Best For Professionals
Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils – Artist Wood Case with 72 Pencils
Best for Beginners
Castle Art Watercolor Pencils – Metal Tin With 72 Colors
In an effort to help you decide on the best watercolor pencils I have reviewed 6 out of the 7 brands that I think will work for anyone from the beginner to the professional artists. This type of pencil can be used wet or dry and can help to enhance your knowledge and expertise in painting and coloring with watercolors.
This is a very fun pencil to work with and can be combined with other art mediums to give your work that extra pop. Probably one of the best uses for watercolor pencils is creating a base color wash then letting it dry before adding layers on top for a very realistic effect.
If you have landed on this page by accident and are looking for a regular colored pencil then check out some of my top picks for best colored pencils.
Table of Contents
Editor's Top Picks:
7 Best Watercolor Pencils For 2021:
While doing research I came across a couple more watercolor pencil sets that are also popular choices among customers so I decided to add them to the list. I will be adding more reviews to these at a later date so be sure to check back in.
See my How to Draw with Colored Pencils tutorial where I take you through each step used to create a life like Bluebird.
Top 6 Best Watercolor Pencil Reviews
Below you will find reviews on just a few of the best watercolor pencils on the market today. They are not listed in any particular order but have a star rating to help indicate the rank of each brand. As I buy and use these products over time then these reviews will be updated with the most up to date and accurate information so check back in ever so often to see if there is anything new.
1. Castle Art Watercolor Pencils
This is a set of 72 at a reasonable price. Castle Art Supplies stand behind their product and appear to be honest and trustworthy. Using water creates the most vibrant color while dry has some blending issues but that is true for most brands of watercolor pencils.
- Decent Quality
- Affordably Priced
- Good warranty
- Nice Metal Tin
- Harder Lead
- Low Blending when dry
I could not find information on the lightfastness of these watercolor pencils. There were quite a bit more positive than negative reviews. This set comes with a white pencil. Seem to sharpen up nice without breaking. Color chart is recommended due to color variation when applied to paper and names are not on the pencil itself. They do have number coding.
2. Prismacolor Premier Watercolor Pencils
This is a set of 36 and comes in a tin with plastic trays. These are probably a good choice for the serious beginner artist. Although they are a great choice for anyone. There are larger sets and higher grades available.
- Good lightfastness
- Matches Prismacolor Palette
- Pigment goes on smoothly
- Works well wet or dry
- Hard to distinguish color
- Possible wood cracking issue
- Lead can break if not careful when sharpening
Though overall the watercolor pencils accomplish the desired effect, there are some quality issues that come up regularly while researching. I still believe these are probably the best watercolor pencils for beginners. You can purchase just 1 pencil if needing to replace one of your most used colors. These pencils are versatile enough to use on mixed media papers and drawing papers.
3. Faber Castell - Albrecht Durer
This is my runner up pick for professional artists. This is a set of 120 in a nice tin. Though pricey these pencils will perform! Leads are 3.3 mm and SV bonded. Although I do not have a set of these they are on my wish list.
- Excellent Lightfast rating
- Leads are designed to resist breaking
- Wet brush can remove all pencil strokes
- Perform wet or dry
- Can be expensive
If you are looking for a good high quality watercolor pencil then this is probably your best choice if you can afford the price. Faber Castell has excellent quality control and design their pencils with the user in mind. The leads are glued to the wood casing to help insure against those nagging lead breakages.
4. Derwent Watercolor Pencils - Inktense
This is another premium artist product and is highly recommended. Water soluble ink color allows for super vibrant colors. Packaged in a wooden box this set has 72 colors with a 4mm soft lead core. Excellent gift for aspiring artists but is a little pricey. Once the the ink dries it becomes permanent. This allows for some really nice layering as the water on the second layer will not affect the colors underneath.
- Super vibrant colors
- Great for fabric
- Easy sharpening
- Varies greatly from dry to wet
- Light flaking can happen while coloring
- Dries quickly
If you are looking to make your artwork pop then this is the pencil for you. Since the colors do vary from dry to wet I would recommend creating a color chart for each pencil. I can see how the quick drying could also be a “pro” rather than a “con”. I chose “con” because faster drying can cause you to rush. Smaller sets are available if your are looking for affordability.
5. Fantasia Premium Watercolor Pencils
This is a 36 piece set and comes in a nice tin. Like the Derwent Inktense these pencils lay down smooth and are permanent.
- High color concentration
- Thicker lead
- Works well on fabric
- Blending with water removes pencil strokes
- Sharpens nicely
- Tip colors differ from lay down colors
- Quite a few shipping related issues
This brand of watercolor pencil appears to be middle of the board when coloring with a dry pencil. I recommend a color chart with these pencils also. I was unable to locate any information on the lightfast rating. Great for new and veteran artist’s alike. My research shows that this set seems to have a lot of very similar colors and that perhaps a larger set would be a better option if you are looking for more variety.
6. Arteza Professional Watercolor Pencils
Set of 72 quality watercolor pencils at a lower price makes this a good alternative. I had plenty of customer reviews on these and they appear to be ranking up there with other artist grade brands. The lightfast rating is on the barrel of each pencil along with the color name and number. Comes in a tin case.
