15 Best Watercolor Pencils: Most Popular Options In 2021

various watercolor pencils

Choosing the best watercolor pencils can be a difficult task for artists. There are so many options on the market, and each one of them has unique qualities that make it different from all others. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most popular brands, what they have to offer, and how you can decide which is right for you!

Our Top Picks

Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils
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Best Overall - Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils

Shimmery effect
Lightfast colors
Excellent solubility

Derwent Inktense Pencil Set
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Best Professional Quality - Derwent Inktense Pencil Set

Permanent once dry
Non-toxic
Translucent ink-like effect

Best for Young Artists - Zenacolor Watercolor Pencils

Brilliant colors
High-quality pigments
Non-toxic

1. Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencil Set

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencil Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Blends easily
  • Does not blend
  • Highly pigmented colors
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Labeled with standard color names
  • Not permanent even when dry
  • May melt if exposed to hot temperatures
  • Breaks easily

What Customers Have to Say

Watercolor artists love the Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencil Set because of its brilliant colors, ease of handling, and blending. Even if some may break during shipping, it does not affect its effectiveness.

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith Watercolor Pencil Set

Why We Think It's Great

Just like the name implies, Cretacolor Aqua Monolith wood-free colored pencils are water-soluble. By dipping the pencils into a cup of water and painting directly onto paper or brushing over the dry strokes with water, they create brilliant hues and delicate lines in 72 distinct colors.

They don't bleed even when wet and stain the watercolor paper well, so it doesn't turn muddy or flaky if dry. The pencils have a thin film covering to protect the colors from sticking together. Be careful to store the watercolor pencils in a cool, dry place.

Who Should Buy It

The Cretacolor Aqua Monolith is an excellent watercolor pencil set and an excellent choice for newbie artists who don't have the skill to work with paintbrushes but want to explore the beauty of watercolor.

2. Arteza Woodless Watercolor Pencils

Arteza Woodless Watercolor Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Woodless, more color
  • Water-soluble
  • Non-toxic
  • Permanent when dry
  • Responsive customer service
  • Colors are not as intense as preferred by some users
  • Breaks easily
  • Must be stored in a cool, dry place

What Customers Have to Say

Customers who rated this product gave it a 4.6/5 stars rating, citing that the pencils were vibrant, water-soluble, great for beginners, and smooth to use. Some artists love dipping it in water and use it as a marker for their various crafts.

Arteza Woodless Watercolor Pencils

Why We Think It's Great

The Arteza woodless watercolor pencils have more than 5 times the color compared to wooden color pencils. It has a special lacquer sheath that protects the colored pencils from breaking. Artists approve of its quality for shading, layering, and blending as it is water-soluble and non-toxic.

They are pre-sharpened and easy to sharpen with any regular sharpener. The colors in the set are white, yellow, chrome yellow, yellow-green, flesh, tawny, vermilion, brick red, red, peach, carmine, violet, and purple. Other colors are ultramarine, blue, light blue, green, light green, brown, tea, dark grey, orange, magenta, and black.

Who Should Buy It

If you're looking for affordable watercolor pencils with a great selection of colors, the Arteza Woodless Colored Pencil set is an excellent choice.

3. Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils - Best Overall

Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Shimmery effect
  • Lightfast colors
  • May be applied dry or wet
  • Excellent solubility
  • Vibrant colors
  • Washed out effect
  • Scratchy tip may damage the paper

What Customers Have to Say

According to those who have tried using it, the set is very affordable and gives you good value for your money. It is easy to use, has a sheer, shimmery finish, and the tin container is cute enough for giving as a gift.

Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils

Why We Think It's Great

The Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils set has 36 colors, measuring about 8 inches long and sized the same as regular pencils. The soft, smooth core is water-soluble. Blending is easy with just brushing a slightly wet brush over the watercolors. It won't break easily, too, because the wooden part of the pencil protects the pencil well. 

