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The 10 Best Watercolor Pencils 2019

best watercolor pencils

If you’re an artist who enjoys drawing and painting, watercolor pencils offer a great way of combining the two mediums.

Water-soluble colored pencils are designed to work with or without the addition of water. Used dry, you get a colored pencil effect with sharp lines and clear detail. But, when water is added to either the pencil or the paper, the effect instantly changes to a classic watercolor finish with blended colors and soft edges.

Whether you’re a beginner in the medium or you’re looking to add to your collection of art supplies, we’ve put together a list of the best watercolor pencils available to buy right now.

Cretacolor’s Woodless Aquarelle Pencils are the best watercolor pencils for professional artists.

  • +Soft and vivid artist-grade pencils
  • +Pencils come in a solid storage tin
  • +72 shades included
  • -Not as bold as other options

Designed for professional use, these woodless graphite pencils are premium, versatile, and a joy to draw with. They feel dry when applied to paper but the color goes on extremely easily. Colors are as vivid as any other artist-grade pencil, and the soft transparency looks beautiful even before you melt the lines away with water. 

The solid storage tin prevents breakages when being transported, which is perfect for artists who like to draw outside of the studio.

Last update on 2019-06-18

This set contains 72 colors which justifies the higher price while giving you a huge range of shades and tones to play with. The colors aren’t quite as bold as Derwent’s Inktense pencils, but if you’re looking for variety and quality this is the set for you.

Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer Magnus pencils are the best watercolor pencils for large projects.

  • +Thick leads
  • +Lightfast for 100+ years
  • +Permeant color once dry
  • -Expensive

These Faber Castell watercolor pencils are loved by artists for its soft yet vivid coverage and the fact that it’s easy to cover large areas in a short time. If you like working on largescale pieces, this is the kit for you.

Leads are 5.3 mm thick, are super soft, and are resistant to breakages thanks to the high-quality German manufacturing process. Pigments can be completely dissolved to create a classic watercolor finish, and the kit comes with its own watercolor brush inside the tin box.

Last update on 2019-06-18

These water-soluble coloring pencils are consistent and smooth, and they boast impressive lightfastness. Colors also become permanent once dry and there’s no danger of them smudging in transit, so if you create art to sell this is a good option for you.

Sets are available in ranges of 12, 24, and 120 colors. The shade selection could be better and the price per pencil is pretty high, but if you’re a professional artist looking to add to your pencil collection this could be the perfect option for you.

Derwent’s Graphitint Pencils are the best option for watercolor with a graphite sheen.

  • +Can be hand-blended or used wet and dry
  • +Colors can be modified or erased
  • +Available in a range of set sizes
  • -Limited colors

These Derwent watercolor pencils feel like graphite to use, but with the added benefit of watercolor effects. This will appeal to artists who want to add a new dimension to graphite artwork without losing integrity.

These pencils can be used in an array of ways. The soft lead can be blended to create delicate hues, dry sketching delivers subtle colors, and the addition of water transforms them into bold and vibrant tones. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

You can also modify or remove mistakes with a soft eraser and some clean water, which makes them a good option for practicing with.

There’s the option to buy a set of six pencils so you can try them out before committing to a bigger kit. This is also useful if you’re wanting to simply add some diversity to your existing pencil collection. If you want more color variety the set is also available in packs of 12 and 24, although there’s a clear lack of tonal range in every Graphitint set.

Caran d’Ache’s Neocolor II are the best watercolor pencils for use on mixed media.

  • +Impressive color variety
  • +Great coverage and opacity
  • +Suitable for mixed media
  • -Not lightfast

This 30 piece set contains a huge array of colors and there are no gaps in shades as there are with Derwent’s Graphitint pencils. The set also comes in packs of 10, 15, 40, and 84 colors which gives you plenty of options if you want more or less pencils.

The pastels themselves are bright, luminous, and deliver a good level of opacity before dilution. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

The addition of water makes colors easy to blend and each shade maintains its vibrancy while at the same time delivering a softer watercolor effect.

The greatest thing about these pastels is that they can be used on almost any surface. As well as being compatible on various types of paper you can achieve excellent coverage on cardboard, glass, fabric, and even illuminated panels and signs.

If you create artwork to sell, be aware that not all the pastels are lightfast as this could be problematic for the longevity of your work.

Faber-Castell’s Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils are the best option for wet and dry use.

  • +Strong and durable
  • +Excellent point retention
  • +Colors blend beautifully
  • -Expensive

These premium pencils are made from the highest quality materials and are our go-to option for durable watercolor pencils. Faber-Castell’s secural bonding process ensures that leads are super strong and are less likely to break. As a result, point retention is excellent and lines are crisp and sharp.

Colors are rich and bold when used dry, and when water is added they blend seamlessly for an authentic watercolor effect.

Last update on 2019-06-12

These pencils aren’t cheap but they’re available to buy as single pencils all the way up to sets of 120 so you can choose the kit to suit your budget. And, the flexibility of them means you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of them.

