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Watercolor Pencils For Paper Crafters

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Watercolor pencils have been popular with paper crafters for years, They are easy to use and reasonable in price

Watercolor pencils have been popular with paper crafters for years, They are easy to use and reasonable in price

Getting Started With Watercolor Pencils

Watercolor pencils are so much fun. I have been using them in paper craft projects foe over 10 years. Do you remember the coloring books we used to have with the brush? All you did was touch the brush to water and color the page ? Suddenly a color would appear? Well these pencils are just as fun ! Basically, it's the same idea. You color the project with the pencil and add a little water and you have something special.

Watercolor pencils combine the ease of colored pencils and the color of paint.

Colored pencil leads are either wax or oil based, whereas watercolor pencil leads have a water soluble base.

I like to use them in my card making projects. You can doodle in the front of the card (also called zentangles) then color the card with your pencils and add the water to create something truly unique. Watercolor pencils add a soft touch to embossed cards

Stamping is a perfect medium for water color pencils. Simple stamp your image, color it in and add a touch of water and you have a soft look that is your own creation

Scrapbooking is another place to add the special touch that water color pencils create. Stamped images of course, but also borders, titles, mats and a whole lot more are enhanced with water color pencils.

The amount of use you will have for these pencils are only limited to your imagination

Watercolor pencils are available everywhere. They are sold in sets of 12 and 24 pencils per pack. There are more extensive and expensive sets that come up to 120 colors. These sets are more artistic. If you want to invest in these sets, you will certainly get better results.

In the basic sets there are three different types-kids, craft and professional grade. As you move into the more professional grde quality water color pencils, you will be paying more, but the results will be better

The kind of sets most crafters use, will generally say they are water color pencils on them. I store them together. Purchasing sets are generally more economical than buying them individually. They come in different grades from student to professional.

What You Need To Get Started

  • Water color pencils- buy a set to get started and add to your collection
  • Water color paper or really heavy cardstock
  • Small bristle paint brushes
  • A container to hold water-I use well rinsed out recycled plastic containers
  • Some q tips
  • Pencils for drawing if you are freehand drawing
  • Stamps and ink pads if you are coloring stamped images
  • Some Paper Towels

Advantages Of Watercolor Pencils For Cards And Paper Crafts

There are many advantages for the use if watercolor pencils when it comes to paper crafts.

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  • Rather than a brush, water color pencils can be sharpened. That fine point makes it easier to get in corners and fine detail.
  • You can add texture to your stamped images while still getting a water color effect.
  • You can get a real custom look by adding some color to part of your image and leaving other sections dry.
  • Water color pencils can cover a larger area more easily than colored pencils
  • If still wet, you can take off color from your image to make corrections than you can with water color.
  • They can still be used dry

What Kind If Projects Can You Do With Water Color Pencils?

There are a variety of projects that you can do with watercolor pencils. One of the nice things about using them is they are portable, less messy, and have more control over standard watercolors in a pan or a tube.

They can also be used with junk journals, greeting cards, scrapbook pages, artist trading cards, and coins.

Let's start with stamped images! This is one of my favorite ways to use watercolor pencils

You want to stamp the image with ink that will not bleed. Stazon is one of the most well-known.

Chose either watercolor paper or cardstock that is at least 90-110 lb paper. Another option would be a good mixed media paper. I prefer to use heavy cardstock if I am planning to use dies to cut out the images. But that is just personal preference.

Using water color pencils is easy and makes for some great paper art

Using water color pencils is easy and makes for some great paper art

Coloring Stamped Images With Watercolor Pencils

About The Ink

The first thing to think about is the kind of ink that you can use to stamp images that will be colored with watercolor pencils.

Many crafters like to use Stazon inks. They really hold up to the techniques with watercolor pencils.

Other suggestions that I have seen include Making Memories of black pigment ink.

Once you have chosen your image and have stamped it, allow time for the image to dry. You can do these images all at once, which can be fun. Then let it all dry overnight.

Now chose the pencils you plan to use. It is nice to have the options of at least two variations or more of each color. So you have at least one color and a lighter and darker tone.

Before you start coloring, make sure that all of your pencils are sharpened.

First, add a light color to the image. Then add the medium tone and finally the darker tone. When you are using these tones, you want to think about where your shadows would fall and follow that idea throughout the image.


Water Color Pencil Brands

There are many types of water color pencils. Your choice will depend on your use and budget.

