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Watercolor pencils

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Watercolor or water-soluble pencils

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  1. History and development
  2. What's the difference?
  3. Advantages and disadvantages
  4. How to check a watercolor pencil?
  5. Using of watercolor pencils

Watercolor or water-soluble pencils are colored pencils with watercolor rods. For their production, watercolor paints are pressed according to a special technology, therefore during drawing the lead doesn’t break and does not crumble.

Watercolor pencils are used as usual, but the drawing can be washed with a wet brush to the watercolor state. Also, they are suitable for drawing tiny details, so that artist avoids mixing techniques. Furthermore, pencils can be combined with ink or other tools.

History and development

Watercolor technique appeared in the 2nd century BC, simultaneously with the invention of paper. In Europe, watercolor appeared only in the XVI century, much later than other types of painting. Its predecessor was a fresco, painted on a damp plaster. Local artists didn’t immediately appreciate the new technique, because of the main art goal: the exact copying of reality. Watercolor didn’t allow achieving photographic accuracy.

Impressionism and watercolor became trendy only in the early twentieth century. For a long time, artists created pictures on dry paper, preserving the clarity of images and colors. Over time, a vague wet technique also came in sight.

Manufacturers of artists’ tools couldn’t miss such a trend. They quickly developed special pencils with similar properties.

What's the difference?

The main difference between ordinary color pencils and watercolors is the rod. The properties of pencils and crayons from the pressed watercolor are similar: when they come into contact with water, they blurring, allowing creating specific watercolor stains.

The color spectrum of watercolor pencils is as good, as of conventional ones. They don’t have the usual classification of the rod hardness, but it can vary, depending on the brand or the manufacturer. This is the main criterion for choosing watercolor pencils.

The softest rod is the best at blurring. So that first of all it’s better to try only some pencils or small sets, and thereon get a full brand collection, choosing pencils which seem most convenient and enjoyable in the work. Everything is individual.

The main difference between watercolor paints and pencils is the way they allow drawing details and tiny lines. It is easier to correct the mistake while using a dry pencil rod than a wet brush. Also, these pencils are suitable for children, because working with them is easier and more familiar than with paints.

Compared with paints, pencils are easier to store. They don’t leave a mess on paper and are more practical to take them anywhere, including trips.

Advantages and disadvantages

Everything has its pros and cons. Watercolor pencils are no exception.

Advantages:

  • Juicy, bright, saturated colors;
  • Ability to blur the picture to any desired level, or do not blur it at all;
  • Creating gentle and smooth color transitions;
  • Creating preliminary composition and sketching;
  • Inconspicuous transitions while using combined techniques;
  • Easy drawing of small parts, which are not always handled by even the thinnest brush;
  • Painting in dry or wet technique;
  • Creation of mixed shades, as during working with watercolor paints;
  • Drawing in a sketchbook, on ordinary or watercolor paper.

Disadvantages:

  • Practice and learning how to mix colors and shades accurately is necessary;
  • Avoid re-blurring to avoid damaging the paper;
  • Watercolor pencils are badly erased;
  • Watercolor pencils have to be sharpened frequently, so they are quickly consumed;
  • The cost of watercolor pencils is higher. But it depends on the brand, set, packaging and various individual factors.

Watercolor pencils are suitable for drawing in any style: for creating portraits, landscapes, abstract drawings, etc. Quality watercolor pencils are made of solid wood. They don’t break and are easily sharpened. Substandard and cheap ones are badly blurred, make a mess, and definitely, don’t allow the clarity and ease.

How to check a watercolor pencil?

Externally the watercolor pencil is indistinguishable from the usual one. It is distinguished by a special mark on the package. Traditionally it is a drop or the word "watercolor".

Checking in practice is even easier. It is enough to draw at least a line and moisten it. If the picture blurs, that’s a watercolor pencil. It’s impossible to make a mistake.

Using of watercolor pencils

Before using water, there is just a little difference between watercolor pencils and usual ones. They are sharpened with a sharpener, erased by an eraser, used on any dry sheet of paper. The main point is revealed only by contact with moisture when the layers start to spread and interact. Brightness and saturation depend on the quality and density of the pigment layer.

There are three main ways to work with watercolor pencils:

  • Dry, as with ordinary pencils. Gives bright and rich colors and clear lines.
  • Wet, on wet paper. The only way to make a pencil not to slip and the drawing not intermittent is practical experience.
  • Wet, with dry paper and further blurring. The blur intensity and location can be varied. 

You can draw with already moistened pencils or blur the finished drawing with a damp brush. Also, pencils can be used as ordinary paints, while taking the pigment from the rod with a damp brush. It’s always possible to refine dry drawing, adding details and new layers.

The main difficulty of watercolor technology is accuracy. Only the less edits and layers make it more accurate and more natural.