Best Watercolor Pencils for Everyone: Starter or Pro, Steal vs. Splurge

best watercolor pencils

Watercolor pencils are enjoyable to use for children, adults, and professional artists. The gliding of colors on paper, before blending them together with water, never gets old!

To be honest, between all of my art supplies they take the place of second favorite, topped only by watercolor paints.

What can I say? Paint constantly keeps you on the tip of your toes, aiming to be in control of the interactions between water, brush, and pigments. It lets you flirt with the unexpected, which is kind of exciting in a semi-masochistic way, and whether the end result was fully intentional or only partly so, on a good day it’ll be quite stunning. It’s hard to beat.

A Unique Tool for (Aspiring) Artists

But watercolor pencils are absolutely invaluable in their own way.

They bring to the table some unique properties that are equally hard to beat, such as being indispensable for precision work and certain shading. For feeling out various hues and layering colors – only from light to darker, obviously. There is the relief of adding color to a drawing without having to deal with the finicky nature of water, or (when, as in my case, your pencils vastly outnumber your paints in hues) the delight of grabbing a hold of a specific shade without any mixing. Just to name a few areas where pencils shine. Not to mention their stunningly bright and saturated colors!

If you’re looking for a watercolor pencil set to accompany you on your next art project, you’ve come to the right place. I’m reviewing the best watercolor pencils brands on the market, as well as some great options with a more friendly price tag. Whether you are a total beginner or an artist, ready to splurge or looking for a budget-friendly option – browsing through these sets will hopefully make your choice easier.

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Top 6 Watercolor Pencils Sets

No matter what you intend to use the set for, you’ll find a fit option on this list. I collected a variety of prices, features, and uses. Rummage through them and you’ll find the one you’re looking for!

Castle Art: Decent Value & Performance

Castle Art outdid themselves with this unique watercolor pencils set. The 72 colors offer high versatility and a wide range of different effects. Additionally, the set comes with a tutorial that presents five coloring techniques you can use.

The pigment isn’t as vivid as you’d expect, but the texture and the hues of the high-quality colors make up for it. You can use the dry pencils’ peaks to color tiny details and create layers, or you can wet the tips to create thick colored lines. Moreover, you can create dry lines then walk over them with a wet brush. That way, you’ll get an effect similar to aquarelle colors.

The variety of effects isn’t the only nice feature in the Castle Art set. The design of the pencils is also convenient and comfortable for gripping. They’re shaped hexagonally for a non-slipping grip.

Pros

  • Elegant set design
  • Hard pencil cores
  • Considerate value for money
  • Soft pencils’ tips

Cons

  • Low pigment load
  • The blending could be better

Prismacolor Premier: Stepping it Up

The Prismacolor Premier pencils blend the colors like no other. The high pigment load, along with the saturated hues, creates the perfect effects. Plus, the water-soluble binder accounts for the exceptionally smooth lines.

The watercolors set comes in a high-quality tin box. It allows you to store the set anywhere without the fear of damaging the pencils. Furthermore, the pencils have a thick external coating that protects them against scratches.

It would’ve been nice if the pencils were colored; it’d have been easier then to pick the color you want from the set. Nevertheless, the Prismacolor set makes coloring easier and gives you a satisfying experience.

Pros

  • High pigment load
  • Rich hues
  • Easy and smooth blending
  • Water-soluble core

Cons

  • Unavailable in larger sets
  • The pencils have the same color

Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils: Hard to Beat

The German brand Faber-Castell set is one of the most expensive sets on the market for a reason. It’s hard to find its top-of-the-line quality in another brand. If you’re an artist who’s looking for some valuable watercolor pencils, this is the set for you.

The soft pencil tips glide on the paper as smoothly as possible, which helps cover large areas in a short time. This makes the set suitable for large projects. Moreover, the lines are thick and vivid, and the pigments are highly soluble.

These pencils come in a variety of presentations, from tin to wooded boxes, sometimes accompanied by a watercolor brush for blending. The colors dry quickly after you wet them with the brush. Additionally, they’re highly lightfast. So, they won’t fade upon exposing them to light.

Pros

  • Consistent colors
  • Lightfast
  • Fast-dry, permanent colors
  • Resistant to smudging
  • Commonly available in 12, 24, and 120 pencils

Cons

  • High price

Caran D’ache Prismalo Watercolor Pencils: Famous & Versatile

If you want to make an art piece using mixed media, the Caran D’ache is your go-to set. The Swiss brand offers an impressive variety of colors. Additionally, the shades are chosen carefully to match all your moods.