The pencils look almost identical, but the color name is stamped nearly on one end of the pencil, away from the sharpened end. The set contains cream, canary yellow, Spanish orange, goldenrod, sunburst yellow, orange, poppy red, carmine red, crimson red, mulberry, pink, blush pink, light peach, lilac, violet, and violet-blue.

Other colors are ultramarine, Copenhagen blue, true blue, peacock blue, indigo blue, non-photo blue. Aside from the blues, it also includes greens (Parrot Green, Spring Green, True Green, Grass Green, Olive Green, Dark Green), browns (Sienna Brown, Terra Cotta, Dark Umber, Dark Brown), Cool Grey 50%, French Grey 20%, White and Black.

Who Should Buy It

The Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils are perfect for adults who love coloring. Artists also recommend this set to fashion designers, graphic designers, and other visual artists.

4. Caran D'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle Colour

Caran D'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle Colour
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 Pros Cons
  • Break-resistant 3mm colored core
  • Excellent lightfastness
  • Works for various techniques
  • Water-soluble
  • Non-toxic
  • Needs improvement on the packaging
  • Expensive

What Customers Have to Say

Artists who have tried it muse about its outstanding quality, giving this brand the moniker as the Cadillac for coloring pencils. The pigments are of high quality, and the wood used in the pencil is excellent as it does not break easily. The same is true of the colored core. It does not easily break when sharpened.

Why We Think It's Great

The Switzerland-based company adheres to the 3-point pillar to produce safe and non-toxic art supplies that will not harm the environment, and everyone can enjoy. Caran D'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle Colour is an excellent investment for artists who want to go beyond drawing and painting. 

This watercolor pencil set comes with 30 high-quality colors that you can use dry or wet. The colors have excellent lightfastness and won't fade even if exposed to the sun for extended periods. 

The colored pencils are 5 inches long, and the colored core is 3mm in diameter. The set includes white, light grey, black, yellow, orange, ochre, raw umber, salmon, brown, vermillion, and russet. 

Who Should Buy It

The Caran d'Ache watercolor pencils are best for newbie and professional artists who want their art supplies to be multi-use, easy to apply, and give the best value for their money.

5. Derwent Inktense Pencil Set - Best Professional Quality

Derwent Inktense Pencil Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Versatile use
  • Permanent once dry
  • Non-toxic
  • Works with other media
  • Translucent ink-like effect
  • Not washable when used on fabric
  • Expensive

What Customers Have to Say

Several crafters used these watercolor pencils on their quilting, and they claim that the vivid colors brought their quilting to a new level and way better than paint markers.

 

Derwent Inktense Pencil Set

 

Why We Think It's Great

The Derwent Inktense Pencil Set offers a range of bright hues that combine the intensity of pen and ink, creating different effects. You can use it for coloring without brushing water over it for an intense impact or use water to achieve the watercolor effect. Unlike other watercolor pencils, Derwent Inktense Pencils have a permanent color wash once dry. 

The colors won't reactivate once wet because it has the permanent properties of the ink. The pencils are almost 7.6 inches long and have the largest core of 4mm in this review. The wooden covering has navy blue paint, and the end of the pencil bears the color for easy identification.

Who Should Buy It

The Derwent Inktense Pencils carry the century-old legacy of quality for producing professional-grade art supplies. This set is best for artists who want a permanent wash on their watercolor artwork.

6. Staedtler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils

Staedtler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Intense, lightfast colors
  • Blends easily
  • High-quality storage tin
  • Environment-responsive company
  • Wide range of use
  • Too wet for the taste of some users
  • Small watercolor pencils

What Customers Have to Say

The Staedler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils are great for adding fine details that may be too hard to add with a watercolor brush. They are also easy to sharpen and are perfect to use with tube or pan watercolors.

Why We Think It's Great

The way the colors change before your eyes when you brush a wet paintbrush over your artwork colored using the Staedler Karat watercolor pencils never fails to amaze us.

