Watercolor Pencils Guide: Best Picks for Artists

Watercolor pencils are an excellent addition to your artist toolkit. They are the perfect combination of drawing and painting. 

Use these water soluble pencils to sketch anything from a landscape to still life. Add water, and you can blend your colors with ease. 

The effect is as impressive as a watercolor painting. But it comes with the benefit of being easily portable! That’s why watercolor crayons and pencils are such versatile tools

If you’re not sure which are the best colored pencil sets for drawing, read on.

How to Use Watercolor Pencils

If you’re new to color pencils, you might not be sure how to use them. But not to worry! They are straightforward to master and a joy to use.

There are two main ways to use watercolor pencils – with or without water.

It is possible to use them without water. You will get an effect like using regular colored pencils when you do this. You can shade them and get a neat and precise drawing.

But the effect is incredible if you use these pencils with water. It’s similar to using watercolor paint. You can mix your colors to get a gradient effect.

The result is a softer image with blended shades of color. 

Another option is to use your pencils without water at first. This method is handy if you’re drawing on the go. Then, you can add water and blend your drawing when you get home.

How to Choose the Best Watercolor Pencil for Artists

When you’re shopping for art pencil sets, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. 

Firstly, take a close look at how thick the pencil lead is. A thin lead will allow you to create intricate details. On the other hand, a thicker tip will enable you to shade areas more quickly.

The shape of the pencil is also critical for your comfort. But this is more down to your personal choice of what feels nice in your hand. You can find round, triangular, and hexagonal pencils. 

Don’t overlook the toughness of the pencil, either. A hard lead will be more durable and will last longer. But you might not get as much color transfer and bright shades as a softer pencil.

Your budget is also essential to consider. If you’re starting out and don’t have much to spend, you can choose a smaller set. You don’t need to go for the most expensive brand, either.

But if you have a bit more money to spend, you can splurge on a larger set. Some of the well-known brands are pricey but worth the investment.

The Best Watercolor Pencils

Now, let’s get onto the reviews. Here’s my roundup of the best brands! 

Faber-Castell 5.3 mm”Albrecht Dürer Magnus”


(Image credit: Faber Castell)

Faber-Castell is one of the most well-known brands of art supplies. And its pencils are no different!

You won’t be disappointed with these quality pencils. Faber-Castell has been around since 1761. With 2.5 centuries of experience, this company knows what it’s doing! 

These pencils have an extra-thick lead, which is ideal for shading and blending. You can cover large areas of the page quickly, saving you time.

But it’s also possible to layer colors for an impressive effect. The colors themselves are vivid and true to life. 

Due to maximum lightfastness, your art won’t fade over time. And with 24 different shades, you have the freedom to draw anything!


  • Smooth and soft application
  • A wide range of high-quality vivid colors


  • This set isn’t cheap

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Refill

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Refill

(Image credit: Cretacolor)

This set from Cretacolor is another excellent option for artists. You can take your pick from packs of 12, 24, or 72 pencils.

You get a great range of colors in this pencil set. And even better, the pencils are entirely woodless. So, you get more pencil lead for your money!

With these pencils, you can create detailed, precise drawings. But you can also use them to shade wider areas. 

The vividness of the color depends on how hard you press. You can achieve anything from a faint line to a bold image. 

The lead isn’t very soft, so these pencils last a long time. This factor also makes it easier to blend your colors.

Mixing your colors is simple to do as you go. Just add water and blend with a brush for outstanding results.


  • These pencils are all-lead, so they last a long time!
  • They come in a sturdy metal case for protection and portability


  • They’re quite expensive

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II

(Image credit: Caran d’Arche)

If you’re unfamiliar with Caran ‘Ache, they are a top art supplier. With over eight decades of experience, their products always impress. 

The Neocolor pencils are perfect for any artist, from amateurs to pros. They produce gorgeous, bright shades with excellent opacity.

These water-soluble pencils have a very high concentration of pigment. So they won’t appear faint or fade with time. 

As a bonus, they are very affordable. If you value quality but are on a tight budget, you need to snap up this set!

You can use these pencils on a variety of materials. As well as watercolor paper, these pencils draw smoothly on glass and cardboard.


  • These pencils blend beautifully with a creamy feel
  • They offer excellent value for money


  • If you press too hard, you can snap these pencils

Derwent Inktense Pencils

Derwent Inktense Pencils

(Image credit: Derwent)

These Derwent Inktense pencils are an excellent alternative to regular pencils. The big bonus with this set of 72 pencils is that the colors dry permanently.

With most pencils, the colors will mix if you add more water. But with Derwent watercolor pencils, the colors are permanent once it dries.

This feature allows you to layer colors to create exciting new effects easily. And you don’t have to wait long! The pigments are very fast-drying.

That’s not all that the Derwent pencils have in their favor. They produce intense colors with eye-catching results.

You can also use them on different materials in addition to watercolor paper. These pencils are ideal for working on silk and cotton. So, you can get really creative! 


  • Vivid shades that look spectacular when blended with water
  • Quick-drying and permanent pigments, so you can layer them up


  • They are on the soft side and don’t hold their point well

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer

(Image credit: Faber Castell)

The Albrecht set contains some of the best pencils on the market today. 

These pencils stand out for their beautiful colors, lightfastness, and durability.

The leads of these pencils are thick, measuring 5.3 mm. That makes them ideal for larger drawings where you’re covering a lot of space.

