✏️ Best Watercolor Pencils in 2022

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Oct 15, 2022 •  Guides

Lately, I’ve been using watercolor pencils more frequently, and I prefer them to normal colored pencils for many things. I decided to share my experience so you can get the best ones. Let’s have a look!

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Top 4 Watercolor Pencils Compared

My Pick
Also Great
Budget Pick
Bargain
Description:

40 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Description:

60 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Description:

48 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Description:

120 colors in metal tin :: Vibrant and intense pigments :: Break-resistant leads :: For wet and dry techniques :: Great for blending and layering

My Pick
Description:

40 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Also Great
Description:

60 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Budget Pick
Description:

48 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Bargain
Description:

120 colors in metal tin :: Vibrant and intense pigments :: Break-resistant leads :: For wet and dry techniques :: Great for blending and layering

Table of Contents

Overview: Best Watercolor Pencils For Artists in 2022

My Pick: Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolor Pencils

Set of 12
  • Description:

    12 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Landscape Set
  • Description:

    20 Landscape colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Marine Set
  • Description:

    20 Marine colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 40
  • Description:

    40 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Gift Set
  • Description:

    72 colors in wooden case :: Includes all colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 12
Description:

12 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Landscape Set
Description:

20 Landscape colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Marine Set
Description:

20 Marine colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 40
Description:

40 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Gift Set
Description:

72 colors in wooden case :: Includes all colors from the Museum Aquarelle pencil line :: Water-soluble, soft, smooth, strong lead :: High pigment concentration :: Dry or wet drawing on paper or cardstock :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

The “best of the best,” the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle (the French word for watercolor pencils) are certainly the finest pencils I’ve ever used.

They are superb art pencils for the most demanding or advanced artists.

Nowhere else can you find such perfectly consistent, smooth, and flowing laydown of pigment onto the paper, whether wet or dry and no other pencils at any price – and very, very few of even the very best watercolor paints on the market today – offer the superb color quality, selection, combinability, saturation and brightness of the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils.

They are also the most water-soluble, durable colors I have ever used, with no fading or shifting over time, regardless of atmospheric conditions.

Yes, they are the perfect artist-grade watercolor pencils without any real competition.

If I had to dig and find a drawback, I might speculate that the high price would discourage you from using these astonishing pencils more often.

But the exact opposite is true.

The quality of the Caran D’Ache Museum watercolor pencils is so high in every regard that they are truly thrilling to use and a source of great inspiration, urging their lucky owner to create more and more.

And yet I cannot say that they are too expensive. I see them as one of the best investments you could possibly make. Truly museum quality, the Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle watercolor pencils are the best watercolor pencils overall on the market today.

Made in Switzerland, these pencils may be difficult to find in the United States.

But you can easily get the basic starter kit – 12 colors – and then augment that with the wonderful 20-piece specialized sets – 20 landscape colors and 20 marine colors – and have a complete and wide-ranging selection.

And, if you are looking for the perfect present for any serious artist and want to be in their good graces ‘til the end of time: Caran D’Ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolor Pencil Gift Set, 76 Colors in Deluxe Wooden Box

Also Great: Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Art Pencils

Set of 12
  • Description:

    12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 24
  • Description:

    24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 36
  • Description:

    36 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 60
  • Description:

    60 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 120
  • Description:

    120 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Singles
  • Description:

    Get your favorite color from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 12
Description:

12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 36
Description:

36 colors in hard case :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 60
Description:

60 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Set of 120
Description:

120 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

Singles
Description:

Get your favorite color from the Albrecht Durer pencil line :: Water-soluble, break-resistant lead :: Acid-free pigments in vibrant colors :: Dry or wet drawing :: For watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes and blurring

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that for some strange reason, while you certainly think they are worth the money, you simply cannot spend a few hundred dollars on a big box of Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils. Yet, you still want the best of the best.

For serious fine artists who want the highest levels of beauty, subtlety, and finesse from their pencils.

