7 Critical Differences Between Watercolor Pencils And Regular Colored Pencils


I find that seemingly small the differences between watercolor and regular pencils make quite a difference to your art and how you use them. If you know what these differences are you can use them to help your art or make better choices as to which you will use.

There are a few differences between watercolor pencils and regular colored pencils. While I was researching I found these differences included, what they were made of, how you use them and what you can use them on. Below I have explained further.

There are so many different types of pencil on the market sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. There are quite a few critical differences between watercolor and normal colored pencils. These differences make it vital to choose the right type of pencil. Or they won’t work how you want them to.

What Are The Differences in What The Pencils Are Made From

Normal colored pencils are either made of a wax or oil base to bind the pigment.

Watercolored pencils are made with a water-soluble pigment binder.

This means there is a large difference in how you can and should use them to get the best results.

The Differences in How Watercolor and Normal Pencils Work

Regular colored pencils are not designed to be diluted in water. Their binder does not dissolve in a waterbased solution as they are normally wax or oil-based. They are designed to use dry. They create a pencil drawing. They can be blended dry.

Watercolor pencils are designed to be diluted with water to create soft gentle blends. You can use and blend watercolor pencils either wet or dry like regular pencils. You can blend watercolor pencils wet to create a watercolor painting.

Please note however that you do not dip your pencil into the water but bring the water to your artwork. Dipping your pencil is a very good way to destroy it.

Because of the range of the watercolor pencils they can be used with more tools. With normal colored pencils, you only need a blender. With watercolor pencils, you can use a blender, brushes, cotton buds (q-tips), magic erasers, sponges for clouds, etc and even use an old brush to splatter with.  

Depth Of Color & Blending Differences

The way the color works and the range of the strength of color vary between these two types of pencils as well.

Regular color pencils are strong in color and designed to be thick. They blend well dry.

Watercolor pencils do not blend as well dry although this can depend on which brand you buy. Artist quality pencils are better to blend than the cheaper ranges. Watercolor pencils are also better if you want a lighter color or if you want to lift some of the colors off of your painting. 

You can use the water to make a more subtle range of color hues.

What Do You Paint/Draw On With These Pencils?

Both types of pencils are used on paper.

Normal colored pencils can be used on different types of paper but normal drawing paper works well.

Ideally, watercolored pencils should be used on watercolor paper hot or cold-pressed. This is especially true if you intend to add water to blend them. Watercolor paper is designed especially for this purpose. It gives the best results.  Smooth watercolor paper works better for these pencils.

Can You Use them With Other Art Mediums?

You can use watercolor pencils and colored pencils together to create different effects in one artwork. You can also use your watercolor pencils with other compatible mediums as well. 

Which is Easiest to Use Watercolor or Regular Pencil?

Regular pencils are much easier to use than the watercolor ones. This is because there are fewer techniques to learn to use. Once you add water there are several things that are so easy to get wrong.

Can You Turn Regular Colored Pencils Into Watercolor Ones? If You Can, How? 

Sorry to say no you cannot turn regular colored pencils into watercolored ones. This is because they are not made to work in the same way. And as shown above, what they are made from is different from the binders being wax or oil as opposed to water-soluble.

You can use them the other way around. Ie watercolor pencils like normal pencils. Some people are happy with doing this while others prefer to have a set of each type of pencil as there are differences in the results.

Which Type of Pencil Should You Buy, Watercolor or Regular?

This is a difficult question to answer as what is right for one person won’t be for another. You should take note of the differences between the two types of pencil mentioned here.

Then it is down to personal choice. Ask yourself what do you want to from your pencils? What do you want to achieve in your art?

You can get both types of pencils for about the same price for quality budget ranges. Or you can pay a lot more for the artist quality. 

While obviously, I haven’t tried every type some of the budget sets have very good reviews and are worth looking at.

Watercolor pencils have much more flexibility in style and range. You do have to buy watercolor paper though and possibly brushes which would bump the price up a bit. But the added flexibility is well worth it in my view.

You can get nontoxic pencils in both ranges so if you want to use them for your kids then either will be great for them. 

If you like strong bold colors and fine detail the regular pencils may suit your style better. If you prefer a more flowing subtly to your art you may prefer the watercolor pencils.

Neither is particularly expensive to buy if you only buy a small pack to start with so it may be worth getting both and seeing which you prefer. Who knows maybe you will like to use both.

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