For artists that are exploring new mediums or honing their skills, sometimes the tools that you are using need to have a degree of versatility that can assist. That’s why things like water color pencils exist. A water color pencil drawing allows you to experiment with water color techniques slowly, while you work with the skills you already have in pencil drawing.
What Are Water Color Pencils?
Most people are familiar with color pencils and color pencil drawing. These colored-core pencils come in a wide range of colors, most with a fairly soft tip that allows for a variety of different shading and detail techniques. If you’ve ever taken a course in drawing or art techniques, you’ve probably used dozens of different colored pencils and are familiar with the different results you can achieve with them.
A water color pencil is similar in how the pencil applies color to the paper. They look and react exactly like other colored pencils, allowing you to apply thin or thick lines, or to shade the paper with a thin wash of color.
The difference lies in what happens after your drawing is complete. When you apply water to the paper with a paintbrush, the color begins to soften and bleed, reacting and looking identical to either ink or true water colors depending upon how much water and how much color from the pencil there was on the paper.
Why Use Water Color Pencils
Many people ask the question, why use water color pencils when you could simply work with water color paint. The answer is that the pencils and the paints are different enough to give you a variety of different ways of using them. Water color pencils are not meant to be a replacement for the paints; instead, they can be thought of as a teaching tool, or a complement to the paints. Some artists may also find that they can get a wider variety of effects out of the pencils than they can from the paint.
Teaching Water Colors
There are many classes in water color painting that will teach you how to apply and mix the paint. Some of these classes are aimed at beginners, but many assume that you have some artistic background to draw from. Even if you already work with a different type of paint, such as gouache, acrylics, or oils, water colors move and mix differently. You can actually apply enough water to wash a previously applied color right off the page, for example, and beginners may have difficulty applying precise details or thin lines that don’t bleed into the surrounding area.
This is where water color pencil drawing can be such a help. Anyone with basic drawing skills can first get their subject down on the paper, adding all the details and fine lines they desire. Once the picture is down, the artist is able to apply the water and learn how water color moves, blends, and shades, without losing any of that detail. Gradually, the artist learns to control the paint until the pencils aren’t necessary any longer for applying the subtle details or lines.
Complementing the Paint
Mixed media artists use a variety of different materials in one design to create unique and varied looks. In a mixed media art course, beginning artists can learn to blend and layer various materials to produce distinct affects. Combining true water color paint with water color pencil drawing techniques can create similarly unique looks. For example, if someone wanted to create a piece that shifted from water color to pencil and back again, the water color pencils could be used in the transition areas to create the best affects. They can also be used to go back into a water color painting and add details or lines that were washed away during the initial application of the paint.
Creating Unique Looks
One of the advantages of water color pencils is the way that they can be used to create sharp, clear, dark lines that replicate the appearance of ink. This can be beneficial for cartoonists and other artists who want to create heavy, clear outlines around their subjects without needing to resort to a second material. The same pencil that can create a thin wash of color by shading one part of the drawing can then be pressed to a point to create a hard line. By applying water in different ways to the different lines, you can either blend the colors or keep them separate to create varied looks. The end result may look like a mixture of water color, ink, and markers, rather than a true water color painting or something that was created with pencil. The advantage of using these pencils rather than a combination of the other mediums is the fact that, like other colored pencils, you can erase the marks made with the water color pencil. So if you want to remove a line or change a color, this can be easily accomplished. The colors also wash away easily with the application of enough water, so if you find that you don’t like the effect of a certain color after you begin to apply the water you still have the ability to change it. This makes water color pencil drawing more forgiving than other techniques, which can be helpful for those working on new designs and ideas.
Tips for Water Color Pencil Drawing
Like most art techniques, the best way to master this medium is to use it on a regular basis, practicing your work until it becomes second nature. There are a few ways you can help speed up the process, however, by following a few of these tips.
Vary Brush Sizes and Shapes
Because the application of the water is secondary in the art process using this medium, it can be tempting to simply apply the water all at once to the pencil marks using a single brush. While this is affective at giving you a true water color appearance, it gives you a lot less control over the finished look.
Instead, try using a variety of different brush shapes and sizes in one piece. Think of using these pencils as a two part process, the second part being just as important as the first. Don’t hurry the water application, or you could lose important details or muddy your colors in ways you didn’t intend.
Let the Paper Dry before Going Back In
Sometimes you apply a little too much water to the paper, which results in your details being obliterated. When this happens in true water color, you may just add additional paint. Unfortunately, adding additional pencil at this point won’t work; the pencil will not make a mark on the wet paper. If you wait for the paper to dry, however, you can then go back in with the pencil and make new marks. These marks will require a small amount of water to blend them back in.
Use Heavy Paper
While you don’t necessarily need to use water color paper to apply your pencils, especially if applying the water sparingly, it does help to use a heavy paper. Thinner papers will curl when water has been applied, which can detract from your finished work. Consider trying a variety of papers, such as canvas paper and water color paper to see how they affect the finished work. You may find that textured papers have a different look that enhances the varied effects of the pencils, or you may find that smooth water color paper gives you the best results.
Try Blending and Color Separation
As you begin to get a feel for the pencils and what it is they are able to do, make sure you try both blending the colors and keeping them separate. To blend, you would apply the colors next to one another, and then wash them with an equal amount of water at the same time moving from one color to the next. To keep them separate, you would still apply them next to one another, but you would apply the water separately, stopping the brush at the edge of each color. This will create distinctly different results, which can allow you to find the technique that best suits your purposes, style, and ideas.
Water color pencil drawing needs to be considered as its own technique and art medium, rather than as a short cut or replacement to water color painting. While many artists may want to bypass the pencils in favor of the paints they are already familiar with, these tools definitely have their place in the art world as well.
Once you begin to try the pencils and see what it is they are capable of doing, you may want to consider taking a drawing class that will allow you to perfect your lines and shading. You can then transfer these moves into the water color medium via the pencils, eventually moving on to just the brushes or a combination of the two. Water color pencils can help you learn how water and color mix, as well as give you a variety of different looks with just one tool. Give them a try today and see what it is you can create.