We all know the pencil very well. People use it every day, whether for writing, drawing, and more. However, some pencils like the standard graphite pencil, colored pencil, and charcoal pencils might be too inconvenient and limited to some people’s creativity. Switching to different pencils every time you do other parts of your artwork may be too inconvenient. If this is a problem of yours, why not try the watercolor pencil?
What to Look for When Buying Best Watercolor Pencils
Here are some terminologies that have specific meanings when it comes to watercolor pencils. Use this guide to determine the best deal for you.
Number of Colors
The number of colors included in a pack is probably the most significant variable in the kit’s price. More colors typically mean more expensive. If the watercolor pencil is easy to mix, then it’s fine getting fewer colors. If they’re not easy to mix, then go with more colors.
Some people might say that the brand doesn’t matter, and performance is all that matters. In art materials, you should always take a look at the brand that makes your art materials. Some brands are centuries old, and those brands might be more dedicated to their craft, and some brands might be specialized in making certain materials for specific uses.
Grade refers to a watercolor pencil’s overall performance, and it suggests if it’s suitable for beginners, pros, or for everyone. Get the kit that corresponds to your skill, and it will also help you dedicate a specific budget for your next set.
Watercolor pencils do not use the term permanence to determine their fade resistance. Instead, it uses the term lightfastness, which refers to the resistance of the watercolor to fade. Watercolors, including those in pencil form, are fragile to light, and some will quickly fade as fast as a few days. Get the ones with the best lightfastness for preserving your artwork longer.
Pencils come in many shapes and sizes, some are thicker, and some are thinner. Pencils have wood cores that come in different forms, and the most common ones are hexagonal, round, and triangular. Each individual will be more comfortable with different shapes. Get the ones you’re most comfortable on to get the best performance in detail and prevent fatigue.
Watercolor pencils have different types of cores, some are oil-based, and some are wax-based. For watercolor pencils, both are water-soluble. Although wax-based watercolor pencils are a bit softer, making them more susceptible to breakage, wax-based pigments blend easier. In contrast, oil-based pencils are a bit harder and better for details, but not the best for mixing.
Best Watercolor Pencils
Watercolor pencils are an exciting medium among other art supplies. They look and feel like your standard colored pencils. But, these can do much more than traditional pencils. You can use these for either fine details or covering areas, wet or dry. There are tons of watercolor pencils out there, but the most common ones are not even artwork-worthy. Most of them are made for kids and the like. So here are the best ones we’ll recommend in different aspects.
Overall Best Watercolor Pencils
|Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils
Best for Professional Artists
|Caran Dache Museum Aquarelle Pencil Set
Best for Artists on a Budget
|Derwent Watercolour Pencils
Best For Beginners
|Faber-Castell Goldfaber Watercolor Pencils
Best Value for Money
|Castle Art Watercolor Pencil Set
1. Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils – Overall Best Watercolor Pencils
Unpacking and First Impressions
Faber-Castell is known as a long-time master in creating pencils and other art materials, and they have been one of the best for centuries now. This set is named as a tribute to the German artist Albrecht Durer, one of the most prominent painters in German history.
The Faber Castell watercolor pencils kit comes in a metal tin pack that you can reuse for a refill pack or for storing other materials, and the metal tin is also hinged, which some artists might like. This kit has 36 pencils that are all bright, vivid, and every color included is versatile and can be used for various art styles.
Once you open the box you can see the pencils and a little leaflet with wet and dry techniques and a little bit of history in it. You’ve got various bits of instructions in lots of different languages and in English.
The pencils look pretty nice quality embossed. They are thicker compared to other types of pencils, which actually makes them a little bit easier to grip.
I was truly captivated by the acid-free pigments found in these watercolor pencils. The pigments dissolved seamlessly in water, creating an exceptional level of solubility that allowed me to achieve vibrant and luminous hues. What impressed me even further was the high break resistance, which attests to the secure bonding of the core and the wooden casing. This feature was invaluable, as it allowed me to focus on my creative process without the fear of constant breakages.
In my experience, these watercolor pencils performed admirably on a variety of watercolor paper surfaces, with the exception of standard printer paper. However, this is to be expected, as printer paper is notoriously ill-suited for water-based media. By contrast, the pencils’ versatility shone through on high-quality watercolor paper, as well as cold-pressed and hot-pressed surfaces, allowing me to create striking visual effects.
