MIxing coloured pencils with watercolour

September 17, 2021 | 10 Comments


Here is a working page from my recent two-week break exploring different ways of combining pencil – both coloured pencil(CP) and watercolour pencil (WCP) –  with watercolour.

With WCPs the important considerations are

  • how much does the hue/ intensity change between its dry and wet state
  • how much pressure to apply with the pencil vs how much water to use in the watercolour wash.

These are basic (possibly too obvious) issues but it takes time to get to know your materials and how to achieve the results you want. Hey! this is what I cover in Foundations Lesson 1, isn’t it? 🙂

Note: When I use WCPs I always want to keep some of the pencil marks so that I get the most out of the fact that it is a watercolour pencil. I never use it as a substitute for watercolour but rather think of it as a water-soluble drawing tool.

With CPs I was exploring how much ‘resist’ the pencil created when I painted over it. It seems that the most interesting results were achieved when the value of the pencil was similar to the value of the paint. I also explored the effect of applying pencil (particularly lighter pencil) over a watercolour wash.

Of course, there are lots more experiments that I could do, but this page was done towards the end of my break to explore the effects I was trying to achieve in my blue gum sketches.


After I published the previous article with ‘all’ my blue gum sketches I did another one! This is a 12-minute sketch done at Davidson Park on Saturday morning. The last in the series.

Do you combine pencils (either CPs or WCPs) with watercolour? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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10 Comments

  • Jane Varley says:

    Hi Liz, yes, I occasionally use my old 72 set of Derwent colour pencils (same vintage as yours I imagine) to add texture over watercolour as in my shoe exercise done in your last Edges course. Haven’t really got the hang of using wc pencils with watercolour yet. Another thing to have a go at!!

  • Harris Levitt says:

    Hi Liz
    I use WC pencils frequently with watercolors. I like the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle and the Supra Soft. Sometimes Derwent graphtint is great for cloudy Seattle, and their Inktense for interiors. It varies with the paper and effect I am after. I have been playing with interior floral scenes on Yupo paper during the pandemic and our damp winters here. The Supra Soft is delightful on the Yupo.

  • Barbara McCafferty Weeks says:

    Timely post for me! I just pulled out my watercolor pencils to play and combine with watercolor!

  • Kate Powell says:

    I use WC pencils often to do a few sketch lines instead of a pencil; then they disappear.
    Otherwise, I am finding little reason ot use them on location because they are a pain to carry… in my studio I reach for them for lots of reasons, including to add detail over watercolor.

  • When I sketch in pencil before doing a watercolor I sometimes like to use a WCP so some of the lines will dissolve into the paint and be less visible in the finished painting. But otherwise I only use watercolor pencils on top of watercolor, preferable wet watercolor so the lines become more ink-like—darker and with a lot of thick-thin variation. That way there are no unpleasant surprises with color shifts when you paint over them.

    I also sometimes use light colored CPs to go over dry watercolor, to add yellow flowers or pale green grasses—or sometimes yellow lane dividers on a road. You can’t make the color too strongly opaque, though, or it will leap off the surface of the painting and call too much attention to itself.

    I like the idea of using CPs for a light-colored resist, but often can’t execute it well in a painting because by the time I paint over it I’ve forgotten it’s there, or my idea of where the painting is going has changed so much that I with they weren’t there.

    Great topic Liz!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Laurie for all these great tips. I need to do more WCP into wet wash… I do it a bit, but want to do more.
      Using CP for resist is hard… got to get the wetness of the wash just right or else it looks a bit sad! 🙂


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