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Watercolor Pencils For Paper Crafters

Updated on August 23, 2018
linfcor profile image

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Getting Started With Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are so much fun. I have been using them in paper craft projects foe over 10 years. Do you remember the coloring books we used to have with the brush? All you did was touch the brush to water and color the page ? Suddenly a color would appear? Well these pencils are just as fun ! Basically, it's the same idea. You color the project with the pencil and add a little water and you have something special.

Watercolor pencils combine the ease of colored pencils and the color of paint.

Colored pencil leads are either wax or oil based, whereas watercolor pencil leads have a water soluble base.

I like to use them in my card making projects. You can doodle in the front of the card (also called zentangles) then color the card with your pencils and add the water to create something truly unique. Watercolor pencils add a soft touch to embossed cards

Stamping is a perfect medium for water color pencils. Simple stamp your image, color it in and add a touch of water and you have a soft look that is your own creation

Scrapbooking is another place to add the special touch that water color pencils create. Stamped images of course, but also borders, titles, mats and a whole lot more are enhanced with water color pencils.

The amount of use you will have for these pencils are only limited to your imagination

Watercolor pencils are available everywhere. They are sold in sets of 12 and 24 pencils per pack. There are more extensive and expensive sets that come up to 120 colors. These sets are more artistic. If you want to invest in these sets, you will certainly get better results.

In the basic sets there are three different types-kids, craft and professional grade. As you move into the more professional grde quality water color pencils, you will be paying more, but the results will be better

The kind of sets most crafters use, will generally say they are water color pencils on them. I store them together. Purchasing sets are generally more economical than buying them individually. They come in different grades from student to professional.

What You Need To Get Started

  • Water color pencils- buy a set to get started and add to your collection
  • Water color paper or really heavy cardstock
  • Small bristle paint brushes
  • A container to hold water-I use well rinsed out recycled plastic containers
  • Some q tips
  • Pencils for drawing if you are freehand drawing
  • Stamps and ink pads if you are coloring stamped images
  • Some Paper Towels

Always tape down your paper with low tack tape to your work surface. Masking tape or painters tape works perfectly. That way none of your color will bleed off your paper. Always remove the paper at an angle so that you do not rip the paper.

Water Color Pencil Brands

There are many types of water color pencils. Your choice will depend on your use and budget.

  1. Faber Castell-Come in a range of 120 colors. Completely dissolves when water is added
  2. Caran d'Ache Supercolor II-soft pencils with the same range of 120 colors. Soft pencils that blend nicely with water
  3. Caran d'Ache Neocolor II-resemble crayons that have some pastel wax qualities. They have to be hand sharpened. ( they are more like crayons, but considered pencils).
  4. Lyra Rembrandt-Aquarell-the same core hardness as the Lyra Polycolor oil-based line.
  5. Prisma Water Color Pencils-come in 36 colors that match the popular Premier colors. However, these watercolor pencils have a drier and chalkier feel.

If you are using water color paper as well as water colors, or water color pencils, here is a tip you can use for your projects. Use clear packing tape to hold the water color paper onto a hard surface. This will prevent the dreaded paper buckling. I like to use this idea when I am coloring stamped images

Paper For Watercolor Pencils

When you are creating a paper project with watercolor pencils, you need to remember that you will be adding a water wash to the lead to create the image. The surface of the paper need to be able to accept the water and then dry without much curling. Watercolor paper is readily available and the perfect paper for watercolor pencils. You can often find cards made up made out of watercolor paper. But if you can't find them, it's easy enough to make them up yourself

You can use other paper, but it is best to use a heavy cardstock. with a minimum weight of 80 lbs. The problems with lighter paper is that it will not accept the water and the fibers of the paper may be "scrubbed " away. You may also get curling of the paper when it's dry.

Water color is typically applied with a water color brush. But you can also use a sponge or a water color brush

Sharpening Your WaterColor Pencils

There are several things to consider when sharpening your watercolor pencils. Like other colored pencils, they are broken easily if not cared for properly. I know how frustrating it is when your watercolor or colored pencils break, especially as you are sharpening them. Even worse, when you are using them and the point breaks off !

First thing to try is to use a hand held pencil sharpener. I like to use a handheld sharpener because I have more control over the process. I am right handed, so I prefer to hold the sharpener in my right hand. I hold the pencil in my left hand ( my non dominant hand). Hold the pencil straight and turn the sharpener, rather than the pencil. If your sharpener has two holes, use the larger holes. That will give you a sharper point and less chance of breakage.

Sandpaper Sharpening Pads- These type of pads give you the ultimate control over your pencils, but take more time to sharpen. You simply rub the pencil and rotate it to get the desired tip

Electric Or Battery Operated Sharpener Ideas- Lots of folks like to use a battery or electronic sharpener, you need to remember that you will have a lot less control than with a hand help one. I have one, but very rarely use it. What I found was that I tended to over-sharpen my pencils. So if you are planning to get one for your watercolor pencils, make sure to get one that has an auto-stop feature. Another thing to consider is if you are using one of these sharpeners, don't overuse it in one session. (you will actually put stress on the motor and dull your blades.

