work with colored pencils often use watercolor pencils for their color range and ability to lend intensity to their work.
A colored pencil is far more simple to use than a watercolor pencil, allows for more control, and produces very sharp detail. A watercolor pencil produces a watercolor painting. This type of pencil requires the use of water and produces a more abstract result.