Superb quality in all other respects, the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer (or, to be more exact, Albrecht Dürer) watercolor pencils are the best water-soluble pencils I’ve found.

The Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils lay down onto the paper with such ease and smoothness that even fully dry, they immediately present vibrant, saturated colors.

And those colors will hold up, being remarkably fade-resistant over time or with exposure to the sun.

Wet or dry, these paint pencils are incredibly controllable, and the colors can be as washy and soft as you want or so intense that they are almost overwhelming.

Equally good for expressive work and precise fine detail, the Durer watercolor pencils are also superbly made, with amazing material quality, long-lasting, and beautifully premium in every way.

In all respects, the Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolor pencils are one of the best on the market today and, in my opinion, only give way to the stunning Caran D’Ache Museum pencils above (and by but a small margin).

But to me, the most impressive and notable thing about the Durer’s is how they feel, and how I feel, when I’m using them.

This an easy recommendation for the best watercolor pencils for fine artists on the market today.

Alternative Pick: Derwent Watercolour Pencils

Set of 12
  • Description:

    12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 12
  • Description:

    12 matte metallic colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 12
  • Description:

    12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 24
  • Description:

    24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 24
  • Description:

    24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 24
  • Description:

    24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 36
  • Description:

    36 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 72
  • Description:

    72 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 12
Description:

12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 12
Description:

12 matte metallic colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 12
Description:

12 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent watercolor pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques and effortless blending and layering :: Perfect for "en plein air" - drawing landscapes, seascapes, and other traditional artwork

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 36
Description:

36 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Set of 72
Description:

72 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Derwent Inktense pencils line :: Great for wet or dry techniques :: Vibrant and versatile colors :: Permanent when dry :: Perfect for blending and layering intense, vibrant colors :: Usable on variety of surfaces such as paper, ceramic, wood and fabric

Many artists prefer the Derwent Watercolour art pencils over the wonderful Durer sets described above.

They are unquestionably in the same league – both top-tier water-soluble pencils for artists on any level.

It might be said that while the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils give more controlled, consistent, and predictable overall results, the Derwents offer even more bold and beautiful colors, if possible. 

Indeed, if the brightness, saturation, and impact of color and color combinations are of the utmost importance, look no further – for color-intensive work, the Derwent watercolor art pencils are the best on the market and, as such are often the first choice of working commercial artists and illustrators.

And, as an overall superb watercolor paint pencil, the Derwent Watercolor pencils still offer the highest levels of control, detail, and precision, as well as similarly high levels of material quality and durability – a truly professional art tool.

I would want both – the Derwent for the boldest and most expressive gestures and colors and the Durer for the absolute control, subtlety, and beauty, but certainly, either would, by itself, serve an artist fully.

My choice then for the best watercolor pencils for commercial artists, the Derwent Watercolor pencils are an impressive force as an expressive tool and an absolute joy to work with, allowing your creative forces to shine truly.

Budget Pick: Koh-I-Noor Mondeluz Aquarelle Watercolor Pencils

Set of 24
  • Description:

    24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 36
  • Description:

    36 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 48
  • Description:

    48 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 72
  • Description:

    72 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 36
Description:

36 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 48
Description:

48 colors in metal tin :: Includes a selection of colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Set of 72
Description:

72 colors in metal tin :: Includes all colors from the Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils line :: Water-soluable vibrant pigments :: Perfect for wet and dry surfaces, such as vellum, canvas, and watercolor paper :: Brush over with water to soften the lines, and create watercolor paint effect, or dip into water before drawing to create rich strokes

Yes, the three sets I listed above are a wee bit expensive – absolutely worth it, and not that much money considering what you’re getting and what you can accomplish with them, but a wee bit expensive nonetheless.

That is why I am so excited about the Koh-I-Noor Modeluz Aquarelle (again, simply the French word for watercolor) pencils, which are much more moderately priced yet offer gorgeous, bold, and incredibly combinable colors.

A brilliant balance between expressive freedom and precision control, and levels of material quality, consistency, and durability similar to the most expensive watercolor pencils on the market today.