Every so often, about every 12 pencils or so, sharpen a graphite pencil in your sharpener. That will get any waxy build-up out of your sharpener.

More Sharpener Tips

  1. Don't use a sharpener that is made for cosmetics. They are made for softer pencils like eyebrow pencils. They generally do not have the same kind of blades.
  2. Make sure that your blade is sharp ! If your shavings are long and continuous, then your blade is sharp ! If the shavings are short and choppy, then your blade is dull. The blades or the sharpener should be replaced. Otherwise, you may hurt the core of the pencil.
  3. Forget those old crank style wall model sharpeners. They will do serious damage to your investment.

Always keep a roll of paper towels near your workstation when using water color pencils

Blender Pens In Watercolor Techniques

A blender pen is another very useful tool in creating perfect water color techniques. It liquefies and merges areas of color. You actually can omit the water and the paintbrush all together. It intensifies the color and allows them to blend smoothly Because there is no water with this technique, paper will not buckle. This means that you would be able to use regular cardstock in your project.

This is the watercolor palette that I created for my personal pencil collectionh
This is the watercolor palette that I created for my personal pencil collectionh | Source

Making A Watercolor Color Chart

The first thing that you should do when you get your pencils is make up a watercolor chart. This will help you as you get started. Take all your colors and make two squares of the same color next to each other. I keep colors in the same range on the same line. Label them with the name of the color underneath. Gently color the square on the right with a tiny bit of water and let dry. This chart will give you a good idea what the color will look like both wet and dry

Watercolor Pencil Techniques

Do you use watercolor pencils in your paper crafts, scrapbooks or card making?

See results

The best way to apply water color pencils is to slowly build up applications in layers and then activate them one layer at a time

Different Watercolor Techniques

Dry Pencil On Dry Paper Technique

In this method, the colors are applied with the watercolor pencils and then water is added with a brush to dissolve the color. Use either a round, flat or watercolor brush to apply the water.

You can achieve depth and shading by layering the dry color before using the water

Wet Pencil On Dry Or Wet Paper

Dip the pencil in water and draw lines or make blocks of color on dry paper.. The alternative is to wet the paper with a large brush and apply the color with a wet pencil. Heavy paper may need to be soaked for 10-15 minutes for this technique.

You can also wet the pencil and take the color from the pencil onto a brush and paint with the brush

Make Your Own Watercolor Paint Pad

Scribble color heavily on dry paper. Dab a we paint brush in the dry color to place on the project. This is great for backgrounds or larger areas. It looks a lot like traditional water color

Table Salt Technique

Sprinkle large areas of wet color with table salt. Allow the piece to dry. When the salt and the paint are completely dry, gently brush all the salt off. Coarse or sea salt will give a different look

To add some pizazz to your projects, you can get a glittery look with watercolor pencils. Apply some wet salt to your paper and allow it to dry, then apply the paint to the top for a sparkling effect.

Spattering- A Great Background Technique

Spattering is easy with water-soluble colored pencils. Simply wet a soft, adult-size toothbrush with plain water and brush the watercolor pencil tip across the damp bristles until the bristles are heavily loaded with pigment. Dab the brush four or five times against a tissue to absorb the excess liquid; this also gives a better-controlled, more finely-misted spatter. If a droplet that has landed on the surface seems too large, take a corner of the tissue and let the tissue wick up the droplet. Do not blot.

Made this card to reflect my love of flowers
Made this card to reflect my love of flowers | Source

Backwash Technique

Wet your paper first and select two separate colors. Apply one at each end of the wet patch and then let the colors blend together on their own.

Add details to your water color projects by outlining them with a fine tipped permanent black marker pen

More Water Color Techniques

Embossing Ink Technique

Stamp a background design with an embossing ink pad. Heat and emboss with clear powder. Add color to the background paper, wiping off excess to reveal the embossed image

If your watercolor pencil tip falls out you can still use it to color

Heavy Background Color Technique

Apply heavy areas of color to the background of a card or other piece of water color paper. Dip the cardstock in water until the color starts to bleed and run together. Allow to dry. Stamp or add a design to the top of the water color background.

Don't be afraid to let color bleed outside of your design lines. This makes your design really look like an authentic water color

Erasing Or Lifting Water Color Pencils

There are two ways to lift or erase watercolors made with pencils. You can gently apply water to the area which will lighten the color with a brush. Or you can use a wet q tip to gently left the water.

Start Light

It's always better to build up your color rather than adding heavy color to start. lay some color and let it dry. Then add more color

© 2015 Linda F Correa

Weigh In On Watercolor Pencils

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    • Fiona Jean Mckay profile image


      3 years ago from South Africa

      This hub inspired me to fish out my watercolor pencils - thanks. I never thought of using salt in conjunction with them and it makes quite a nice textural effect.

    • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda F Correa 

      4 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      You can use them for art journals, background images, on so many things. Just expand your mind and yyour watercolor pencils will take you to new places

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I've used watercolor pencils in my drawings in the past, but not very often. I'd like to explore their possibilities. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • linfcor profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda F Correa 

      4 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      Oh get out those watercolors ! They are lots of fun and add a new dimension to your pages

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      I've never considered using watercolors in scrapbooking contexts.


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