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The Best Watercolor Pencils for Drawing and Painting

a drawing of an old building set on a hill with watercolor pencils, a glass of water, and a paintbrush closeby

Watercolor pencils, also known as aquarelles, can offer an artist the best of both worlds—with them alone, you can draw in detail as you would with a pencil, and adding a wet brush, you can paint with them as you would with traditional watercolor paint. These watercolor pencils have the high-quality pigments and excellent water solubility you need to transform your drawings into beautiful watercolor art!

What to Look for in Watercolor Pencils

Look for information about these basic components of watercolor pencils before making a selection:

  • Pigments: Look for watercolor pencils that have a high level of an actual colored material for vibrance and intensity of color. Pigments that mix, blend, and layer well are worth looking for. In addition, pigments that resist fading when exposed to light and hold fast to whatever surface you use are best.
  • Binders: Pigments are held together with water-soluble materials called binders. Check how well the binder dissolves when water is added. You will likely want a binder that holds pigments together well and allows for sharpening, but the pencil also should be soft enough to get good color coverage.

We recommend these high-quality, easy-to-use watercolor pencils for hours of creative pleasure!

Best Color Selection: Arteza Watercolor Pencils

ARTEZA box lid in front with five trays of watercolor pencils stacked behind

These highly pigmented watercolor pencils come in 120 rich, vibrant shades that include metallic colors like gold and silver. The pencils’ 4-millimeter lightfast cores are break-resistant but easy to sharpen and highly soluble, making them great for adding details, blending, mixing, and layering. Organized in a sturdy metal box with a color chart printed on the inside of the lid, these pencils are ready for easy access in your studio and easy to carry if you want to paint outdoors “en plein air.”

Best Intensity: Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Artists’ Watercolor Pencils

Open Faber-Castell box showing inside of lid at top and row of watercolor pencils at bottom

The high pigment density of these watercolor pencils, combined with their thick color stroke, make rich colors for vibrant art in just a few touches. The pigments can be completely dissolved and used in the same way as liquid watercolor, but once dry, they are permanent and fade resistant. The 36 3.8-millimeter core pencils provide a comprehensive palette housed in a 7.25- by 12.5- by 0.5-inch metal tin.

Best Intensity

Derwent Inktense Pencils 24/Pkg, Colors may vary

These watercolor pencils have a thick color stroke.

Best for Mixed Media: Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils

two rows of wooden watercolor pencils, points facing the center

This set of 26 premium watercolor pencils will add texture, color, and shimmering effects to your drawings and can be used both wet or dry. Your drawings can have both intense color coverage and crisp detail.

Best for Mixed Media

Best for Kids: Staedtler Watercolor Pencils

paper box of Staedtler watercolor pencils that shows a photo of the pencils

This set of 12 watercolor pencils have a unique triangular shape that’s easy for young artists to grip firmly. The bright colors create both strong details and smooth swaths of color that are transformed into dreamy washes with a wet brush. The cores sharpen easily and wear evenly but still resist breaking. They’re great for adult coloring books, too!

Lisa Walenceus Lisa Walenceus
Lisa Walenceus has 20 years of research and writing experience as an educator, news reporter, and freelancer. She writes to learn and digs deep to find how things work. Read Full Bio »
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