Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

You’re thinking about combining watercolor pencils and colored pencils, but you have a question. Does it matter what brand or type of colored pencil you use over the watercolor pencils?

Today’s reader question comes from a reader who had the same concern. Here’s the question.

Presently I use Albrecht Druer watercolor pencils with Blick pencils. What difference would I get if I switched to oil base pencils instead of the Blick. Maybe a foolish question?

Thanks. Jim

No question is foolish!

Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

Do the Pencils Make that Much Difference?

I have a set of Blick Studio pencils. I like them a lot on sanded art papers, but they’re not very good on papers like Stonehenge; at least not with my drawing methods.

I also have sets of Prismacolor Premier and Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. Prismacolors are very soft and waxy. Polychromos are dryer, harder and contain more oil than wax in the binder.

I find the Blick Studio to be somewhere in between those two.

Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

I have used Prismacolor and Polychromos over watercolor pencils and have had good results with both. At the time of this writing, I have yet to try Blick Studio over watercolor pencils, but I believe they would work.

Papers for Mixing Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

You’re more likely to see difference in switching papers than in switching pencils.

A 140lb hot press paper like Stonehenge Aqua or Canson L’Aquarelle Heritage has a surface texture much like regular Stonehenge. Since I found Blick Studio pencils unsatisfactory on Stonehenge, I conclude they would also be unsatisfactory on 140lb watercolor paper.

But I don’t know that from experience.

Before you buy new pencils, get a small pad of watercolor paper (140lb hot press preferred.) Do a few small drawings or paintings on watercolor paper and see how you like the results. It’s entirely possible that you won’t need new pencils.

If You Decide to Switch Pencils

If you do decide to try new pencils, there is a definite advantage to choosing Faber-Castell Polychromos. The color names are the same on every line of pencils Faber-Castell manufactures. So the color names on the Polychromos are the same as on the Albrecht Durer pencils. That makes for a lot less confusion.

Prismacolors are also very good on papers that have a surface texture similar to Stonehenge. In my opinion, that’s where they really shine. So they should also work well on hot press watercolor paper.

If you want to try different pencils, but don’t know which ones to get, consider getting a few pencils in the brands you want to try. Do a few pieces of art combining your watercolor pencils and the new pencils. That’s the best way to discover which pencils work best on your choice of paper, and for your drawing style.

Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

Watercolor Pencils and Colored Pencils

I hope that’s been helpful. Finding the right combination of pencils and paper is a very personal process. The combination that works best for me may not suit you at all.

Add watercolor pencils to the mix and the process becomes more complicated.

The best suggestion I can offer you is to start with these suggestions. If you find one that works, great!

But if you don’t, keep looking.

Got a question? Ask Carrie!


  1. Ace Robst Jr.

    Hi, First I want to thank you for all that I have learned from your wonderful lessons. But I have a question for you. Can I blend with water, watercolor pencils, on top of colored pencils? I have blended a few layers of colored pencils with rubbing alcohol, on Strathmore Bristol 300 Vellum, and was wondering if I could now be able to color over it with watercolor pencils, and then blend them with water. Will the watercolor stick to it? Any help or advice that you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Ace,

      Thank you for your very kind words! I’m glad to be of help to you.

      Water-based mediums (watercolor, watercolor pencils, inks, etc.) should never be used over colored pencils. They will not stick to the colored pencil very well.

      Another reason not to use watercolor or watercolor pencils the way you’re thinking about is that you’re using Bristol. My experience is that even small amounts of water cause damage to the paper. I don’t even recommend solvent blending on Bristol.

      You mentioned that you did a rubbing alcohol blend on Bristol. I’m surprised to hear that. Did you have any problems with the paper warping or buckling afterward?

      You can use watercolor or watercolor pencils under colored pencil, but make sure you use a watercolor paper or other type of paper that can handle moisture.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Ace Robst Jr.


    Thank you so much for your help and for responding to me so quickly! I had a feeling that it couldn’t be done, common sense told me. But I thought if there was a possible way, you would know it. Because some things that I didn’t think were possible, I found out were indeed possible from some of your articles. I’m 68 years old, and have just gotten back into using my colored pencils, after years of not creating much art at all since my son died of cancer 11 years ago. I’ve felt he would want me to continue on, and not be constantly sad. Art has been great therapy for me.

    The last time I used colored pencils I used Stonehenge Rising paper and loved it. Now I hear they don’t make it anymore, and Legion has taken over. I bought a pad of Legion Stonehenge drawing paper and hated it. It’s way too thin, and I don’t like the texture. I’m thinking of buying Legion Stonehenge Single sheets of paper, and hoping that they may be thicker and better, like the original was. In the meantime I’m using Strathmore Bristol 300 Vellum 11″ x14″ pad paper now. I have the paper taped with blue painters tape all around to create a clean white boarder to my drawing board, with a single sheet of paper under it for padding. I use rubbing alcohol sparingly, with no problem of buckling. It does rise a bit, but flattens out after it dries. For larger drawings 14″ x17″ I use Strathmore Bristol 500 Vellum paper. Thanks again for helping me. I absolutely love your artwork. Your drawing style reminds me of the late colored pencil artist Bruce J. Nelson.

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