Indeed, the way these water-soluble colors lay down on the paper, both dry and wet, the way they combine, layer, and wash, the way they pop even when they’ve fully dried, and, maybe even more importantly, the way the paint can be controlled to be more subtle, more hushed or muted when desired, is amazing for a pencil in this range.

And they feel great in hand, seeming almost eager to flow with me and my creative energy.

It seems that every mid-priced artist’s watercolor pencil on the market tries to compare itself favorably to the Caran D’Ache Museum, the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer, or the Derwent Watercolour pencils.

But the Koh-I-Noor Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils do compare favorably to those legendary sets and would serve any artist on any level perfectly.

The Mondeluz is my top choice for best value watercolor pencils for artists on a budget.

Student Pick: Lyra Graduate Aquarelle Watercolor Pencils

Set of 12
Set of 24
Set of 36
Description:

12 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

Description:

36 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

Set of 12
Description:

12 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

Set of 24
Description:

24 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

Set of 36
Description:

36 colors in metal tin :: Student-grade pre-sharpened watercolor pencils for creating unlimited shades :: Includes brush with synthetic bristles for spreading the colors

A great choice of student grade pencils for art students or beginners, or anybody who is just exploring watercolor as a medium, the Lyra Graduate aquarelle pencils offer performance amazingly close to the more expensive sets on my list of best water soluble pencils for artists, but at a price that is low enough to encourage lots of practice and experimentation.

The Lyra Graduate watercolor pencils lay down with amazing smoothness, and the pigments are of very high quality – resistant to fading and shifting over time, with bold and beautiful colors that are imminently mixable and controllable.

They respond perfectly to water and allow any student to learn both the basics and more advanced watercolor techniques with consistent and excellent results.

I always think that a good student art tool, of any kind, is not only affordable but of high enough quality that it will never limit or discourage artists while they’re learning and will offer such beautiful and consistent results as to make learning easier and more productive while building confidence and offering inspiration every step of the way.

The Lyra Graduate aquarelle watercolor pencils do all that and are an easy choice for the best watercolor pencils for art students and beginners alike.

Bargain Pick: Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set

Bargain
Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set (120)

120 colors in metal tin :: Vibrant and intense pigments :: Break-resistant leads :: For wet and dry techniques :: Great for blending and layering

I wanted to recommend at least one big, cheap watercolor pencil set, which would allow anybody to play around without any concerns.

The problem is, most of the big, cheap sets I’ve tried are just too cheap in every sense of the word.

And a joyous exploration of new creative realms is no fun if the paint pencils are pale and uninspiring, cakey, or hardly responsive to water if they break easily or feel bad or unnatural in hand.

On the other hand, Castle Art Supplies offers a huge set of cheap water-soluble pencils – 120 colors for less than a hundred dollars – which are exactly the opposite of most other sets in this range.

They offer bold and beautiful colors that apply with remarkable smoothness and consistency, wet or dry, and combine beautifully for many effects and even more color possibilities.

They also feel good in the hand, are strong and comfortable, are premium quality, and last a long time.

This big watercolor pencils set comes in a nice metal box with three layers, which makes finding the right color easy – even with so many choices.

If you want a big, cheap set of watercolor pencils that will serve you and your artistic vision – offering fun and inspiration rather than problems and frustration – the Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils are a great choice, and the best cheap watercolor pencils I’ve ever used!

Consider Watercolor Pens, too

I got a little carried away and excited exploring and trying out all the different watercolor sets that I lost my way and tried a bunch of watercolor pens as well.

And without getting into a bunch of explanations about the wonderful world of watercolor pens, or detailed descriptions of each and every set, I thought I might at least offer a list of some of my favorites here.

Get my recommendations for drawing pens here: Drawing Pens for Artists

These are all excellent quality sets, which work wonderfully, feel great, offer bold and beautiful colors, excellent control, laydown, mixability, and watercolor effects, and they are all remarkably affordable.

