Watercolor Pencils vs Colored Pencils

Last Updated on January 2, 2021 by Michael Vega

If you take a black and white image and then you take a colored one, you will realize how important colors are. Of course, this is not to “paint” black and white images in one sort of way.

In the world of art, they have their own importance too. But there’s no doubt how much life colors bring to our world. They make things look bright.

Over the course of your lifetime, you will have reasons to make use of colors, one way or the other. It may be when you’re painting your new apartment.

It may be when you’re choosing a dress. And it may also be when you next you want to color – whether in a coloring book or just random coloring.

Which one to use on what kind of drawing surface, Watercolor Pencils vs Colored Pencils

You see, there are many different forms of colored media out there for artists to use. Whether you’re a veteran or a beginner, there’s a multitude of tools from which to choose.

Of them all, one of the most important is the coloring pencil.

Coloring is pretty simple to do. But for you to do it well, especially with color pencils, you need to be familiar with the basics. And you also need to be able to identify between the different kinds that are available.

If you’re wondering, there three types of colored pencils, namely,

  • Wax The color pigments are usually bound together with wax to create either hard or soft pencil cores (the colored part of a colored pencil). They are usually more prone to breakage.
  • Oil: What holds the pigment together consists of vegetable oil. Oil-based pencils are slightly harder than wax-based ones.
  • Water-soluble: They are either wax-based or oil-based. They can be either hard or soft. An emulsifier is usually added which allows the pigment to be liquefied with water.

Watercolor pencils fall under the water-soluble category while colored pencils fall under the wax category.

Many are produced in pencil form, attracting the multitudes already conditioned to the feel and familiarity of using a pencil. You should not be caught categorizing all pencils like colored pencils. There’s definitely a difference.

But what do you need to know about these two options? How do you avoid confusion?


Medium to be used

The material you want to use the coloring pencil on determines, to a large extent which of these you should go for. You see, the medium that you use dictates the manner in which it should be used so as to reach maximum potential.

To get the best out of the medium that you have chosen to use, get familiar with the medium to be used.

When it comes to using the best colored pencils, you must know that they won’t bleed through the paper. This means that they won’t cause blots on the next page. This makes them ideal for working with coloring books that are printed on both sides.

The reverse is the case when using best watercolor pencils. The thin paper will buckle when water is added. As expected. It is this reason that makes most people choose to use watercolor pencils on high-quality card-stock or specialty watercolor paper.

If you’re using a piece of paper, you can prevent buckling. Just tape the paper to a sheet of cardboard, a clipboard, or another flat surface using artist’s tape.

The Differences

Both pencils may have the same function of coloring. But they are different in their make-up.

Sometimes called “traditional” or “true” colored pencils, they usually have either an oil or wax-based binder. A lot of things determine the quality of different pencils, including the pigment used and the ratio of binder to pigment.

Another thing to know about colored pencils is how they can be easily mixed and layered directly onto the coloring book or drawing surface.
On the other hand, it’s not the same as watercolor pencils. Did you use a watercolor pencil? Read the uses of watercolor pencils.

For one, they are not traditional colored pencils. Should you try to use them like you would colored pencils, you will get tired easily and get frustrated.

Add to that the fact that they layer differently from the way colored pencils do. And while colored pencils can be burnished, they cannot be burnished in the same manner. And it’s simply because they have an entirely different kind of binder.

This makes the watercolor pencils a different entity altogether.

Now you know the differences between coloring pencils and watercolor pencils. Now you know which one to use on what kind of drawing surface. Now you know how to identify them when you need them.


You’re now on your way to becoming a pro at coloring – or at least get better at the art. Continue practicing and the sky will just be your starting point.


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