Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

What is the best way of mixing watercolor pencils and colored pencils?

I don’t use watercolors and colored pencils very often, but I have used water soluble colored pencils. When I do, I use a couple of different methods, depending on the requirements of each drawing.

One of those methods also works with watercolor, so in this post, I’ll describe two ways to use water soluble colored pencils in your drawings and followup with a suggestion for using watercolor with regular colored pencils.

Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Regular Colored Pencils

Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

There are two basic ways for mixing watercolor pencils and colored pencils. (Actually, there are three, but one of them involves drawing with them just like traditional colored pencils and not using water. That’s what I did for my plein air challenge drawing from week seven.)

Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Regular Colored Pencils

It’s perfectly fine to use water soluble pencils this way, so don’t think you have to add water in order to draw with water soluble colored pencils.

But since this article is all about adding water, here are the other two ways you can use water soluble colored pencils.

Draw First, Then Add Water

Most of the time, I draw with them just like I do with traditional colored pencils, then use a damp brush to activate the color. When the color dries, it can be drawn over again.

This is usually best done at the beginning of the drawing process. This method as a great way to do a quick under drawing or to create even areas of color for skies or similar areas.

Below is a sample. I drew with water soluble colored pencil first, then brushed part of it with a wet brush.

water-soluble-pencil-wash

Of course, you may continue drawing with water soluble colored pencils and you can also continue activating them with water, layer after layer. Every time you dampen the paper, however, you will blend all of the colors; not just the ones you added most recently. If you do more than one wash with water, keep in mind how the different colors will affect each other (if you used more than one color).

You can also go over water soluble colored pencils with traditional pencils.

Add Water First, Then Draw

Another way of mixing water color colored pencils with regular colored pencils is by dampening the pencil point, then drawing. This is very easy. Simply dip the tip of a water soluble colored pencil in clear water, then draw with it. You will get a very bold mark that way, but you’ll have to dip the pencil frequently.

In this illustration, I dipped a pencil in clean water, then began drawing. The first marks (on the left) are nice and dark with no paper showing through. As I continued to draw, the pencil dried and the marks became lighter and less sharp. The marks on the right are with the dry pencil. I didn’t lift the pencil at all in drawing from left to right.

draw-with-wet-water-soluble-colored-pencil

This is especially good for adding accents where you want vibrant or dark color. It works best in very small areas or for details. It’s not very efficient for drawing large areas of color.

Again, mixing water color colored pencils and regular colored pencils with this method is possible. Just make sure to test any new method on a piece of scrap paper first.

Watercolor And Colored Pencils

Watercolors and colored pencils do mix, but you’re likely to find the watercolor a little more limited in usefulness. Water soluble colored pencils are made to work with traditional colored pencils. Watercolor is not.

Even so, you have one proven method and one method that may or may not work.

Watercolor Under Painting

The best way to use watercolors with colored pencils is to tone papers with washes of color first. If you’re going to draw a landscape, for example, use watercolor to block in the major elements. Sky. Grass. Buildings. You’re not looking for a lot of detail here. Indeed, you probably won’t be looking for any detail at all.

If you’re using a standard drawing paper (one not made for watercolor), you will have to be careful not to get the paper or board too wet or it may buckle or warp.

Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Regular Colored Pencils

You can use watercolor papers, but you will have a more difficult time drawing detail with colored pencil due to the tooth of the paper. The drawing shown here was drawn on watercolor paper. The watercolor under painting is shown above. Below is the finished drawing.

Watercolor as Under Painting for Colored Pencil Finished

Once the under painting was dry, I used normal drawing methods to build color and value, add details, and finish the drawing. For this drawing, the watercolor under painting saved a lot of time and filled the tooth of the paper better than I could have done using colored pencils alone.

Watercolor Over Colored Pencil

I have used watercolor over wax pencil, but with mixed results. The watercolor did stick to the layers of colored pencils (a big surprise!), but I couldn’t add more colored pencil over the watercolor.

The following drawing made use of watercolor over colored pencil and while the drawing itself turned out fairly well, I don’t recommend this method without a trial run. Test it first for yourself, then decide whether it suits you or not.

Read Can You Add Watercolor Over Wax-Based Colored Pencil?

Green Lanscape 33

One Disclaimer

All of the methods I’ve described here involve using wax-based colored pencils. I have no reason to think oil-based colored pencils would respond any differently, but I don’t know for sure. So if you want to use oil-based pencils with these methods, do a small test drawing first.

If you use oil-based colored pencils with water soluble colored pencils or watercolors, let us know what has worked for you.

Additional Reading

Want more information on mixing water media and colored pencils? I’ve written some articles for EmptyEasel that might be helpful.

How to Draw a Sunrise Landscape with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 1

Drawing a Sunrise with Water Soluble Colored Pencils – Part 2

How to Start a Drawing with Water Soluble Colored Pencils

Using Dry Colored Pencils over a Water-Soluble Colored Pencil Drawing

Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

How to Remove Color in a Colored Pencil Drawing

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could remove color from a colored pencil drawing? You’re not alone, as the following reader question reveals:

I’m working on a colored pencil drawing and have too much color over an area. How do I remove color? Can it be fixed or do I need to start over?

