All right! Today I’m going to show you how to use watercolor pencils! Ever gone through your closet and found something you’ve been “meaning to get to” for awhile, well finding my old pencil sets sure did take me back. I have 2 sets and they still look great. It has been a long time since I’ve used these so this will be like a little refresher.
Are you stuck at home with nothing to do? I invite you to give these a try if you haven’t already; first off, yes it is different from working with watercolor paints traditionally, but the use of these pencils can enhance what your’re doing already, plus they are great to take with you somewhere where you don’t want to get messy.
What Are Watercolor Pencils?
Watercolor pencils have color pigment binders in them that allows the colors to spread and diffuse just like the paint from the tubes or cakes. On the outside, they look just like your average colored pencil set. And they come in lots of colors and shades, too!
When the points get dull, you can sharpen them too just the same way you can with your favorite pencils.
Ready to get started? This set I have here is made by Loew Cornell – a great brand. I have lots of tools made by this company too. Also, get yourself some supplies – although you won’t need as much as the conventional watercolor materials list.
You’ll need a palette with deep compartments (note that I’m using a foam egg carton, which works great for this!) some paper and a masonite board to work on, some tape, water (obviously), and yes, you’ll need a few brushes for this too – this time, just a few round or wide is all you’ll need.
Practice With Your Pencils
It’s a good idea to “break in” your pencil set – A good way to do this AND put some of your good paper to use is to make a color chart. Making color charts was expected of me in art class, but I came to appreciate them later on.
Here’s my chart. I did some heavy blocking with each color and dipped my brush in water and just did a simple color lifting to the right to see what the resulting shade would be.
What are you going to paint? I enjoy still lives (lifes?) so I got some of my fruit. Always a stickler for the classics. Choose something simple to work with, like a random inanimate object, a piece of fruit or vegetable, Anything you want that has enough detail to capture that you’d enjoy replicating.
First thing to do is get set up with your masonite board, your pencils, a drawing pencil or two, and a water palette. Take your sheet of watercolor paper and tape the edges to your board, you can use masking or washi tape. It will allow the paper to stretch a little as it gets saturated.
Doing the Outline
Now we’re going to do a preliminary sketch of the subject you’ve chosen!
Start with the dark colors and focus on outlining – I have done a sketch and outlined this banana and apples as you see here. I used Van Dyke brown, black and sap green to do my sketch, focusing primarily on the strongest details first.
Now dip your brush in some water and go over your outlines – try to bring out the dark colors towards the non-sketched areas. Watercolor pencils, once moistened, dry fast. You can re-wet the areas a little , but not too much .
The colors will be subtle looking at first. so sit tight. Let it dry as we’ll come back to it shortly!
Creating the Next Color Layer
For round 2, we’re gong to repeat what we just did, this time with more colors. Since I’ve got apples, I’m using Cadmium, Scarlet red and Alizarin crimson and filling in those areas, being careful to leave a light space where there are highlights on them.
Bananas – yellow (duh), but I also added dark yellow, green and brown tones. When you start painting you’ll realize that objects are rarely one single color.
Now go back to your water dish and add it to your new colors – you’ll notice they bleed a little at first, the colors will intermingle with each other as you work them. I added reds, orange and yellows, but tried not to use too many shades as that can cause the colors to look muddy.
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More Helpful Tips
There are some other things you can do with watercolor pencils – you can also dip the tips in water and use your brush to “lift” off the remaining color. You can do this for washes and small details:
Dry on Wet Approach
To get more intense colors, moisten a selected area of your picture or subject matter, and use your pencil to color over it dry, like this. The result will be very strong without bleeding.
You can also use the pencils dry as they are to go over outlines or add more detail.
I did this a little with the fruits…I’ve forgotten that watercolor effects are always more subtle; I guess I was expecting the apples to be a little more intense a shades of red as they might be if I had done this painting in oils or acrylics, like I usually worked in.
Then I tackled the dark brown background (that’s actually a pillowcase, by the way) I used a dark brown to create good color contrast. I like it, I wondered if a different random object would have worked?
I think it looks more like a colored pencil drawing than a painting though. I’m going to keep practicing, with different subject matter and see how they turn out!
So give those watercolor pencils a try and see what you can come up with – you may just surprise yourself, just practice with them and keep painting, and last of all, have fun!