These sets would be great for exploring this fun and highly expressive little niche medium. 

And if you are already into watercolors, or even watercolor pens or markers, my personal favorite – the Winsor and Newton Promarker, in various color sets – will offer superb results and should satisfy even the most demanding commercial or fine artist.

Basic Tones
Vibrant Tones
Landscape Tones
Sky Tones
Foliage Tones
Floral Tones
Set of 90
  • Description:

    90 Colors Set, AP-Certified, Flexible Brush Tip, Professional Quality, Odorless, Xylene Free, Easy to Create Narrow and Wide Lines

Bargain
  • Description:

    54 Watercolor Brush Pens, 15 Page Pad & Online Video Tutorial Series by Chromatek. Real Brush Tip. 4 Blending Brushes. Easily Blendable. Vivid. Smooth. 50 Unique Colors. Professional Art Supplies.

Bargain
  • Description:

    48 Colors for Watercolor Painting with Flexible Nylon Brush Tips, Paint Markers for Coloring, Calligraphy, Drawing with Water Brush, Art Supplies for Artists and Beginners

Basic Tones
Description:

Set of 12, Basic Tones 12 Count


Vibrant Tones
Description:

Set of 12, Vibrant Tones


Landscape Tones
Sky Tones
Foliage Tones
Floral Tones
Set of 90
Description:

90 Colors Set, AP-Certified, Flexible Brush Tip, Professional Quality, Odorless, Xylene Free, Easy to Create Narrow and Wide Lines

Bargain
Description:

54 Watercolor Brush Pens, 15 Page Pad & Online Video Tutorial Series by Chromatek. Real Brush Tip. 4 Blending Brushes. Easily Blendable. Vivid. Smooth. 50 Unique Colors. Professional Art Supplies.

Bargain
Description:

48 Colors for Watercolor Painting with Flexible Nylon Brush Tips, Paint Markers for Coloring, Calligraphy, Drawing with Water Brush, Art Supplies for Artists and Beginners

Watercolor Pencils, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

An artist can never have too many sets of colored pencils, and I personally use them for so many different things that I can’t imagine not having them at hand all the time.

I not only draw with them, but I also take colorful notes and write out ideas, combining words, images, and colors in ways that help me explore my own creativity.

For instance, I often find that doodling, note-taking, and even focused drawing with watercolor pencils allows me to play around with the colors and effects more than I can with standard wax-based or oil-based colored pencils – and, again, more freely and effectively follow a creative path as it appears.

Write an idea down, outline it in color, draw some funny little pictures and shapes in other colors, then brush them all with water and see where it leads.

And let’s say I am painting in traditional watercolors. In that case, I find myself increasingly using watercolor pencils instead of – or at least in conjunction with – watercolor paints, which opens up all kinds of new possibilities not available with paints alone.

The results you can get from watercolors are simply beautiful, and this can be especially true with the quality watercolor pencils, which still offer all of the cool effects you would get from watercolor paints – blending, fading and transitions, soft, watery colors, layering, large area washes and more, with that trademark soft yet intense watercolor quality to the colors and textures.

These pencils, though, can also allow for more distinct shapes, outlines, borders, lines, and details, and more definite and bold colors, by using them as sharp-pointed pencils without water.

Watercolor Pencils Techniques

And this is also why so many other artists say they love water coloring pencils so much – their versatility.

Some of the ways you can use them are:

Dry Drawing

Using a dry watercolor pencil on dry paper, like any normal colored pencil, for details, fine lines, and even larger solid fills

Dry and Wet Drawing

Using a watercolor pencil dry, then working the image with a paintbrush dipped in water because they are water-soluble. This way, you smoothen the colors and bring out their vibrance even more!

Dipped in Water

Putting the pencil tip into the water for more of a flowing watercolor effect and often bolder colors.

On Wet Paper

When you use watercolor pencils on wet paper, you achieve effects like blurs, color fades and combined colors, and large area washes.