My first response to any question like this is to tell the artist to take heart. In most cases, you don’t need to start a drawing over, particularly if it’s nearly finished. There are ways to lighten or remove color and make corrections, even over heavy applications of color.

First, let’s take a look at a couple of ways to lift color. Then I’ll show you how to layer fresh color over the damaged area.

How to Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

There are several ways to remove color from a colored pencil drawing without damaging the drawing or the paper. Following are the methods that have given me the best success.

Transparent Tape

Transparent tape is an ideal tool for removing color from a colored pencil drawing. You won’t be able to remove all of the color—some staining will remain—but you can remove a surprising amount if you’re careful and diligent.

How to remove color with Transparent Tape

Take a piece of tape a little longer than the area you want to work with.

Lay the tape sticky side down on the paper

Press it VERY LIGHTLY into place. If you press the tape too firmly, you run the risk of pulling up paper fibers in addition to color, so be careful.

Lift carefully.

Repeat.

Most tape is sticky enough to lift color if the color hasn’t been too heavily burnished. Even if it has been heavily burnished, you will be able to lift a lot of color. If you need to, use a couple pieces of tape.

The one thing you don’t want to do is tear the paper, so work slowly and carefully. Evaluate the drawing each time and stop when you’ve removed enough color to continue drawing.

There is one other warning I need to share. Transparent tape does tend to leave the surface of the paper a bit slick feeling. The smoother the paper to begin with, the more likely using tape will leave the paper slick. That’s why it’s important not to overuse transparent tape in lifting color.

Removing Additional Color With An Eraser

After you’ve done everything you can do with the tape, use a hard eraser (like a click eraser).

A click eraser can be sharpened to a fairly sharp point that allows you to do more detailed color removal. Used in tandem with a color guard, you can remove color and create shapes or edges.

When I’m making corrections of this type, I usually use the tape on all of the area, then use the click eraser in more specific areas. This method creates a surface with gradating values and color, and that makes it easier to seamlessly blend new color into old.

Remember, be careful. If you’re not confident enough to try the process on a drawing, lay down color on a piece of scrap paper and practice with that.

Adding New Color

Once you’ve lifted all the color you want to lift or can lift from your drawing, it’s time to add new color. Use the same methods you used to put down the original color.

You will have to be more diligent in keeping your pencils sharp because you’ll be working over a “used” surface.

You may also have to use slightly more pressure than you originally used. But work slowly, use several layers of color, and carefully blend old and new.

A Demonstration

I used several layers of medium to heavy pressure to lay down the color quickly over this circle. The darkest areas are quite thick and waxy. The middle values are less so. The highlight has very little color on it.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - First step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Once I finished drawing the ball, the highlight seemed too small. To make it larger, I need to remove some of the color.

Using tape to lift color

I began by pressing short pieces of tape over the highlight and gently lifting the tape. Because I put so much color on the paper and used such heavy pressure, I used more than one piece of tape.

Removing more color with a click eraser.

Next, I used a click eraser to work lightly over all of the highlight. I held the eraser like a pencil and moved it in circular strokes over the area I wanted to erase.

The first time, I started with the lightest area and worked outward into the middle values.

Then I cleaned the eraser by rubbing it on a scrap piece of paper until there was no color left on the eraser.

Next, I worked only on the brightest area. Again, I used circular strokes and went over the highlight a couple times.

I continued to remove color from this drawing until it looked the way I wanted it to look.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in removing color from a colored pencil drawing.

Another Demonstration

Here’s another ball. I drew this one the same way. Lots of color applied with lots of pressure. But rather than lift color, I want to add color.

So I layered indigo blue over the right three-quarters of the highlight using medium pressure. I also worked out into the black around the edges.

Next I added Non Photo Blue. Again, I used medium pressure to add color to the right part of the highlight. I covered all of the area I colored with indigo blue, and also worked into most of the left part of the highlight.

Remove Color from a colored pencil drawing - Third step in layering colored over a colored pencil drawing.

Then I layered Powder Blue over the left half of the highlight with medium heavy pressure.

As I moved into the darker part of the highlight, I decreased pressure and gradually blended the blue into the surrounding middle values.

Next was a layer of White, burnished over the brightest part of the highlight.

If I wanted to, I could layer blue over the rest of the ball, too, including adding reflected light to the bottom curves. It’s more difficult to add color to the areas with a lot of color, but it could be done.

That’s How I Remove Color from a Colored Pencil Drawing

It isn’t the only ways to remove or lighten color, but it works for me and will work for you, too. The key is to work slowly and carefully.

There are other ways to lighten colors, which I write about in How to Make Colors Lighter.

The next time you find you’ve put too much color on part of a drawing, try this method to lift color, then make corrections. You’ll be surprised what you can do with a little bit of tape, an eraser, and some patience!