Drawing with water based pencils


I wanted to show my class how you can achieve a variety of colours with the minimum of equipment. The paper is smooth, relatively thin cartridge from a cheap sketchbook. I used a box of 11 Prismacolour water based pencils – the white from the box has disappeared, so for my 12th colour I used an ordinary white coloured pencil. The first stage was to lightly sketch the whole scene in the basic colours: red, yellow and green.


Then I put a wash across each individual colour, being careful not to blend the colours into each other too much.


Once the wash was COMPLETELY dry, I added dark blue to the areas that are in shadow. You’ll notice I also added brown to the shadow on the lemon, to stop the lemon looking too green. If you work into the drawing while it’s still wet, the colours become much brighter and are immediately permanent. You can also damage the paper if you scribble into wet areas.

I then put a wash across the blue pencil, which changed the colour of the green background as well as blending the shadows. I continued working into the shadows, adding blue and red pencil and then blending, but waiting each time for the paper to dry completely.

I used a smaller brush to blend the detail in the shadows on the grapes, and lightened the highlights by dabbing the area with water and then soaking up the colour with a tissue.


I now turned my attention to the background. I decided to use a lighter blue to create a subtle background, sketching it in roughly first, then adding water.

I used the light blue pencil to brighten the green under the fruit, and while that wash was drying I decided to try and bring out the yellow speckles on the apple. I started by painting white dots on the apple with acrylic paint, as yellow pencil would not work over the top of the dark colours.  I also used the acrylic paint to bring out the stalks on the grapes.

I also added some white pencil to the grapes, to give the more of the feeling of the bloom on the surface of the grapes. Then I painted yellow watercolour over the acrylic. This was not altogether successful as the acrylic was not adhering well to the shiny surface of the pencil: it worked better on the grape stalks.


I thought I’d try something radical. I experimented with the red and orange water soluble oil pastels I had bought on a whim, not really knowing what they would be useful for. They adhered well to the pencil surface, giving greater depth and luminosity, but I didn’t put a wash over the top as I felt that would flatten the effect.


Finally I added more red pencil to the apple to increase the contrast between the speckles and the general colour of the fruit, and I added a shine to its surface with judicious touches of the white oil pastel. More texture and depth of colour has been added all over the drawing with coloured pencils, but no more wash has been applied. This still looks quite sketchy, but I prefer the effect to a highly finished drawing – which could simply be achieved by adding more and more layers of coloured pencil.

One thought on “Drawing with water based pencils

  1. Hi Julia, Very impressive Touchpaper Drawing Tips….I hope to get to the Singing Gallery tomorrow night…have been very incapacitated re Rheaumatoid…but all has settled….looking forward to seeing you again.

    Meri…..in beautiful but cold Aldinga Beach….had an 8 day rest on Kangaroo Island with German girl friend…lovely


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