Coloured pencils and watercolour combos: Greens

July 22, 2022 | 9 Comments

For the last two months my main focus has been on watercolour – both the Live Version of my SketchingNow Watercolour course and the 30×30 Direct Watercolour Challenge in June. But, as regular readers will have realised, in my everyday sketching, I’ve been continuing to experiment with combining coloured pencils and watercolour. Note: I’m referring to wax or oil-based coloured pencils and not water-soluble ones.

Due to the watercolour emphasis, I haven’t been really in ‘full development mode’ but rather just playing in a casual way as I sketch my local area and Lane Cove National Park. And so in today’s article, I want to do a quick update.

When I started combining CPs and watercolours I was mainly using Derwent Coloursoft and Caran d’Ache Luminance but recently I’ve been trying to put together a collection of Faber Castell Polychromos. There is such a huge selection of colours in the Polychromos range that this is a bit of an overwhelming task!

This page was part of the process – aren’t the colours in this photo super yummy? 🙂

Here is a detail: I was painting some of my standard green watercolour washes over the various coloured CPs.

Getting the right combo is really tricky! To get the effect I’m after, I have to pair the right hue and intensity of CP applied at the right pressure with a watercolour wash containing lots of pigment party over the top! The CP creates a ‘resist’ so I have to apply the paint in a specific way as well. There are lots of different variables to balance! 🙂

The top swatch in this detail has a really interesting combo of CP and watercolour and you can see the areas of resist.

But as a general rule, it’s really hard to get consistent results when doing a swatch page like these. The only way to really know what combos are best is to do lots of sketches on location and then review what works.

BTW I bought a few Bryunzeel Design pencils from Adamstown Art when I was in Newcastle and loved them so much that I bought a full set. Their greens are crazy bright (colours I wouldn’t normally touch) but I’m loving the challenge of incorporating them into my sketches! 🙂

I’m still experimenting with different combinations… so nothing definitive to share yet. But here are some close-ups from recent sketches focusing on greens.


Note: The last two cactus details include a Yellow Lumocolour and a yellow gel pen as well.

In summary, combining CPs and watercolour is adding a lot of ‘play’ to my work at the moment. I’m loving the additional colour and texture that they add to my everyday sketching. Multi-media is the best! 🙂


  • Zoe says:

    Enjoying watching/reading about your mixed media adventures.

  • Jamie C says:

    I’m so glad you have shown us close ups and the swatch tests! Helps me finally get some clues to the perennial “how does she do that?!” question!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jamie – glad you liked seeing those details – I often ask myself ‘how did I do that? and how can I do that again more consistently?” 🙂

  • Tracey Lowe says:

    Thank you so much for your informative blog. I have learned so much from your blogs. I am very a beginner in urban sketching art.
    I have one question about this blog… You said, about the Bruynzeel pencils… that you “ loved them so much that I bought a full set”. Was that the regular colour pencil set or the Aquarel (watercolour)? If it is the regular colour pencil – why did you choose that over the watercolour pencil?
    I would like to get a set of pencils too but can’t choose between the two. I’m just looking for direction. Thank you so much for all that you do share with us. Your blogs are invaluable to me! ??

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tracey,

      Thanks for your comment and questions.

      I’m personally enjoying the Bruynzeel pencils at the moment for my own experiments but that doesn’t mean that they would be the brand I recommend (their greens are not as useful generally as those in other brands). I’m also playing games with coloured pencils (not WCPs) and similarly, that doesn’t mean I’m saying everyone should copy me 🙂

      Generally, I think most sketchers will find watercolour pencils the best option and I do have a collection of colours that I’ve used for many years and have as part of the material lists for my courses/ workshops. Find out more here

  • David says:

    Hello, so grateful for your blog and everything on your site. Tell me please, in your watercolor and colored pencil sketches, what are you using to make the black lines in the sketches?
    Thanks mucho

  • Joanne McCabe says:

    Maybe use the bright green pencils with some earth-tone-red pencils to neutralize? Not enough to obliterate the feel of green, but enough to take the visual edge off. (So, maybe a 60/40 or 70/30 mix of green-to-red?)

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