Colored Pencils vs. Watercolor Pencils


prismacolor small

  caran d'ache museum aquarelle watercolor pencils


 Which one is


right for you?




Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils                                                                     Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelle Watercolor Pencils

Updated by Brandon F. on March 22, 2023

A common source of confusion and questions is from people trying to decide whether they should go with colored pencils or watercolor pencils for their next purchase.  So which is right for you?  Like many things, it depends.

In general, conventional wax and oil-based pencils will allow you to enjoy better blending capabilities than watercolors.  Also, non-water-soluble pencils will typically put down deeper, thicker colors.  There is also a bit of a higher learning curve associated with watercolors, and trying to get the hang of them for a beginner might prove to be a bit challenging and potentially frustrating.

However, watercolor pencils can cover great amounts of an area with the addition of just a little bit of water.  Essentially you could get a lot more color “coverage” per pencil as long as the desired color output wasn’t overly dense. This is very helpful if there are large sections of a work that you wish to be a certain color such as a blue sky or a large grassy field.

 Applying water is also a good way to lighten up the color quickly and easily and it can be much more manageable than trying to lighten up the color of conventional pencils after a thick layer has been applied.  A thick layer of color can sometimes be very difficult to remove once it is on the paper.  Being able to get an even, consistent wash can take some practice, however.

That being said, some of the higher-end watercolors such as the  Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer and Caran d’Ache Supracolor soft are still creamy enough to be used both with and without water as long as proper care is taken in using them.  These are going to be on the top of the spectrum in terms of cost, but you could make the argument that you would only have to purchase one set of pencils vs. two (a water-soluble set and a non-water-soluble set).  

For those starting with watercolor pencils, we recommend going with a more affordable and user-friendly example until you get the hang of it.  For an easy listing of all of the watercolor pencils we have reviewed, we encourage you to check out our expansive Colored Pencil Comparison Chart and sort “type of pencil” by “watercolor”.

Either approach you take, be sure to perform proper research by checking out the reviews located on this site.  Doing so will help ensure that your next pencil purchase is the best set for your particular needs.  But no matter what you choose, we encourage you to always be on the lookout for new types of pencils to try.  That is the only way you will find something better than what you are currently using.

Or you can do as we do and try out both!  In some cases, you can even combine them to create unique works of art.

Colored Pencils

Pros: Generally better at blending Deeper colors More user-friendly

Cons: Can’t cover as much area Can be more difficult to lighten

Watercolor Pencils

Pros: Can cover greater amounts of area Easier to lighten Higher-end sets can be used without water, essentially making it a “2 for 1” set

Cons: Not as intense Harder to blend More difficult to learn

BestColoredPencils tests and reviews colored pencils and more to find the best products for you. When readers buy our reviewed picks, we earn affiliate commissions that help support our work.
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