This set caters to artists of all skill levels, from fledgling beginners to seasoned professionals. The ease of use, combined with the rich and vivid color output, renders this watercolor pencil set an indispensable addition to any artist’s toolbox.
Watercolor Pencils commonly have leads that are essentially made from solidified watercolor pigments. This might result in the pencil’s tip being more brittle, softer, and a bit more delicate to work with. Fortunately, some brands like Faber-Castell make sure that their pencils can withstand tons of beating.
This Albrecht Durer kit is one of the higher-end pencils Faber-Castell makes, and we think it’s a bit underrated after seeing that not many people know about it.
These pencils are all easy to use straight out of the box despite being tagged as high-end pencils. The leads aren’t too soft, and it won’t dissolve easily even if directly dipped in water.
It can do wet techniques like blending and brushing, and it can also do dry techniques like sketching and other pencil techniques. These are also professional grade pencils and have good lightfast, suitable for preserving professional work for decades.
The pencils are very reactive to the water. You just get the brush with some water on it, pop it on top of the pigment, and it reacts instantly and allows you to really push that color around the paper in a really nice, bright, but easy kind of manner.
They work really well on the Bristol board as well as on the hot press and the cold press paper. The water reacts so well with the pigment that it doesn’t really feel as though it had that kind of greasy quality that you may be used to with other watercolor pencils.
They don’t seem to go greasy with a very heavy or thick application. We put a big thick application of color down, but it didn’t seem too greasy when the water was added to it. And it actually seemed to work really, really well to get a dark or bolder brighter shade.
Colors tend to stay on the surface of cold press paper, whereas with hot press, they can be absorbed more.
This kit’s colors are all beautiful and leave a consistent color either in dry or wet application. They have nice yellows, reds, blues, greens, perhaps with only one magenta kind of purple. It could have done with a few more purples, but you can mix those using your reds and blues.
Pros and Cons
It’s always amazing to see an artist’s quality material used by everyone without overcoming a steep learning curve. Beginners can quickly learn using this kit, and artists can take advantage of its accurate, consistent, and lightfast pigments.
2. Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelle Pencil Set – Best Watercolor Pencils for Artists
Unpacking and First Impressions
Getting a good kit if you’re a starting professional might be a bit tricky. The best thing you should focus on getting materials that would preserve your artwork for longer.
The Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle Pencil Set is a high-quality set of watercolor pencils that are perfect for professional artists.
The pencils have a wooden core and come in a box with 20 different colors, and each pencil has its own designated spot in the box. A color code is printed on each end of the pencil. Upon inspection, you can see the high quality of the pencils. They have an elegant matte finish with beautiful lettering.
The Museum Aquarelle Pencils are made with high-quality pigments that are both lightfast and waterproof, which means that your artwork will last for decades without fading. They’re also acid-free to prevent any damage to your artwork over time.
I found that these pencils boast a substantial lead core, which offers a comfortable grip and enhanced control during the creative process. However, when it comes to executing intricate details, the lead’s propensity to break can present a challenge. While the thicker lead is generally a positive attribute, it would benefit from increased durability to better accommodate precision work.
One disadvantage this kit has is the number of colors it comes with, as it only comes with 20 colors when the ideal color count in a watercolor kit is 24. This means that the artist using this kit might have to mix and blend pigments.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s also a cheaper version of this kit with 12 colors instead of 24. Now, this set might be great for someone who’s trying to challenge themselves to learn color mixing and blending. However, the price you’re paying for the 12 color kit is still significantly more than some cheaper options with similar quality and bring more colors.
This kit will not be friendly for everyone, mainly because of the soft leads that are easy to dissolve with water; one accidental dip will unnecessarily waste pigments. That also means that this will not be that durable if you happen to drop it accidentally. On the other hand, a softer lead will leave more pigment on paper, and it will be easy to do watercolor techniques. The few colors included in this kit also limit creativity, but the colors are great for landscape paintings.
The pigment is rich and vibrant, and they seem to be well-suited for professional artists. The colors are lightfast and consistent regardless of how they are applied – wet or dry.
The pencils are soft and delicate so they require a light touch. They also tend to smear if used on wet paper. You won’t be able to do much detail with this pencil alone. To make detail possible, you might need to use a fine brush and liquefy the pencil’s pigment.
This is an excellent set of professional watercolor pencils that produce beautiful results. However, they are quite expensive and may not be suitable for people on a budget.