Derwent’s Inktense pencils are the best choice for intense colors.

  • +Ink-like colors are ultra-vibrant
  • +Colors are permanent
  • +Huge variety of set sizes
  • -Colors lack luster when used dry

As the kit’s name suggests, these pencils pack a real punch when it comes to vibrancy and depth of color. The pencils can be used wet or dry and essentially produce ink rather than paint, which gives permanent and vivid color once dry. It also means that you can layer up colors once each shade has dried without affecting the one before it, allowing you to achieve a very different effect to traditional watercolor paints.

Last update on 2019-06-18

This range from Derwent is available in sets from six to 72 shades which will appeal to casual hobbyists all the way through to full-time professional artists. One thing to note is that if you prefer only to work with dry pencils these might not be the best choice for you as the colors are much more vibrant with the addition of water.

Prismacolor’s Premier watercolor pencils are the best watercolor pencils for beginners.

  • +Extremely easy to blend
  • +Highly pigmented color
  • +Completely lightfast
  • -Only available in smaller sets

If you’re new to using watercolor pencils, you’ll love how easy it is to blend the colors. Each pencil produces rich and creamy tones that sit beautifully on the page. This set isn’t only for beginners, though, and professionals will love the quality of the pencils and how smoothly colors lay down. 

These Prismacolor watercolor pencils are highly pigmented, and colors are beautifully saturated and completely lightfast. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

Used wet, the excellent solubility will create superb shimmering effects and used dry the colors will match Prismacolor’s palette which is handy when working in mixed media.

The pencils are only available in sets of 36 so there’s a lot less color choice on offer than you’ll have with other pencil kits. That being said, 36 shades are plenty for beginners to get to grips with, and as the colors are so easy to blend professionals can create their own tones.

LYRA’s Aquacolor Watersoluble Crayons are the best watercolor wax crayons.

  • +Wide variety of colors
  • +Great color laydown
  • +Highly pigmented
  • -Not lightfast

Available in sets of 24 or 48, these short wax crayons are water-soluble to create an authentic watercolor effect. There’s a good mix of luminous and muted tones in each set, which makes this kit a good base for your watercolor art supplies.

The creamy texture of the wax delivers great laydown which is great for professional artists but also easy enough for children and beginners to use. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

The intensely pigmented crayons can be dipped in water to dilute the color, or you can layer colors and add water to blend them into new shades.

LYRA market these crayons as being highly lightfast, but some of the colors lose their brilliance when exposed to light for prolonged periods of time. This is something that professionals should be aware of, as artwork produced with this kit would not be suitable for sale.

Derwent offers the best value watercolor pencils with their classic Watercolor Pencil set.

  • +Available in a range of set sizes
  • +Blending colors is easy and effective
  • +High-quality, break-resistant leads
  • -Not ideal for largescale pieces

Available in sets of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72, there’s plenty of color variety on offer with Derwent’s classic watercolor pencils.

To achieve a textured watercolor effect you can either dip the tip in water or wet the paper. Whichever method you prefer, you’ll achieve rich lines and bright colors with beautifully softened edges. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

Blending and layering are easy, and the addition of water allows you to move and adjust colors even after they’ve dried.

Leads are break-resistant and easy to keep sharp for excellent point retention. At 3.4 mm thick, they’re perfect for detailed sketching when used dry, but they might not be the ideal choice if you prefer working on large-scale pieces.

Staedtler’s Ergosoft Aquarell sets are the best watercolor pencils for children.

  • +Strong and bright colors
  • +Ergonomic triangular design
  • +Set comes in a stand-up easel
  • -Limited color range

This set of watercolor pencils is the perfect option for kids who want to try their hand at watercolor painting. Colors are strong and vibrant and they’re easy to blend, so kids can really flex their creativity.

The triangular barrels are non-slip and are comfortable to hold, so little hands will have no trouble with them. They’re pretty robust, too, and the break-resistant leads can take a good amount of pressure without snapping. 

Last update on 2019-06-18

That being said, the price is excellent so you can let children do their thing without the worry of replacing pencils.

The set comes in a plastic stand-up easel case which makes it easy for kids to extract the pencils. The limited color range of the 24 pencil set is its only downfall, but it’s unlikely that this will be an issue for children taking their first steps into watercolor painting.

Conclusion

If you’re a beginner and you’re not sure how to use watercolor pencils, Prismacolor’s Premier watercolor pencils are unbeatable. The ease of blending gives you plenty of creative freedom, and the relatively low price means you can play around with them as much as you like. If you’re looking for value, Derwent’s Watercolour Pencils are the best option. The quality for the price is impressive, and they offer a lot of creative freedom that professionals and serious hobbyists will love. For a truly professional experience, we recommend Cretacolor’s Woodless Aquarelle Pencils. Colors are beautifully vivid, quality is artist-grade, and the huge color range is a major plus point.

Which watercolor pencils do you use for watercolor pencil art, and why? Let us know in the comments.


About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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