6 Must-Try Ways to Use Your Watercolor Pencils

"Because watercolor actually moves on the paper, it is the most active of all mediums, almost a performance art." - Nita Engle

If you're anything like us, you've probably found joy in the delicate art of watercolor. Whether it's pans, tubes, or liquid watercolors, there are so many fun mediums that allow you to play with water-based techniques. But have you ever considered taking your artistic journey a step further with watercolor pencils? These magical tools are like a bridge between the precise lines of colored pencils and the dreamy washes of watercolors! 

A beautiful silhouette artwork made with watercolor pencils

Woodless Watercolor Pencil 24 Set

Today, we will explore six techniques that you can do to stretch the use of your watercolor pencils. Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting to dabble in the world of art, these techniques will add a splash of excitement to your creative repertoire. So, grab your pencils, a dash of imagination, and let the watercolor magic flow! 

How to Use Watercolor Pencils for Beginners

Watercolor pencils are a delightful fusion of two artistic worlds: the precision of colored pencils and the fluid beauty of watercolors. These versatile tools come in various brands and hues, allowing you to explore various creative possibilities. But what exactly are watercolor pencils, and how do you use watercolor pencils? 

Unlike traditional coloring pencils, watercolor pencils are made using water-soluble pigments. At first glance and use, they look and feel like regular coloring pencils, and you can use them as such. However, when you make a mark and then use a wet brush to spread the pigments, that's when they become watercolors. This means that when you apply water to the marks made by these pencils, the pigments dissolve, transforming your strokes into gorgeous watercolor-like washes. 

A close-up shot of watercoloring pencils

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One of the most exciting aspects of watercolor pencils is their ability to layer and blend. You can create stunning gradients and smoothly transition from one color to another by layering the pencil strokes and then using water to blend them seamlessly. 

Another thing that sets watercolor pencils apart is their controlled versatility. Unlike traditional watercolor paints, which can be unpredictable at times, these pencils give you more control. You have the precision of a pencil when dry, and with the addition of water, you can achieve everything from soft, dreamy backgrounds to intricate details with a painterly feel.

Technique #1: Classic Watercolor Washes

Ah, the timeless beauty of a watercolor wash! Imagine your canvas awash in gradients of color, seamlessly blending and flowing like a gentle river. With watercolor pencils, achieving this dreamy effect is not only easier but also exhilarating! 

  1. Choose your palette of watercolor pencils. Consider the mood you want to convey - serene blues, fiery reds, or lush greens.
  2. Gently apply colors on your paper and fill up the background if you want. Don't worry about perfection; this is about building the foundation of your wash.
  3. Dip your brush into clean water and start applying it to the pencil marks. Use a quality brush with a pointed tip to control the water flow precisely. 
  4. Experiment with the amount of water to achieve your desired intensity. Blend colors by touching the wet brush to different areas, allowing them to flow and merge naturally.

A silhouette of some butterflies and stalks against a watercolor background

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Technique #2: Layered Color Blending

This technique allows you to create intricate gradients, subtle transitions, and astonishingly rich shades that will breathe life into your artwork. Start by selecting a duo or trio of colors that harmonize or contrast brilliantly. 

Gently lay down the first color, building layers gradually to retain control over the blending process. With the second color, superimpose your strokes, allowing the initial shade to peek through. Now comes the magic: introduce water with a brush to the layered area, witnessing the pigments dance and merge, creating a seamless blend that transitions gracefully. 

Technique #3: Controlled Lines

With this method, you can blend precise details and gentle watercolor washes using watercolor pencils. This technique lets you create artworks that have both clear outlines and a soft, dreamy feel. 

First, use your watercolor pencil to draw detailed outlines of your subject. Then, take a brush with water and carefully stroke over these lines. This will make the pencil marks dissolve a bit, creating a wash that blends smoothly with your outlines. 

A mixed media artwork containing both watercolor pencil brushstrokes and watercolor brush markers

Mixed-Media Artwork using Both Watercolor Pencils and Brush Markers

You can use this technique to make unique looks. For example, you could draw detailed flowers and make their petals look like they're floating in a subtle wash. Or you could draw a city scene with precise building outlines and a beautiful watercolor sky. Try it with animal portraits, too, where you balance detailed lines with the graceful touch of watercolor looks!

Technique #4: Embossed Resists

Did you know that you can make stamped images resistant to water? This is a trick widely known in cardmaking, but if you're an artist looking to experiment with more materials in your artwork, this technique is a great one to use! All you need is a stamp, some embossing powder and ink, and a heat gun. 

  1. Stamp an image onto watercolor paper using embossing ink.
  2. Then, sprinkle some embossing powder over the wet areas. Gently tap off the excess powder, and melt the powder on the image with the heat gun for 30 seconds.
  3. Let it dry, and then voila! You can now add colors with watercolor pencils, giving you a gorgeously embossed design made with stamps and ink. 

Technique #5: Mixed-Media Magic 

Mixed media art techniques combine the versatility of watercolor pencils with other mediums. This technique opens up exciting avenues for layering, textures, and dynamic effects. By experimenting with the integration of ink, acrylics, gouache, or markers, you can achieve striking and multifaceted compositions.

A traditional watercolor pencil artwork of a unicorn

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Watercolor pencils, with their water-soluble nature, can be combined with water-resistant mediums like pigment ink or alcohol markers

Technique #6: The 5 Marking Techniques

There are five different coloring techniques available that can bring depth and texture to your creations. The beauty of these marking techniques lies in their versatility. You can combine them in a single artwork to achieve intricate, multifaceted effects! 


Cross-hatching involves creating intersecting lines to build tone, shading, and texture. By varying the density and angles of your pencil strokes, you can achieve a wide range of effects – from delicate shadows to intricate patterns. 


Stippling is all about using small dots or specks to create shading and texture. This technique can produce subtle gradients and visual interest, making it ideal for intricate detailing or capturing delicate textures in your artwork. Stippling can be more time-intensive and require patience to create entire images, but the meticulous effort often yields striking results.


Hatching involves the use of parallel lines to build up tone and form. Varying the spacing and thickness of your lines can influence the level of shading and texture in your piece. Hatching is versatile – you can use it for everything from adding depth to your subjects to creating fun and dynamic watercolor patterns!

A beautiful watercolor pencil artwork of a girl

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The back-and-forth stroke, as the name suggests, involves moving your watercolor pencil back and forth in parallel lines. This technique is excellent for producing smooth gradients and even tones. By controlling the pressure and direction of your strokes, you can achieve subtle transitions and realistic shading.


Scumbling is about creating a cloudy or textured effect by making irregular, scribbled marks. It adds a sense of spontaneity and dynamic texture to your artwork. Scumbling is especially effective with watercolor pencils, as it can mimic the look of organic textures like foliage or clouds.

To apply these watercolor pencil techniques together, you can use cross-hatching for detailed shading, stippling for subtle texture, and scumbling to create an atmospheric background!

Scribble Your Way to Beautiful Watercolor Artworks! 

Of course, you can also use watercolor pencils as ordinary color pencils - they're such a versatile medium! With these watercolor pencil techniques, you're on your way to creating masterpieces in no time. Whether you use heat embossing, scumbling, or layering techniques, you can be sure that watercolor pencils will lend you precise and gorgeous results. 

If you want more information on art techniques, tips, and tricks like these, why not check out our ABCs of Art page, where you can find a post on any art topic? Watercoloring to acrylic painting, we’ve got you! We hope you make something today, and we look forward to your watercolor pencil work! 

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