Sunday, June 9, 2013

Watercolour Pencil Experiments

This set of 12 Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencils was one of the first things I bought after I started this blog in 2009, but I've never reviewed it or written a post about it, mainly because it remains the only set of watercolour pencils I have ever used, and I don't really know what I'm doing when I use them!  I just try different things until I get results that I like.  If I was going to be more serious about it, I might look up some tutorials or books to learn from, but slowly experimenting and trying different things works for me now.


That said, I thought it was well past time for a post to share with you my current method of using watercolour pencils, just to show you how fun and easy they are to use, even if (like me) you don't really know what you're doing and you feel a bit intimidated by watercolour paints.

Watercolour pencils, if you're not familiar with them, are similar to normal pencil crayons except that they are water-soluble, meaning that you can add water to your sketch after you colour it and achieve an effect similar to what you could get with watercolour paints.  I don't know much about different brands, so I can't recommend anything specific.  I have been using these ones for the last several years and I am happy with them, but I'm sure there are other excellent brands out there.  Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!

I usually start by drawing a rough sketch with one of my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens (usually the fine or super-fine; I used the fine in this example), or a different waterproof pen.  For this example, I quickly sketched a flower of the African violet that sits beside my desk (step 1).  It's not a great sketch, but good enough for this example:

(Click to view larger.)

After that, I pick the main colour and shade it over the area (step 2), paying attention to areas where the colour appears deeper.  After that, I usually add one or two more layers of different colours over the primary layer to get the colour I want (step 3).  I don't know much about colour theory or colour mixing, but I pick colours intuitively and it usually works out.  It is a bit tricky, because the colour you get with the dry pencils does not look quite the same as the colour you get after adding water.  Finally, I use my Pentel Aquash waterbrush (any paintbrush will work, but I highly recommend a waterbrush because it is so portable and convenient) to brush water over the colour (step 4).  In the photo above, I've added water to the three right-hand petals.  The photo doesn't show it that well, but in this step the colours become a lot brighter and deeper and blend together.  And the result does end up being a fairly close match to the colour of my African violet.

And that's it!  It's a really simple method, and it works for me and my style of sketching.  I'm usually not too concerned about the fine details; I'm just looking for a good representation of the basic colours and shapes for a quick sketch, and these watercolour pencils work very well for that.

I'll leave you with this page I've shared before from last fall's travel journal, because it is a good example of my typical sketching style and of how I work when I am out in the field:


You can see more examples of my work with watercolours pencils here, here, and in many of my cards from last year's ICAD, especially the ones from this week.

Do you use watercolour pencils?  How do you use them?  Do you have any recommendations or suggestions?

12 comments:

  1. I like your technique! That's similar to how I use them, too. Another fun thing to do is to lay down a smear of water with a brush, then draw on the wet paper. One more fun thing: Take a blade and scrape off small shavings of pencil lead (avoiding the wood part), and sprinkle it over the wet paper. This is better for more abstract work. Fun!

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    1. Those sound like fun techniques! I'll have to give them a try. I think I actually have used the first technique (drawing on wet paper with the pencil) already, but only by accident :)

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  2. I have a set of Derwent "Academy" pencils (they look very similar, actually, with the wood bodies and colour dipped ends).
    http://johnthemonkey.tumblr.com/post/23733064984/derwent-academy-pencils-i-like-em-taken-with

    I've used mine both as you do here, and using a facing page as a palette (i.e. mixing colours on a blank page, and then "lifting" them with a brush to paint on the picture, as here;
    http://johnthemonkey.tumblr.com/post/23352558992/more-iffy-watercolour-from-yours-truly-today-a

    I've also used them dry;
    http://johnthemonkey.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/totoro/

    http://johnthemonkey.tumblr.com/post/24683469502/more-messing-about-a-monkey-trumpeter-sketchbook

    I'm moving more towards the latter lately, as generally, if I want to paint, I use half pan watercolours.

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    1. Thanks for those links, John! I like the idea of using the facing page in a journal to mix the colours. One day I want to get into using actual paints, but it will probably be a while before that day comes. Watercolour pencils are good because they're multi-purpose: I can use them dry or wet.

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  3. Nice tutorial. While I haven't tried the Lyra watercolor pencils, from your pictures they do not seem to be very saturated given their pale washes after using the waterbrush. When aiming for brighter more saturated washes I would recommend either Faber Castell Albrecht Durer or Caran D'Ache Supracolor watercolor pencils. Both of these artist ranges are heavily pigmented and readily dissolve upon contact with a wet brush.

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    1. Thanks for those recommendations! Those look like great pencils, though I can't help but noticing that the price is correspondingly higher as well. I'll probably be sticking with these ones for a while yet, as I have been happy with the results I get so far.

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  4. I also like regular Lyra colored pencils. They are easy to blend and layer and one can control the color very well! Nice tutorial and review; thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Else! I haven't seen the regular Lyra pencils; they sound nice, though. And I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  5. I really love working with watercolor pencils, my favorite brand is derwent. I feel like they are really great quality, and just nice pencils

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    1. Watercolour pencils are fun to use, aren't they? I'm not familiar with Derwent, but one day I hope to try some other brands.

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  6. Heather, don't miss this great demo by Lynne Chapman:
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=o7B60nXLsGI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Do7B60nXLsGI%26feature%3Dyoutu.be

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing that! That's an awesome video. I especially like how she also focuses more on the overall shapes and patterns rather than every little detail - similar to my own approach. Except hers is much better than anything I've ever done!

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