The pencils feature an exceptionally high opacity, even after blending the colors with water. Moreover, the colors appear brightly while maintaining the smooth aquarelle effect. The only downside to this set is the low lightfastness of the colors. They’re not as permanent as the Faber-Castells.

The Caran D’ache pencils are compatible with all kinds of surfaces. They’ll work well on any type of paper you choose to paint on. In addition, you can use them on glass and fabrics. That’s why they’re a nice choice for professionals.

Pros

  • Available in sets of 10, 15, 30, 40, and 84
  • Variety of shades
  • Compatible with all surfaces
  • High-quality pigment
  • The colors work with dry and wet techniques
  • The pencils draw extra fine lines

Cons

  • Not lightfast
  • Slow drying
  • High price

OOKU Watercolor Pencils Set + Extras

The OOKU set will save you four purchases in one. It comes fully equipped with a canvas wrap, a sharpener, and a watercolor brush. Plus, it comes at a moderate price compared to similar brands. You can use it if you’re a beginner, a semi-professional, or a professional artist.

Furthermore, the OOKU pencils have smooth, water-soluble cores that account for the easy blending. The pigment load is also high, which helps the colors maintain their brightness after wetting. Moreover, the pencils can be used for both dry and wet coloring techniques.

You won’t have to worry about storing the set. The roll-up carrier that comes with it can be put anywhere. Besides, it’s easier to pick the pencils right out of the loops. The packaging and the design of the pencils are very user-convenient.

Pros

  • Brush and sharpener included
  • Wide variety of shades
  • Low price
  • Wrap carrier
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Smooth blending of colors

Cons

  • The pencil tips are a bit weak
  • The roll-up loops are too wide for the pencils

US Sense Watercolor Pencils Set: Entry Level

The US Sense is the most budget-friendly option on our list. However, that doesn’t affect its quality in the least bit. The set is giving the leading brands a run for their money. It provides durable, soft, and break-resistant pencils.

Additionally, the pencils have a high pigment load, as well as water-soluble cores. The balanced combination makes the colors fit for creating shadows. What’s more, the shades are closely picked, without a large gap between the colors.

The US Sense set is suitable for students, artists, and professionals. It’s the perfect buddy to take to school. Alternatively, it’s a nice substitute for your expensive set. All in all, you won’t regret getting it.

Pros
  • Durable pencils’ wood
  • Nicely assorted shades
  • A free brush included
  • Low price
Cons
  • The pencil tips are fragile
  • The material is a bit waxy

5 Tips for Using Your Watercolor Pencils Set

If you want to get the best results using your watercolor pencils set, there are some tips that’ll help you with that. Check them out here:

  1. Don’t use too much water when blending. Only add small drops until you’re satisfied with the color.
  2. Experiment with techniques. Sometimes you may prefer to blend with a brush, while other times wetting the pencil tip works better. When using a brush, you have more control over the outcome. The wet pencil tip makes for thicker lines and deeper, highly pigmented shadows.
  3. What’s in a name? It certainly isn’t a crime to use them dry either! Just put the pencils to paper in the same way you’d use regular color pencils. (My cherished Faber-Castell’s are absolutely fantastic used dry. Yes, that’s the ratty-looking bunch in the images… we’ve been together for while!)
  4. When using a wet brush, start blending from light shades, working towards darker ones. Unless, of course, you really want the darker shades to heavily influence the lighter ones. This falls under the same logic one would use with paint. After the colors dry, you can still go back and retouch using the pencils.
  5. Play around with different angles and pressure to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to use these babies – especially if you just spent the equivalent of treating your extended family at an upscale restaurant, putting them points to the paper can be a tad intimidating, aye?

The Verdict

The best watercolor pencils set on our list is the range by Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer. Their competition on the highest level includes Derwent and Caran d’Ache Supracolor. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is also the best choice at this moment. The other brands featured here have been selected for what they offer in terms of price vs. quality.

Ultimately, it’s about your art! Whichever tool is within reach to create that is less important than the inspiration, effort, and your unique angle on the subject.

All in all, I hope you have fun with your next watercolor ventures!

Categorized as Art