We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What are Watercolor Pencils?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated: May 16, 2024

Watercolor paint is a transparent paint that uses water as a solvent. It was used for wall paintings by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. As it came to be used for books and illustrations and became a more popular medium in the 16th through 19th centuries, it was made available in little patties, each in its own metal pan. Today, professional watercolor paints are most often purchased in tubes.

Watercolors are usually applied with a brush, using a variety of techniques, such as wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, and the so-called dry brush techniques of dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Other techniques, such as blotting and combining watercolors with pen and ink, lend variety to the textural appearance.

Watercolor pencils deliver watercolor pigment in a different way. They can be used dry on dry paper, but when used with water, they work best on watercolor paper, which has the necessary strength. The color intensity will result from how thickly the pencil is applied. One can use these pencils by:

  • creating a drawing on dry paper and washing over it
  • creating a drawing on dry paper and washing over only particular parts of it
  • creating a drawing on wet paper
  • dipping the pencils' tips in water before drawing on dry paper
  • drawing on top of work already created and allowed to dry
  • combining the use of watercolor pencils and crayons along with brushed on pigment
  • wetting the brush and using it to gather pigment from the sharpened end of the pencil

Watercolor pencils are created encased in wood, like regular pencils, and as woodless pencils that are simply pigment wrapped in a thin binding paper. Both kinds of pencils can be purchased individually or in standard sets. Sets often include sizes 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36, but others increase by increments of ten and include between 10 and 40 pencils.

There are also student sets of watercolor pencils, which often offer fewer colors than professional sets or collections of individual pencils. Classroom packages of 12 pencils each of 8 basic colors are also available for school use. These are likely to include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, violet, white, brown, and black.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for HomeQuestionsAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By rallenwriter — On Sep 20, 2010

I like Lyra Watercolor Pencils -- I think they have the best control, as well as the most variety of colors.

You can get some very nice shading with a little practice.

By lightning88 — On Sep 20, 2010

@closerfan12 -- I illustrate children's books, and often use watercolor pencils for my art. My favorites are Prismacolor watercolor pencils or Reeves watercolor pencils.

My friend prefers Derwent watercolor pencils, but I find that the saturation is not quite as nice as with the Prisma or Reeves watercolor pencils. Of course, that could just be personal preference.

I'd say ask your daughters -- maybe they can choose some good ones.

By closerfan12 — On Sep 20, 2010

My daughters use the Crayola watercolor colored pencils all the time, and they really do love them.

They like to make the drawings with the dry pencil, and then brush over it to get the watercolor effect.

I'm thinking about getting them a nice watercolor pencil set for Christmas, but I don't really know my way around watercolor pencil brands.

Has anybody got any idea what the "best" watercolor pencils are? Or do you have a favorite that you could let me know about?

By breakofday — On Dec 20, 2009

Neat! I knew they made oil pencils but I didn't know about watercolor pencils. I remember regular watercolors being very messy, or at least I was messy with them. You probably have a lot more control with a pencil.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
Learn more
HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.