Other brands of the same price point do not hold a candle against this brand because the colors are vivid and lightfast. They also blend easily, and you can use them wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, or just as a colored pencil. Dip them into a small amount of water, and you'll get dramatic colors.

The watercolor pencils measure 9.3 inches long with a colored core smaller than others (2mm vs. 3mm on other brands). They come in a metal storage box, measuring 9.45x5.91x0.79 inches. The pencils have the outer casing painted with high-quality white paint that doesn't flake, and the lower end of the pencils bears their colors for easy identification.

Who Should Buy It

This watercolor pencil set is an excellent alternative for professional artists looking for quality but cheap aquarelle pencils.

7. Zenacolor Watercolor Pencils - Best for Young Artists

Zenacolor Watercolor Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Brilliant colors
  • High-quality pigments
  • Versatile use
  • Non-toxic
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Duplicate colors
  • Colors wash out once wet

What Customers Have to Say

Many users love using the Zenacolor watercolor pencils because they have vibrant colors due to the high-quality pigments used in the watercolor pencils.

Zenacolor Watercolor Pencils

Why We Think It's Great

The watercolor pencil set has 72 colors. Some users reported duplicate colors, though this is not a common practice since many of the users had no similar issues on the sets they received.

The pencils are 7.4 inches long with a 3.3mm soft inner core. A metal case with a rather flimsy plastic separator houses the watercolor pencils, at 24 pencils per layer. The wooden casing bears the pencil's color for easier identification.

The quality of these watercolor pencils largely depends on the watercolor paper used. It is best to use a 110lb cardstock or thicker.

Who Should Buy It

We recommend these watercolor pencils for kid artists.

8. Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set

Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Versatile use
  • Vibrant colors
  • Individually named and numbered
  • High-quality storage tin with partitions
  • High-quality wood casing
  • Not enough blacks and whites
  • Plastic dividers are flimsy

What Customers Have to Say

Users are very impressed with the outstanding quality of these very affordable water-soluble pencils. Kids love the great selection of colors, while other artists love how they can add fine details to their watercolor art without worrying about the mess.

Castle Art Supplies Watercolor Pencils Set

Why We Think It's Great

The set comes in 8 shades of yellow, 8 shades of orange, 11 shades of pink and red, 13 shades of green, 14 shades of blue, 5 shades of purple, browns, greys, blacks, and white.

Plastic dividers arrange the watercolor pencils inside the metal storage box in three layers, arranged as colors and shades. The pencils measure about 9 inches long with a 3mm core that is easy to apply and blend.

The core is soft and gives vivid colors when dipped into water before using it on paper. Alternately, you can also draw it directly on paper before dabbing the colors with a slightly wet watercolor pencil. Too wet brush causes the watercolor to run, thus ruining the artwork.

Who Should Buy It

If you're on a tight budget but want to enjoy a full range of colors in your watercolor pencil, this is the best watercolor pencil set to consider.

9. OOKU Artist Pro Watercolor Pencils Set

OOKU Artist Pro Watercolor Pencils Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Non-toxic
  • UV-resistant
  • Vibrant colors
  • Free pencil wrap and brush
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • May have issues with blending
  • Hard inner core

What Customers Have to Say

This set is best for beginners, as most users agree. However, they work best when you dip the core in the water before using it on paper for best results from these watercolor pencils.

Why We Think It's Great

The Ooku Artist Pro Watercolor Pencils Set is the perfect choice for newbie and student artists to complement their watercolor tubes and pans.

You can use the watercolor pencils for dry sketching, cross-hatching, and coloring, or you can use them for traditional watercolor techniques.

The watercolor set is available in sets of 48 and sets of 72, all with a free pencil wrap, watercolor brush, and sharpener.

Who Should Buy It

This set is the best watercolor pencil set you can get for your children who wants to explore the beauty of watercolor art. Not only is it very affordable, but the pencil wrap also helps to keep your kids organized.