The best thing about this kit is its lightfastness or its resistance to fading. You can mix and blend different colors and even with other media, and once the pigments from this pencil is dry, it won’t shift color even after decades.
They work beautifully on both hot press and cold press papers without any adverse effects, which is great news for artists who prefer one type over the other.
They’re also a great option for blending with each other, creating different shades and tones.
Pros and Cons
Despite having not enough colors, we think this would be enough for professionals to work with and master. After all, a bit of challenge in the materials used might create a unique finish or effect that others can’t easily replicate.
3. Derwent Watercolor Pencils – Best for Artists on a Budget
Unpacking and First Impressions
Finding professional quality media for a tight budget is a bit of a challenge, especially when every cheap product might be of low quality due to mass production. And most of the better ones can be ridiculously expensive. But this Derwent Watercolour kit we found sounds like it’ll perform well and still be at a reasonable price.
Derwent Watercolor Pencils are high-quality and have a good color selection. You can get more or fewer colors depending on your needs; this kit can come with 12, 24, 36, 48, or 72 colors. But, in this guide, we highly recommend getting the pack with 36 colors as it brings the best value between the price and the number of pencils you’re getting.
The pencils come in a nice sturdy metal tin with an airtight seal, which is great for keeping them moisture-free. The colors are beautiful and vibrant right out of the box. There’s a good range of colors, including both primary and secondary colors.
This set works very well and is easy to blend. The colors are true and clean, and there’s a good color selection that includes both light tones as well as those with deeper pigments. You will be able to create various effects such as shading through the range of tones available in this kit.
The colors included in the 36 pack are enough to color a realistic drawing. It has everything you need for skin tones, landscapes, and tons more. This may be valuable for some kind of hobby application, like a coloring book. And if the color count is not enough for you, you can always blend these to get what you want, and that wouldn’t be much of a hassle with this kit as every pencil lead is easily soluble.
The tips of these pencils have are softer than others, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your work. The pencils can feel like they’re too soft for some people’s liking because it feels almost chalky at times – especially when you apply excessive pressure trying to get darker shades or lines out of them. Lastly, we find it quite challenging trying not to break these pencil leads while using them.
The pigments from these pencils have good opacity and true colors that easily blend with each other – even when dry! They’re definitely better than most cheaper brands that don’t show their potential until they see some liquid action. These work beautifully with various art mediums such as gel pens, paint markers, ink sprays, paints, wet wipes, and more!
However, the pigments from these pencils can be quite opaque at times which might not be suitable for everyone – especially beginners. Additionally, they work best on cold press papers rather than hot press papers because they smudge easily when used on the latter type of paper.
These pencils perform well in color consistency, and you’ll get almost the same shade of color even if dry or wet. Detail is also great with these as you get a comfortable grip, plus the pigments dry up quickly when wet. Lastly, this has lightfast, but you can easily change something with a bit of water and an eraser even if the work has been dried for a long time.
Pros and Cons
You can try these whether you’re a pro or a beginner mainly because the color variant on the 36 pack is great for many genres and themes.
4. Faber-Castell Goldfaber Watercolor Pencils – Best For Beginners
Unpacking and First Impressions
For those who love Faber-Castell Pencils but can’t quite afford the Albrecht Durer set, this might be the best one for you. This is part of Faber-Castell’s Creative Studio Range, which mainly focuses on providing the best work and study products. Faber-Castell designed these pencils for professionals and students over the age of 12. And despite that, it feels professional and formal.
Goldfaber Pencils is one of the most beautiful sets that we’ve ever seen. It comes in a stylish metal tin with a hinged lid and an airtight seal, and there are 48 different colors in it.
The pencils themselves feel high-quality and have a good color selection. There’s a good range of colors, including both primary and secondary colors. They also seem to be very easy to use and not breakable since the leads aren’t soft enough, making them perfect for beginners!
The colors included are quite lovely, most of them are vibrant and vivid, but there are also some colors intended for skin tones included. Lastly, this still has a hexagonal shape, but it’s exceptionally comfortable to hold; it must be the slightly rounded edges that made this comfortable.
We wouldn’t usually recommend a watercolor pack with many colors included for a beginner, but this is an exception, 48 colors for a very reasonable price is something that we love with these.