But they also blend together seamlessly when you add water. You can create amazing shades and gradients with a spectacular finish. 

Once the water dries, the pigment is permanent. This bonus means that you don’t have to worry about ruining your design if it gets wet again.

The flip-top box is a delightful feature that makes it easy to choose your pencil. You can leave the box open as you work for easy access. Plus, it keeps them safe between uses.


  • A favorite pencil among many artists
  • Soft yet vivid application


  • Not the best choice if you’re on a budget

Prismacolor premier colored pencils

Prismacolor premier colored pencils

(Image credit: Prismacolor)

If you want a wide range of colors, this Prismacolor set is for you! You get 150 different pencils for a great low price. 

This set contains every color and shade you could wish for. So, you can draw anything you could imagine. There are no limits to your creativity!

What’s more, these pencils aren’t flimsy or prone to breaking. The leads are strong and long-lasting. 

Despite this, you get superb color transfer and smooth application. So you can create flawless watercolor paintings. 

And because the pigments are lightfast, they should stay just as vivid over time. These pencils are an excellent choice for any artist. 


  • Fantastic variety of colors and durable pencils
  • Great value for money 


  • It’s a bigger initial investment as they don’t have smaller sets

Staedtler ergosoft aquarell

Staedtler ergosoft aquarell

(Image credit: Staedtler)

If you’re new to watercolor pencils, this set of 24 Staedtler pencils is perfect for you! You can give them a try without breaking the bank. 

These pencils are brightly colored with a neat, consistent color transfer. They move smoothly across the page, and blending the shades is simple.

The Ergosoft Aquarell pencils have a unique triangular design. This feature ensures that you can hold them comfortably for long periods.

They are also affordable and can withstand plenty of pressure. You won’t have to worry about breaking the leads or snapping the pencils.

The Aquarell pencils are ideal for amateur artists or even enthusiastic kids. You can get used to pencils and create lovely artwork, all for a reasonable price.


  • Bright colors and a smooth application on the page
  • Fantastic and reasonably priced for beginners


  • The colors are a bit limited 

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer

Faber-Castel Albrecht Durer

(Image credit: Faber Castell)

This gorgeous set of 36 pencils contains everything you need to get started! 

It comes in a durable, handy box that flips open. This feature is useful because you can easily switch colors when drawing.

The pencils themselves are bright and opaque when applied to watercolor paper. You can add water after drawing or skip that step and dip them into the water while drawing.

There are lots of ways to use these versatile pencils! You’ll have great fun trying out different methods, and the results will impress! 

With 36 different colors, you have an excellent variety to choose from. So you can draw and paint any kind of design! 

They also come with a water brush and a water cup.


  • This fantastic set has all the tools you need to get started
  • Consistent, vivid, and lightfast colors


  • The cardboard box isn’t as durable as a metal tin

Lyra Aquacolor Water Soluble Crayons

Aquacolor Watersoluble Crayons

(Image credit: Lyra)

Try these watercolor wax crayons if you’re looking for something different. They are an excellent alternative to pencils.

These crayons are heavily pigmented. This factor translates to brilliant, bright colors on the page. 

They also feel nice and creamy in hand and have a smooth application. You can blend these crayons with ease for a neat result.

The main drawback is that they aren’t the most colorfast. Some colors will fade if left in the light for a long time.

Wax crayons need more careful attention than pencils. You will need to keep them in a cool place. 

But this isn’t too difficult when you know how to maintain the crayons. Then, they should last a long time. Overall, they create a stunning effect – especially when you add water.


  • These crayons are creamy, soft, and delightful to use
  • The high pigmentation creates gorgeous colors


  • Some shades fade in bright light over time – lack of lightfastness

ARTEZA Professional Pencils

ARTEZA Professional Watercolor Pencils

(Image credit: ARTEZA)

Last but not least are the Arteza pencils. In this set, you get 48 pencils with an excellent range of colors.

They come in a metal tin with two layers of pencils. The pencils themselves have a comfortable, ergonomic design and great grip.

Each pencil has the name and number engraved so you never mix up the different shades.

The leads are hardwearing and resist breaking, so you don’t need to baby them. They can withstand significant pressure. The lead also won’t break if you drop them.

With the addition of water, these pencils blend flawlessly. You can create appealing watercolor effects with minimal effort! 

Arteza prides itself on customer service. It offers 100% money back if customers aren’t happy with their buy. That’s a real vote of confidence in their products!


  • Ergonomic, durable pencils
  • Arteza offers a 100% money-back guarantee to ensure your satisfaction with the product


  • The quality isn’t as high as some professional art brands

The Wrap Up

Choosing the right tools and materials is essential. The best-colored pencils for drawing will take your watercolor paint artwork to the next level. 

That’s why I picked out only the best-colored pencils for professional artists. They combine features like quality and value for money. 

Take your pick from these high-quality pencils. I know you’re eager to get started. So, So, choose your favorite set. You’ll be creating watercolor masterpieces in no time!

Then, make sure to sign up for the Proactive Creative newsletter. I’ll keep you updated with more detailed reviews and tutorials for creatives! 


Outmane is the founder of Proactive Creative. He is an artist/designer.

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1 thought on “Watercolor Pencils Guide: Best Picks for Artists”

  1. This set is one of the first that comes to mind when seeking for the best bargain watercolor pencils. This lovely watercolor pencil set has a lot to offer at a low price; they are highly colored, sturdy, and water-soluble.


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