10. Arteza Watercolor Pencils Set

Arteza Watercolor Pencils Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Comfortable triangular design
  • Light and durable basswood casing
  • Break-resistant
  • Artist-approved quality
  • Quality cardboard tube organizer
  • May have issues with solubility
  • Need to be wet before application

What Customers Have to Say

The pencils blend colors beautifully and have a great value for beginners, though many professionals also use Arteza watercolor pencils.

Arteza Watercolor Pencils Set

Why We Think It's Great

The watercolor pencils use a basswood casing which is very light and durable. The inner core itself is hard and break-resistant. The pencils are also pre-sharpened, and you can use any regular pencil sharpener.

Compared with other Arteza watercolor pencils, this is of lower quality, so it's best for beginner users, both adults and kids. However, you need to wet it before using it on paper since it's hard to apply directly on paper.

Who Should Buy It

The Arteza Watercolor Pencils has a comfortable triangular design that's easy on the hands, especially for those with arthritic hands or those who have not developed their fine motor skills.

11. LUXLIA Watercolor Pencils

LUXLIA Watercolor Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Break-resistant inner core
  • Non-toxic and safe for kids to use
  • Very affordable
  • Multi-surface use
  • 100% free refund or replacement
  • Less vibrant
  • Duplicate colors
  • Inconsistent effect

What Customers Have to Say

Some artists use watercolor pencils for rock painting without any issues. However, many users found it inconsistent when used as a watercolor pencil on paper. On the whole, it's an okay art supply for newbie artists and kids to use for practicing.

Why We Think It's Great

The inner core of the LUXLIA Watercolor Pencils is soft, but it does not easily break when you sharpen it or use it for coloring.

They are very affordable, so it's best for younger kids wanting to learn watercolor art. The has 48 colors, though there are duplications of colors sometimes. 

Customer service is very responsive, and you can contact them if you have issues with your set, and they can give you a free replacement or 100% refund on the product.

Who Should Buy It

Though it is tagged for professionals, we recommend LUXLIA Watercolor Pencils only for younger artists and newbies.

12. Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencil

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencil
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 Pros Cons
  • Versatile use
  • Vibrant colors
  • Water-soluble pigments
  • Permanent colors when dry
  • Set includes brush and water dish
  • Doesn't have a divider to separate the rows



What Customers Have to Say

A mandala artist proudly posted some of her artworks online to show the vibrant colors of Faber Castell watercolor pencils. They are not too waxy or hard as other watercolor pencils within a similar price range.

Why We Think It's Great

The Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils come in an elegant and sturdy giftable flip-top box with a free brush and water dish. They have bigger colored cores at nearly 4mm compared to the 3mm on regular watercolor pencils. It is also resistant to breakage due to the high-quality wood used in making these watercolor pencils.

They are very versatile to use for drawing, shading, and painting. It stains well on paper, is slightly transparent, and once dry, it is permanent without being chalky, muddy, or flaky. The colors are lightfast, so you don't have to worry about exposing your painting to the sun.

Who Should Buy It

This product is best for those who want to see better results in their drawings or paintings. It's also ideal for students and emerging artists as it comes with a free brush and water dish.

13. Pagos Watercolor Pencils Set

Pagos Watercolor Pencils Set
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 Pros Cons
  • Brilliant colors
  • Free squirrel hair paintbrush
  • Easy application and blending
  • Lightfast colors
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Duplicate colors
  • Flaky finish
  • Doesn't stain well

What Customers Have to Say

The users are very satisfied with the huge selection of watercolor pencils for the Pagos watercolor pencils. The colors are vibrant, and the pigments are strong that you get the true colors even after applying water to the artwork.

Pagos Watercolor Pencils Set

Why We Think It's Great

Pagos watercolor pencil has a buttery feel when applied because of the soft inner core. It is not scratchy as other brands within the same price range. You can also use it as a dry colored pencil, use it wet on dry paper, wet on dampened paper, or apply it directly on paper, then brush a wet brush over it later.

