Using my watercolour pencils again

March 17, 2021 | 8 Comments

Today we are starting a Group Timetable for my Foundations course! I’m not going to be doing a formal “Foundations Friday” series here on the blog as I normally do (see an index of articles here) but I do intend to work along with the group as much as I can.

Lesson 1 is all about Knowing (and loving) our materials and my usual approach is to spend the week sketching with something in my kit which I’m not using much. This year I’m choosing my watercolour pencils (WCPs) – just as I did in 2020!

It’s really interesting to read about my strategies from last year and realise that so far I haven’t done much alternating between line and colour. Since Monday, my main approach has been to draw in pencil, add shading/texture and then add a little watercolour paint (rather than just water) over the top.

The two main reasons why I add paint over the top is to prevent the colour going flat (which often happens if you just apply water) and to be able to adjust the hue. 

Today I tried combining watercolour pencil (with watercolour over the top) with an ink drawing. This seems like a lot of work but it could work on location when I don’t feel like getting my paints out. I could draw with ink, add some colour and texture with the WCPs and then when back home, I could add water/paint.

Here is a colour chart of my selection – the left side of each swatch shows the result when a little water is added and the right side includes the corresponding paint (from my current palette) added over the top.

Ah! it’s fun to go back to using WCPs again… and it’s only the start of the week. A change is as good as a holiday!



  • Mihaela says:

    Hi Liz, very interesting topic, I also use WCP in my drawings, and I too realized that they tend to be “flat” when adding just water on top! Thank you very much for sharing your expertise on how to improve the quality of a WCP sketch by adding over the (correspondent) watercolour …

  • Marshall Harrison says:

    So is this your current WCP palette?

    I’m left wondering what it would look like if you wet the WCPs for a wet on dry WCP base or after applying just the water. I think I will try that.

    Thanks for this series.I suck at drawing so I am going to concentrate on drawing and painting with my water color pencils.

    • Liz Steel says:

      HI Marshall,
      yes, these are the pencils I use (and have for years). If the WCP lead gets wet it is very crayon-like and more permanent. Many people like to pick up the pigment from the pencil with a brush and use it more like watercolour paint – I personally don’t use them that way!
      have fun with your experiments!

  • Leeta Anderson says:

    Thank you for your post. I had a great time this morning rechoosing my WCP’s so that they had correlations with my watercolors; not just matches, but also considering how they could be pushed to different colors entirely with other paint choices. I’m looking forward to using the new combinations in the Foundations run through.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Great to hear Leeta!
      And yes – I push the colour all the time by varying the hue of the watercolour wash… but I could try some even more radically mixing between paint and pencil pigment. have fun!

  • Ceri Donovan says:

    Interesting! I mostly have Faber Castel Polychromos rather than Albrecht Durer WC pencils. The Polychromos will dissolve in water, but to a lesser extent than the watercolour pencils – as will most coloured pencils! I will have to experiment and see how well they work with watercolour paint over the top! I assume you use the pencils almost as a way of making notes of the colours, in order to add the paint later? I do sometimes use Albrecht Durers as under painting for coloured pencil, but never thought of combining them with watercolour!

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