Some watercolor pencils come only in sets. Others come as open stock. The nice thing about the open stock pencils are that you can replace a color without buying the other colors that you may not need. The other thing to consider about open stock is that it allows you to try a brand before you fully commit to it.

Once you commit to a brand of watercolor pencils, you want to purchase the largest set that you can afford. The reason behind that is that in some manufacturers, there will be duplicate pencils in different sets. Just something to consider.

  1. Faber Castell-Come in a range of 120 colors. Completely dissolves when water is added. Very intense color. Come in a student set and a professional set. Bit more pricey than other lines
  2. Caran d'Ache Supercolor II-soft pencils with the same range of 120 colors. Soft pencils that blend nicely with water
  3. Caran d'Ache Neocolor II-resemble crayons that have some pastel wax qualities. They have to be hand sharpened. ( they are more like crayons, but considered pencils).
  4. Derwent-has super intense color leads. There cores are also very thick. They are considered permanent when dry. ( technically a water soluable ink, but we class them as pencils for crafty use)
  5. Derwent Metallics-are a metallic water color pencil.They have a set of 12 colors. Nice option, but colors are not intense
  6. Julia Nutting Skin Tone Color Pencils-many sets do not have adequate skin tones in their sets. This set will fill in the blanks where you need them.
  7. Lyra Rembrandt-Aquarell-the same core hardness as the Lyra Polycolor oil-based line.
  8. Prisma Water Color Pencils-come in 36 colors that match the popular Premier colors. However, these watercolor pencils have a drier and chalkier feel.
  9. Reeves Water Color Pencils-a good starter set in 36 colors. They wear down faster then some. They do have a good selection of colors in their set.
  10. Spectrum Noir Aqua Blend Water Color Pencils- come in 4 sets of 24. Nice thick leads and no color duplication.

Paper For Watercolor Pencils

When you are creating a paper project with watercolor pencils, you need to remember that you will be adding a water wash to the lead to create the image. The surface of the paper need to be able to accept the water and then dry without much curling. Watercolor paper is readily available and the perfect paper for watercolor pencils. You can often find cards made up made out of watercolor paper. But if you can't find them, it's easy enough to make them up yourself

You can use other paper, but it is best to use a heavy cardstock. with a minimum weight of 80 lbs. The problems with lighter paper is that it will not accept the water and the fibers of the paper may be "scrubbed " away. You may also get curling of the paper when it's dry.

There are three kinds of watercolor paper that you can use for your projects. They are called hot press, cold press and rough.

Hot Press- This is a more smooth paper that would be perfect for cards. But it is still thick enough to hold water.

Cold Press - It has more texture to it. Cold press is for when you want more raised texture in your project.

Rough -It has even more texture than cold press.

Make A Sentiment Background

Learn a simple way to add watercolor backgrounds

Learn a simple way to add watercolor backgrounds

Watercolor Brushes

It is important to have a selection of good watercolor brushes to help create your images. You can use paint brushes or water color brushes with your water color pencils. There are special water color brushes that hold water within the well of the brush. Yes, you can use these too, but you have to be super controlled when it comes to the amount of water that you push into the brush.

Click here to get a brush size chart

You do not want brushes that will hold a lot of water. You actually need very little water to activate your watercolor pencils.

Start with a very basic set of watercolor brushes:

  • One or more flat tipped brushes
  • Large brush tip
  • Medium brush tip
  • Small brush tip
  • Rounded brush tip

Sharpening Your WaterColor Pencils

There are several things to consider when sharpening your watercolor pencils. Like other colored pencils, they are broken easily if not cared for properly. I know how frustrating it is when your watercolor or colored pencils break, especially as you are sharpening them. Even worse, when you are using them and the point breaks off !

First thing to try is to use a hand held pencil sharpener. I like to use a handheld sharpener because I have more control over the process. I am right handed, so I prefer to hold the sharpener in my right hand. I hold the pencil in my left hand ( my non dominant hand). Hold the pencil straight and turn the sharpener, rather than the pencil. If your sharpener has two holes, use the larger holes. That will give you a sharper point and less chance of breakage.

Craft Knife- Many watercolor artists prefer to use a craft knife to gently slice the excess wood to create a tip.