The pencils measure 7.3 inches, the casing painted with navy blue, and the color at the end of the pencil so you can identify the colors easily. It includes a rainbow range of colors, including browns, grays, blacks, and metallic gold and silver.

It uses a hinged metal case for organizing the watercolor pencils by 36's, separated with a plastic separator. It also has a free watercolor paintbrush made from synthetic squirrel-hair bristles.

Who Should Buy It

This set is the best watercolor pencils for newbies and younger kids who want to learn the art of watercolors.

14. KOH-I-NOOR Progresso Woodless Aquarell Coloured Pencils

KOH-I-NOOR Progresso Woodless Aquarell Coloured Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Woodless
  • 5x more color than wood watercolor pencils
  • Quality pigments
  • Smooth blending
  • Works on black paper
  • Breaks easily
  • Not to be subjected to strong temperatures
  • Expensive

What Customers Have to Say

Artists love the vibrant colors and soft, waxy finish of the woodless watercolor pencils. They are easy to mix and blend well after the application of water. They were a bit expensive, but the range of colors is excellent.

Why We Think It's Great

The KOH-I-NOOR Progresso Woodless Aquarell Coloured Pencils are slightly opaque, so you can use them on black paper. Because these watercolor pencils are woodless, you can get more than 5 times the usual color you get from watercolor pencils with wooden casings.

When applied to paper, the woodless watercolors have a buttery feel and are easy to blend using a slightly wet paintbrush.

Who Should Buy It

These watercolor pencils are easy to use, even for beginners and intermediate artists. We don't recommend them for professional artists, though.

15. Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils

Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils
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 Pros Cons
  • Soft inner core
  • Brilliant colors
  • High-quality pigments
  • Water-soluble
  • Excellent lightfastness
  • Core breaks easily
  • Not the best choice for professionals

What Customers Have to Say

It is very cheap, but the quality is still excellent. As in other Faber Castell products, it has become a valuable art supply for almost everyone who loves to make watercolor art. They are very easy to blend, and the color choices are lovely.

Why We Think It's Great

The Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber watercolor pencils use high-quality pigments for smudge-proof, lightfast colors. The inner core measures 3.3mm, and each pencil is 7 inches long, organized in a metal tin. 

The pencils are gray with the end painted with its color. There are 12 watercolor pencils in the tin box. The inner core is break-resistant, and the wood used in the casing is durable. 

You can apply it wet or dry, but in both cases, the colors remain vibrant. This brand is available in sets of 24 pencils, 48 pencils, 144 pencils, and a gift set that includes a 12-pc watercolor pencil set, watercolor paper, paintbrush, pencil, pen, eraser, etc sharpener.

Who Should Buy It

The Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber are the best watercolor pencils for intermediate and professional artists.

Watercolor Pencil Techniques

  • Dry drawing

You can use a dry watercolor pencil on dry paper, like any normal colored pencil. You could even go so far as to try it with large solid fills and detailed fine lines with the same casualness you would expect from something else in your sketchbook.

  • Dry and wet

A watercolor pencil dry and then work over the image with a paintbrush dipped in water. Water-soluble paints are great because they don't smudge. Some are even erasable as long as you have not applied water to them.

  • Dipped in water

Dip the tip of the pencil into the water to create a more fluid, spontaneous effect. The colors will also appear bolder and brighter as they are diluted by the moisture from nearby surfaces or objects around them.

  • On wet paper

To create effects like blurs, color fades and combined colors use watercolor pencil on wet paper. To do this you should apply the pigment to a damp sheet of paper or add it onto moistened areas while drawing. Use high-quality watercolor paper to withstand the added moisture.

  • Dissolved in water 

To use watercolor pencils as paint, dissolve the core in a drop of water. Crush it down and mix it thoroughly in water, then add a few more drops of water to thin it out.