Dissolved in Water and Brushed On

Of course, you can do this with normal watercolor paint, but you can combine watercolor pencil techniques and painting techniques with pencils alone, which is often quicker and less distracting when you’re in the zone.

You can even use these pencils in combination with watercolor paint, and often the same company will make both and offer a matching or complementary colors.

Whichever techniques you use, the best watercolor pencils will allow you to create stunning watercolor paintings and pencil drawings with dimensions and qualities that ordinary watercolor paints may not provide. 

And you can take them with you anywhere you go, and with a nice watercolor notebook, you can have a great portable atelier with much less fuss and mess than with conventional watercolors. 

Indeed, you can set up and begin creating instantly with this type of pencil in a way that would be impossible with ordinary watercolor paint, allowing for a sense of spontaneity which can be so important when creating watercolor pencil art.

How Can You Find the Best Watercolor Pencils Available?

In my guide, I am listing the very best watercolor pencils I’ve used and try to answer some questions you might have, like:

Some of the watercolor pencil sets I listed are a bit pricey.

Considering the beauty of their colors, the way they feel in your hand and on the paper, and what they allow you to achieve, I think they are well worth the money, and among the finest artist tools of any type, I have ever found.

Other sets are surprisingly inexpensive but still offer something of that superb feeling and those superb results.

Whichever set you select from my list of best watercolor pencils on the market today, you will be amazed at the beauty of their colors, how well they work and how great they feel.

And, if you are like me, you will use them more than you might expect!

Can You Use Watercolor Pencils Instead of Watercolor Paints?

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So many people ask me if it is possible, or a good idea, to substitute watercolor pencils for watercolor paints, and honestly, this is a bit of a tough question.

I would never be without a set or two of really high-quality watercolor paints, a nice set of watercolor brushes, and the highest-quality watercolor paper.

Anyway, pure watercolor painting is different, more focused, and specific compared to the many things you can do with watercolor pencils – when I am painting, I am painting, and I use paints and brushes.

At the same time, the best watercolor pencils do offer a painting experience nearly as advanced and successful as the best paints and can do so much more, including more detailed and controlled drawing.

Watercolor pencils are also more portable, easier to take with you and use anywhere and anytime, and can offer spontaneity and ease not possible with paints.

Ideally, I would want both – a nice full watercolor painting kit and a lovely set or two of watercolor pencils, using them separately at different times for different things and also having the option of combining paint pencils with paints and brushes, which can take watercolor to a whole new level.

If you are new to watercolor, you may eventually want to invest in a whole set of paints, paper, and brushes.

But a great set of watercolor pencils is quite possibly the best idea for starting out and exploring this unique, beautifully expressive art form.

FAQs – Watercolor Pencils for Artists

What are watercolor pencils?

Watercolor pencils are a special type of pencil that use water-soluble pigments to achieve watercolor painting effects. They can be used for various drawing and painting techniques – dry, wet, dipped in water, wet paper, and so on.

What is the difference between colored pencils and watercolor pencils?

Colored pencils use an oil-based or wax-based binder for the pigment, while watercolor pencils use water-soluble pigments. You could use colored pencils only for dry drawing techniques. Watercolor pencils can be used in dry and wet drawing techniques.

Which brand of watercolor pencils is the best?

After trying many brands of watercolor pencils, I find that Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarell and Faber Castell Albrecht Durer are the best. They are great for wet and dry techniques and what I love about both is that they are consistent in blending and layering.

Are Faber-Castell watercolor pencils good?

Yes, Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils are one of my favorites. Their beautiful and vibrant colors are perfect for watercolor drawing, shading, accurate lines, washes, and blurring.

Are Derwent watercolor pencils good?

Yes, Derwent watercolor pencils are amazing for color-intensive artwork because of their bold and smooth colors!

I hope my guide helped you to get your new watercolor pencils, and you will have a lot of fun doodling, drawing, and creating amazing artwork!

Visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles, and other resources.

Other articles in the drawing pencils, pens, and markers series:

Other articles in the Watercolor, Acrylic, Gouache, and Oils series:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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