Sandpaper Sharpening Pads- These type of pads give you the ultimate control over your pencils, but take more time to sharpen. You simply rub the pencil and rotate it to get the desired tip

Electric Or Battery Operated Sharpener Ideas- Lots of folks like to use a battery or electronic sharpener, you need to remember that you will have a lot less control than with a hand help one. I have one, but very rarely use it. What I found was that I tended to over-sharpen my pencils. So if you are planning to get one for your watercolor pencils, make sure to get one that has an auto-stop feature. Another thing to consider is if you are using one of these sharpeners, don't overuse it in one session. (you will actually put stress on the motor and dull your blades.

Every so often, about every 12 pencils or so, sharpen a graphite pencil in your sharpener. That will get any waxy build-up out of your sharpener.

More Sharpener Tips

  1. Don't use a sharpener that is made for cosmetics. They are made for softer pencils like eyebrow pencils. They generally do not have the same kind of blades.
  2. Make sure that your blade is sharp ! If your shavings are long and continuous, then your blade is sharp ! If the shavings are short and choppy, then your blade is dull. The blades or the sharpener should be replaced. Otherwise, you may hurt the core of the pencil.
  3. Forget those old crank style wall model sharpeners. They will do serious damage to your investment.

Blender Pens In Watercolor Techniques

A blender pen is another very useful tool in creating perfect water color techniques. It liquefies and merges areas of color. You actually can omit the water and the paintbrush all together. It intensifies the color and allows them to blend smoothly Because there is no water with this technique, paper will not buckle. This means that you would be able to use regular card stock in your project.

This is the watercolor palette that I created for my personal pencil collection. Create a color chart for each set and attach the chart to the bottom on the storage case  for future use,

This is the watercolor palette that I created for my personal pencil collection. Create a color chart for each set and attach the chart to the bottom on the storage case for future use,

Making A Watercolor Color Chart

The first thing that you should do when you get your pencils is make up a watercolor chart. This will help you as you get started. Take all your colors and make two squares of the same color next to each other. I keep colors in the same range on the same line. Label them with the name of the color underneath. Gently color the square on the right with a tiny bit of water and let dry. This chart will give you a good idea what the color will look like both wet and dry

Some colors can look entirely different on the pencil to the dry watercolor effect. Having the chart makes a good reference point when you are using your colors so you know what the end result will be.

If you have watercolor pencils from different companies, sperate them on your chart. Or you can keep all colors together but identify which co each color is from. That way you can see the different colors side by side. Make up your chart to look whatever makes it easier for you.

Watercolor Pencil Techniques

Want To Do It Right-Stretch Your Paper

I like to stretch the paper that I have stamped before I get started coloring the images with my water color pencils. It is a simple process. All I do is to lay the stamped paper on my work surface and gently stretch it while I am applying low tack tape to all four corners of the paper.

Another way to do this, which is the more professional option, would be to wet the paper on both sides till it is damp and not wet. Wet four pieces of making tape or washi tape. Tape all four sides of your paper to the work surface. Allow both the paper and the tape to dry. Then stamp your images. This second way to stretch the paper will mean that there is little or no warping on your images.

Different Watercolor Techniques


Dry Pencil On Dry Paper Technique

In this method, the colors are applied with the watercolor pencils and then water is added with a brush to dissolve the color. Use either a round, flat or watercolor brush to apply the water.

You can achieve depth and shading by layering the dry color before using the water

Dry Pencil On Wet Paper

This is used to outline and call attention to an area. You wet the area and draw with a dry pencil

  1. Wet the paper first by laying down a light even coat of water Only wet the area that you are planning to work on, not the whole paper.
  2. Use a dry watercolor pencil to color in the area that you drew or placed your stamped image on. Remember , if you stamp an image, you need to use water resistant ink like Stazon.
  3. You need to work quickly before the paper dries.
  4. You will see brighter intense color

Wet Pencil On Wet Paper


  • Watercolor pencils
  • Watercolor paper
  • Paint brush

Dip the pencil in water and draw lines or make blocks of color on dry paper.. This technique makes bolder and brighter strokes.The alternative is to wet the paper with a large brush and apply the color with a wet pencil. Heavy paper may need to be soaked for 10-15 minutes for this technique.

You can also wet the pencil and take the color from the pencil onto a brush and paint with the brush

In this technique, the colors tend to run, somewhat like a watercolor image.