You may also rub the watercolor pencil on the palette, then use your brush to apply it on paper. Another technique is to wet the watercolor pencil, then rub it on a watercolor brush.

Watercolor Pencils Buying Guide

  • Transparency

Watercolor pencils also have a beautiful layering effect that you can play with to create depth and dimension in your work. To make beautiful layers, the colors should have a good combination of transparency and opacity. 

You may not set it very well and may need several layers before you get the right colors. If it is too opaque, on the other hand, you cannot blend the colors well.

  • Woodless or wooded

Woodless pencils have a bigger inner core so you get as much as 5 times the amount of color. The regular watercolor pencil has an inner core that ranges from 2mm-4mm. Woodless watercolor pencils have as much as 7-8mm, enclosed with a special lacquer casing. Keep your woodless watercolor pencils in a cool, dry place to protect them from melting or going bad. 

  • Lightfastness

With proper care, watercolor pencil drawings will last for generations without fading or darkening. When exposed to sunlight, the colors may fade so lightfastness is a good indicator of the quality of the watercolor pencils. 

  • Number of colors in the set

Professionals may have no issue with blending since they're more adept at color mixing using watercolor pencils. For beginners and intermediate artists, though, a good set of watercolor pencils with a good collection of colors is very helpful. 

  • Resistance to breakage

Whether using a wooded or woodless watercolor pencil, you want something that doesn't break easily. Cheaper alternatives are more prone to breakage because of the quality of the binders in the colored core and the quality of the wood casing. 

  • Pigments

The quality of pigment is another important factor to consider, but you must understand that better pigments mean more expensive watercolor sets. Watercolor pencils that use single-color pigments are usually the most expensive but also give you the best quality.

Watercolor Pencil FAQ

1. How do I choose the best watercolor pencil for artists?

A thin core on the watercolor pencil allows you to create complex details. The harder lead is more durable and should last longer. However, it may scratch the paper, resulting in poor quality.

A softer pen may not achieve as much shade transfer with lighter colors as some others, though this is not the case in watercolor pencils with high-quality pigments.

2. How do I use watercolor pencils?

It has 2 main uses of watercolor pencils – with or without water. You can use it as an ordinary colored pencil or apply it with water (wet the watercolor pencil before applying it on paper or apply it dry, then dampen it with a wet paintbrush to achieve a washed-out effect, characteristic of watercolor.

3. What is the difference between colored pencils and watercolor pencils?

The watercolor pencils are great for creating transparent, washed-out effects while the colored pencil is more opaque. They are also easier to blend than colored pencils because of their soft, sometimes waxy core.

Another difference is its effect on paper. Watercolor pencils tend to stain on paper so that the other side of the paper becomes useless. However, this is essential as it becomes permanent and does not leave a chalky and flaky finish on paper. A colored pencil, on the other hand, stays on one side of the paper.

4. How do you blend watercolor pencils without water?

You may apply the watercolor pencil dry and then use a paintbrush wet with some water to blend the watercolor pencils and achieve the watercolor painting effect. You may blend them, especially if the watercolor pencil is waxy. However, you cannot blend without using water and still get the quality of a watercolor painting. 

Conclusion

We love using watercolor pencils because they are easy to use and you can employ several techniques that make them work. Here are our top picks for the best watercolor pencils.

Prismacolor Premier Color Pencils is an excellent watercolor with its shimmery effect, lightfast color, and excellent solubility. No wonder why it’s our best overall watercolor pencils. For professionals, we recommend the Derwent Inktense Pencil Set. They are permanent once dry, non-toxic, and have a translucent ink-like effect on the watercolor pencils. 

Let us not forget our young artists since these young creative minds do not have borders with their imagination. We choose Zenacolor Watercolor Pencils due to their brilliant colors, high-quality pigments, and is non-toxic for kids to use.

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