- More affordable
- Highly Pigmented
- Good Labeling
- Best For Colorist
- Check for duplicate colors
- Color Saturation not a high as other professional sets
I did read some professional artist reviews of these watercolor pencils and some said they would basically get the job done but would not use them for their main art pieces. I suspect these are more for adult coloring and enthusiast making these a good set to buy for beginners to intermediates. Good stepping stone for students seeking a career in art.
Watercolor Pencils Q&A
1.What is the best way to use watercolor pencils?
The most common way of using watercolor pencils is to apply the color just as you would with a standard colored pencil. Then you activate the color using a brush that has been dipped in water. Allow the paint to dry and repeat to layer the pigment. This really makes your colors stand out.
2. What is Lifting?
With the water soluble pencil instead of erasing you can use a sponge or Q-tip to remove pigment from the paper while it is still wet. Try different things such as tissue or paper towel (anything that is absorbent) to see how many texture styles you can create. Lifting is also used as a technique to create a lighter tint by dabbing your paper before the paint drys. This helps show your light source and provide contrast.
3. What Paper Is Best For Watercolor Pencils?
A 140lb weighted paper that is specifically designed for watercolors and has been cold pressed seems to be the standard for most artists that use this medium. There are many brands of paper from mixed media paper to high quality paper designed specifically for watercolors. The last one is without a doubt the best choice. I have always liked Strathmore Paper for all my projects and mediums.
4. Do You Have To Use Water With Watercolor Pencils?
The answer is no you do not have to use water. Using watercolors dry is very similar to a colored pencil. They are somewhat harder to layer but they should work. Adding the water makes your colors stand out more and are much more impressive than dry.
Finding The Best Watercolor Pencils
If you are new and need a little guidance in choosing the right watercolor pencil then please feel free to read my short article before you make a buying decision. I have compiled some of the top brands of watercolor pencils for the beginner all the way to the professional artist which can help you to better understand what you are buying.
Grinding through research and having some personal knowledge and experience about each product will give you as much relevant information as possible before making a buying decision. Be sure to bookmark us as new content is updated frequently.
Understanding Watercolor Pencils
If you are used to drawing instead of painting like I am then watercolor pencils can allow you to paint while drawing. If you can use color pencils then you can definitely use watercolor pencils. The ability to add water to your colored pencil drawings takes your blending to a whole other level while bringing your art to life!
To get the desired effect from watercolor pencils you will need a medium sized round tip brush and a fine liner brush, both are used for adding water to activate the colors on your paper. Keep in mind that you will need paper that is made for watercolors as some types of paper will not absorb the water and bleeding through or wrinkling can occur on some thinner papers. Making sure you have all the proper tools will ensure your art looks the best it can and saves you from having to make another trip to the art store.
Watercolor Pencils vs Colored Pencils
As you probably already know the difference between these 2 types of mediums is one is basically paint in pencil form and the other is dry color.
I love colored pencils because of the ease of blending. Of course, the brand of pencil plays a very important role in this.
But watercolor can add a whole new sense of vibrancy and depth to an artist’s work. One of the advantages of watercolor pencils is you can use them dry or wet. Giving you options where standard color pencils do not.
On the flip side , you have to use special paper that can hold up to water being applied to the surface.
Although I have noticed that the blending of watercolor pencils may lack some when using dry depending, once again, on the brand. Paper can also play a big role in this also.
What Makes The Best Watercolor Pencil?
The binding agent of this pencil dissolves in water and creates a watercolor feel. The trick here is to give the core enough strength to allow for some pressure without breakage while coloring.
There is essentially just 2 different quality types.
- Student Grade – This is the more affordable option for people just learning. The pigments are not as rich and generally have less pigment for moving with water.
- Artist or Professional Grade – This type of pencil is specifically designed to lay down more pigment to paper which helps in more color saturation.
Longevity Of Vibrant Colors
The ability for paints and pigments to retain it’s life on paper can play a big role in a piece of art looking new and fresh. This ability is called the lightfast rating. This rating can help you determine the best watercolor pencil to buy.
Tips For Using Watercolor Pencils
- One way of using these pencils is to treat them as if they are standard coloring pencils. Just apply the color or colors and blend / layer as usual.
- Lay in your base color starting with the lighter tones first. Working towards the darker tones for shadows and contrast. Apply water with a brush to blend your colors. After the paint is dry add more details with your dry pencils again. This particular technique is but one way to layer your colors.
- You can also wet your paper with a brush that has been dipped in water and then apply pigment for a bolder line which can give crisp defining lines and deeper looking shadow areas.
- Try not to use to much water on your brush when blending.
- Save the tip of watercolor pencils by keeping your pencil angled. By doing this you can keep a sharper tip for a longer period of time.
Want to know more?
Hopefully, by now you have a pretty clear picture of which is the best watercolor pencil to suit your specific needs. When deciding which brand to recommend to people I try to provide a non biased decision based on the facts posted and reviewed by artists and beginners.
I believe the Derwent Inktense pencils is my top pick due to the amount of positive reviews. One important thing to remember about these watercolor pencils are permanent once dry. Meaning, they can work on fabric as well as other types of papers or coloring books and even wood. Of course a good watercolor paper is recommended for the most vibrant colors. These are highly popular among professionals even though they are on the higher priced spectrum.
Hoped this helped and thanks for reading!