Make Your Own Watercolor Paint Pad

Scribble color heavily on dry paper. Dab a we paint brush in the dry color to place on the project. This is great for backgrounds or larger areas. It looks a lot like traditional water color

The salt watercolor pencil technique is an easy way to create a custom background

The salt watercolor pencil technique is an easy way to create a custom background

Table Salt Technique


  • Watercolor pencils
  • Table salt
  • Watercolor paper

Sprinkle large areas of wet color with table salt. Allow the piece to dry. When the salt and the paint are completely dry, gently brush all the salt off. Coarse or sea salt will give a different look

To add some pizazz to your projects, you can get a glittery look with watercolor pencils. Apply some wet salt to your paper and allow it to dry, then apply the paint to the top for a sparkling effect.

Splatter Water Color Pencil Technique

This is a technique that can especially be useful with card backgrounds, scrapbook page bases and art journals

This is a technique that can especially be useful with card backgrounds, scrapbook page bases and art journals

Spattering- A Great Background Technique


  • Water color pencils
  • Adult size toothbrush
  • Clean toothbrush

Spattering is easy with water-soluble colored pencils. Simply wet a soft, adult-size toothbrush with plain water and brush the watercolor pencil tip across the damp bristles until the bristles are heavily loaded with pigment. Dab the brush four or five times against a tissue to absorb the excess liquid; this also gives a better-controlled, more finely-misted spatter. If a droplet that has landed on the surface seems too large, take a corner of the tissue and let the tissue wick up the droplet. Do not blot.

Made this card to reflect my love of flowers

Made this card to reflect my love of flowers

Backwash Technique

Wet your paper first and select two separate colors. Apply one at each end of the wet patch and then let the colors blend together on their own.

More Water Color Techniques

Stamping With Watercolor Pencils

Stamping images and then coloring them with watercolor pencils is so enjoyable to every paper craft artist.

You can either use heavy card stock or a smooth water color paper.

The first thing you need to think about is the kind of ink that you use for your images. You need to stamp with a waterproof ink. Stazon or any archival ink would be good choices. Always allow time for the image to dry before you start to color.

Once your image is stamped, color the image gently with not too much color. Add shading as needed. Just use a small brush that has been wet and blotted to spread the color.

Cleaning stamps that have any watercolor pencil color is easy. Just wipe them with a wet rag or paper towel. If you see color if the grooves, especially with rubber stamps, just take a toothbrush and gently clean them.

Watercolor Prints

Another way to use your watercolor pencils is to make watercolor prints. This is best done with stamps that have a lot of open deign in them. Would be very effective if you have multiple of the same card to make


  • Watercolor paper
  • Stamp
  • Acrylic block
  • Water in a container
  • Small round brush
  • Paper towels
  • Watercolor pencils
  1. Dip your watercolor pencil in the water
  2. Start applying color to the stamp
  3. Use darker color where you want shading
  4. Color and shadow the entire stamp
  5. Stamp the image
  6. Press down on the stamp and allow the image to transfer
  7. Remove the stamp
  8. Use a small round brush wet and blotted to move the color
  9. Add additional shading if needed
  10. Add a background

Embossing Ink Technique

Stamp a background design with an embossing ink pad. Heat and emboss with clear powder. Add color to the background paper, wiping off excess to reveal the embossed image

Heavy Background Color Technique

Apply heavy areas of color to the background of a card or other piece of water color paper. Dip the cardstock in water until the color starts to bleed and run together. Allow to dry. Stamp or add a design to the top of the water color background.

Erasing Or Lifting Water Color Pencils

There are two ways to lift or erase watercolors made with pencils. You can gently apply water to the area which will lighten the color with a brush. Or you can use a wet q tip to gently left the water.

Want More Inspiration?

© 2015 Linda F Correa

Weigh In On Watercolor Pencils

Fiona from South Africa on June 22, 2016:

This hub inspired me to fish out my watercolor pencils - thanks. I never thought of using salt in conjunction with them and it makes quite a nice textural effect.

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on May 06, 2015:

You can use them for art journals, background images, on so many things. Just expand your mind and yyour watercolor pencils will take you to new places

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 05, 2015:

I've used watercolor pencils in my drawings in the past, but not very often. I'd like to explore their possibilities. Thanks for sharing your tips.

Linda F Correa (author) from Spring Hill Florida on April 14, 2015:

Oh get out those watercolors ! They are lots of fun and add a new dimension to your pages

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 14, 2015:

I've never considered using watercolors in scrapbooking contexts.

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