The color variation is amazing at this price point because it’s fantastic for both beginners and professionals alike. You can get a wide range of colors from light tones to darker ones with reds, blues, oranges, etc., which are perfect for creating realistic pieces such as portraits or landscapes.
Castell Watercolor Pencils are quite popular among artists and professionals because of how well they work. They’re great for beginners too as these produce beautiful colors and vibrant hues, plus you can easily blend them with direct water or other media.
The lead on these pencils is also softer than with other brands and the tips are fully bonded with the wood case. Because of that, this will resist breaking and crumbling on sharpening. Furthermore, they feel pretty sturdy but also easy to use without worrying about them breaking quickly!
The soft lead makes them easy to blend and gives you great control over the color intensity. They’re also very smooth to apply, making them perfect for detailed work. They are great at both dry and wet techniques. Wet techniques somehow make the pigments more saturated.
They blend easily as well. They also perform well in color consistency, and you’ll get almost the same shade of color even if dry or wet. Detail is also great with these as you get a comfortable grip, plus the pigments dry up quickly when wet.
They are very lightfast – which is amazing for an artist who wants to work on their pieces long-term!
Lastly, this does have some compromises with the low price; some colors are not as consistent as others, some colors that are supposed to be toned down might be too vivid, and vice versa. So color reproduction of realistic illustrations might be a bit challenging with this one.
Pros and Cons
Despite its excellent lightfastness, tons of colors, and durable tip, we would recommend this as the best to be used by beginners. Yes, professionals can use it anytime, anywhere, as long as they can work with the color inconsistencies and the challenges with mixing and blending colors with these. But still, it’s easy to use and doesn’t have much hassle if you’re a beginner, and for an affordable price, we’re sure you expect a bit of drawback.
However, it's worth noting that blending can be somewhat challenging, and color reproduction might not always be consistent. For professional artists, these minor limitations could be a concern, but with a bit of practice and adaptation, it's still possible to achieve beautiful results with these pencils.
5. Castle Art Watercolor Pencil Set – Best Value for Money
Unpacking and First Impressions
Imagine a watercolor pencil set with 72 colors included, and it only costs as much as the Caran D’Ache 12-color set that I mentioned earlier. There must be some catch, right? We’ll get to that later, but yes, this Castle Art Watercolor Pencil Set does include 72 colors for a very affordable price.
This set comes in a really nice metal tin packaging that has an attractive design, and it’s quite impressive that each pencil is numbered according to its colors.
The packaging is pretty nice for such an affordable set; it doesn’t look as professional or sturdy as others on our top list, but they’re still great to use.
Then the metal tin package has a chart inside that tells you the color names and the number that identifies them. This chart system might make organizing and finding colors easier. The pencils have a standard hexagonal shape and feel quite sturdy.
This 72-piece set is perfect for beginner artists who want to try out different colors without spending too much money.
As you might find with a 72 color kit, this has a great color range for all genres and art styles. It’s useable for portraits, abstracts, scenery, and tons more. And with the wide color range, you might not have to do any color blending or mixing.
The durability with this kit is decent, and the leads are a bit on the firmer side.
The colors are bright and vivid with good pigmentation, but some of them are quite light so they might not be ideal for darker pieces. They also blend well together – as long as you use plenty of water!
Castle Art Watercolor Pencils perform excellently with wet techniques such as adding water or using a brush. The hues get more saturated and intense, plus you can mix them easily to create custom colors that will match your desired.
We also tested how well these work when used directly on paper without any blending. The colors are bright and vibrant, but they don’t show up as well on white paper. However, the colors are beautiful when applied on black paper because of how rich the pigments look! You can also layer the colors to create different shades and effects.
Now, here are the compromises of this kit. First off, the colors on the pencil shell and the color chart doesn’t match the actual color you’re going to get on paper. This also has a low lightfastness rating, and it’ll fade after some years.
Although we have to give credit to the visual appeal this kit brings, as despite being inaccurate, it does make some artworks look good for a while.
Pros and Cons
We wouldn’t recommend this for professionals. But it is, however, great for practice and beginners. Or it might also be great to use for making random sketches and artworks you can add to your portfolio. We still highly recommend this for everyone, as this brings the best bang for your buck.
Watercolor pencils are a bit of a grey area to tackle, this media is not the most famous and most used out there, but they are one of the most exciting and versatile media we have come across. They have a bit of a learning curve to overcome, and once you get used to these, they are enjoyable to use and explore different techniques with.