New Watercolour Pencil Selection

March 25, 2024 | 21 Comments

Earlier this year I decided to reduce the number of coloured pencils/watercolour pencils (WCPs) that I carried around. I wanted a limited selection that was quite different from the usual WCP set that I’ve used for many years (see here).

And I came up with these 9 Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils.

This page was how I decided on the current set – documenting first the coloured pencils/WCPs that I was carrying around and then choosing a few favourite light, mid and dark colours. It was very hard to limit myself to 9 WCPs and not include some of my much-loved coloured pencils but I did! 🙂

Funnily enough, the hardest decision was choosing a grey and the only way I could decide was to do a test! I put a few options in my kit and then after a few weeks locked in the one that I used most.

It has been really fun to use this selection. I was expecting that I would find it impossible to do without some colours but generally, I’ve been content with the colours I have.

Several times I have wanted a red but the sanguine has worked fine as a substitute. Once you get over the need to match colours exactly it’s lots of fun to use a limited palette. I miss having a blue but the Light Cobalt Turquoise is all I have and I’m learning to live with that.

Here are some recent sketches that used this new WCP selection. I’ve shared these before but you might be interested to look at them again now that you know my limitations. 🙂

Please let me know in the comment section below if you have any specific questions about my colour decisions.

(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)


  • Tina Koyama says:

    I try not to carry more than about 10 carefully selected WCPs, so I’m always interested in seeing how others choose a limited palette! As you say, there’s always a color I miss, but if I just get over being literal about a color I see, the results are often more interesting. The most important thing for me, though, is that my sketches look more cohesive using a limited palette. I try not to use more than 3 or 4 colors per sketch, and they really look better and more cohesive that way.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tina – yes a limited palette is good for colour harmony! Personally my colour intuition likes the challenge of balancing more hues 🙂

  • Emma Martínez says:

    Hiya, do you mostly use warm colours?

  • Maria Bergman says:

    Thanks so much Liz for sharing your process here. Really helpful.
    Do you consider the color temperature as well as value?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Maria – value is always what I think of most. Temperature is more intuitive with me rather than something I constantly think about.

  • Patricia Wafer says:

    I love that indigo! I’m having a fling right now with Neocolor II crayons so inspired by your discipline I will make a much smaller selection to take with me out sketching based on the colors I need this spring which will change as things green up. I have a big box of just about every color but I will be strong and leave those at home and see what I can do with the more limited palette! And the dark indigo is definitely going in. Thanks for such great examples. And I really like the way you leave some parts of your sketches “unfinished”. You are an expert at saying more with less.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Patricia – and yes if I could only have two WCPs – dark indigo would be one of them. In fact if I could one have one, it would be it!

  • Susan Court says:

    Liz, your post is so helpful. I went through the same process getting my materials ready for a month in Morocco with ASA tours. More ochre- sienna reads and dark blues maybe blue-mauves. How have you reduced your neocolor II palette? I’m going to try your process. Very timely. Many thanks.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Susan – glad it was helpful. Neocolors are not out at the moment – can’t remember how many I was carrying around but I had reduced the number a bit 🙂

  • Jamie C says:

    I’m curious if you chose 9 first as a number to limit to, then made your selection fit? It’s a great color set and really does look like “you.” It has your style!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jamie – I chose the colours first and ended up with 9. If it have been more than 10 I would have culled them

  • Carol Hole says:

    Love some of the ‘new’ colours, good seeing how you’ve been using them and will look forward to trying the set out – just not sure I can do without 120 ultramarine!

  • Hi, Thanks for your lovely inspiring posts. I have a couple of questions regarding watercolor pencils….Do you use them for the initial sketch, and are you using them wet and dry, or is some of your above sketches using watercolors. I was looking at the blue sunshades…are they watercolor or watercolor pencils? thanks Sarah.

  • Ingrid H says:

    Very interesting to read, Liz. (Indeed as always…)
    I would like to seduce you to try out Venetian Red as well – one or my favorites of Albrecht Dürer. Additional I also have Goldfaber Aqua #132 in my bag with me, as I find it perfect for light skin tones.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Ok Ingrid – I’ll check it out and see if a better fit than sanguine 🙂

      (BTW good motivation to properly unpack and sort my WCPs in my new studio)

  • Eva Hoefflin says:

    Thank you! So very inspiring ! I´m actually thinking about my copourpencil colourpalette for the summer season, on an ivory surface sketchbook, I started last summer .
    I´ve got a pencil wrap for 12 cp. to carry easily . Last summer I had a limitted palette of 12 colours on the ivory paper: 108, 189(cinnamon, I love it!), 188, 263, 247, 146, 162, 172 ,125 , and … 160, 183, 162.
    Now I´m thinking what to choose for next outdoor season… …. a hard decision…because there are so many fascinting colours…. or maybe every week a new palette?

Leave a Reply