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The Best Watercolor Pencils

Last updated on May 9, 2023

We looked at the top 17 Watercolor Pencils and dug through the reviews from 24 of the most popular review sites including and more. The result is a ranking of the best Watercolor Pencils.

Best Watercolor Pencils

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Take your art to the next level with the best in art supplies. There is no better feeling than stocking your art bin with new, fresh supplies and starting on a new work of art. There are countless types of colored pencils to choose from but if you are looking for a watercolor effect, you’ll want the best watercolor pencils you can find to bring your project alive. There are multiple sets to choose from, but how do you know if you’re getting the best quality? There are a few factors to consider.

Watercolor pencils can give a similar finished product as watercolor paint. Although they look exactly the same, watercolor pencils are made differently than regular colored pencils. What makes watercolor pencils different from regular colored pencils is their ability to intensify color when they come in contact with water. This gives artists the same effect as watercolor paint. To better understand this, it’s essential to learn how watercolor pencils are made.

First, traditional colored pencils are most likely the tool artists start with when learning coloring techniques. What matters the most in the pencil is the medium and binder. The binder is an ingredient that holds the pigment together until it is transferred to the surface you are coloring. The binder is what will determine the type of paper you use with the pencils. So for traditional colored pencils, an oil binder or a wax-based binder is used. The wax base is most likely what you’re buying since oil is a bit rarer. Because of this, traditional colored pencils can be used on most paper types.

So, what makes one package of traditional colored pencils better than another? The biggest indicator of the quality of a colored pencil is the ratio of the binder to the pigment. If the binder is too overwhelming for the pigments, the results will be a waxy finish that could potentially flake off the paper. When the binder is too small in comparison to the pigment, the colors will be extremely light when coloring. In addition, the quality of pigment used is a contributing factor to the overall quality of the colored pencil set.

One advantage of traditional colored pencils versus the other types is the ability to burnish. Burnishing is when an artist repeatedly colors over the same area, creating a build-up of the color. This makes the wax or oil binder build up to the point where the picture looks like it is painted. In addition, this technique allows artists to experiment with different solvents to achieve different results. Turpenoid, alcohol or a blender pencil can be used to get a painted appearance that you want. Just remember that traditional colored pencils are not water-soluble with their wax or oil binders.

Now that we know how a colored pencil is made and what influences their quality, we can look more in-depth at watercolor pencils. With a water-soluble binder mixed in the pigment, watercolor pencils produce a much different effect than traditional colored pencils. There are several ways to use watercolor pencils. You can use a brush to gently brush over the applied colors, you can dampen your paper and then add color, or you can dip the pencil in water before coloring. The pigment becomes brighter as it comes in contact with the water and creates an incredible blend of colors with one sweep of the pencil. Because of the use of water, you’ll want to make sure you use watercolor pencils on the right paper. The watercolor paper is usually a bit rough in texture and thicker to help absorb some of the water while not tearing. This is how you can get a watercolor paint result from watercolor pencils.

There are a few benefits to using watercolor pencils. The first benefit is control. As arts expert Amy Markham, an artist and the creator of Starling, a podcast geared towards artists and their growth, says: “Watercolor pencils give you the control of drawing with the ability to diffuse the linework you create with water and create the effects of watercolor painting.”

In comparison to watercolor painting with a brush, most artists find better control with a pencil. The second is detail. Markham supports this by saying, “They are great for adding small details that are hard to create with a paintbrush. So, you can draw in thin lines and complex details over your watercolor paintings.”

With a nice sharpened watercolor pencil, you can get extremely fine details that would be difficult with a paintbrush. The third benefit is convenience. When you don’t have a lot of space, time or money, it is so much more convenient to pull out a set of watercolor pencils rather than set up with paints and brushes and easels. All you need for the watercolor pencils are water, a brush (if you so choose) and the paper. Even Markham concurs that they are quite “portable.”

Now that you know how they are made and what makes them so useful, you can confidently shop for a great set of watercolor pencils. There are just a few sets that come highly recommended to get you started on your watercolor journey.

Check out the huge variety of colors in the Castle Art Supplies 72 Watercolor Pencils Set. This set has all the colors for blending and layering.

Look for a gorgeous collection of highly pigmented watercolor pencils. In addition, you want them to be specially bonded to resist breaking. This set will give you a complete range of colors to create vibrant pictures for beautiful art.

Beginners would do well with a simple set of just 24 pencils. With basic but essential colors, you’ll find all that you need for adult coloring books, beginner watercolor art and detailed drawings.

If you’re looking for a complete kit, go with a model that offers two fine-tip paintbrushes, a sharpener and 72 pencils that are all organized in a durable, metal case for easy transport.

Our Picks For The Top Watercolor Pencils

View All Recommendations
Product Overview
Our Take
 Top Pick

Castle Art Supplies Foldout Watercolor Pencils Tin Box Set, 72-Count

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Castle Art Supplies

Foldout Watercolor Pencils Tin Box Set, 72-Count

Rated the Best Overall, these watercolor pencils have it all. An excellent quality in the lead keeps artists pleased with their performance across the board. The only negative is that the colors are quite bold and don’t offer muted colors for landscapes and portraits. During our testing, we loved all the color options and the easy mixing with wat...

Overall Take

Unbeatable QualityThis watercolor pencil set offers artists a set that will last forever.

" They get a lot of love for being great colored pencils."
"The colors are bold. It makes landscapes and portraits less realistic. It’s hard to achieve more pale/nude shades"
 Runner Up

Zenacolor Brush & Pre-Sharpened Watercolor Pencils, 72-Count


Brush & Pre-Sharpened Watercolor Pencils, 72-Count

With this watercolor pencils set, you'll be able to draw, color, shade, blend and layer. There are 72 pencils total - all neatly stored inside a decorative metal tin. Since each of the colors are unique and vibrant, there's no limit to what you can create.

Overall Take

Most VersatileAs an added bonus, this watercolor pencils set comes with a brush to aid in creating a variety of special effects.

" Come with a sturdy case for secure storage. Include back brush for significant effects and make color. Easy to blend with smooth lead. Reasonable price."
 We Also Like

ARTEZA Break-Resistant Artist Watercolor Pencils, 72-Count


Break-Resistant Artist Watercolor Pencils, 72-Count

There's no limit to what you can make with these watercolor pencils, as each set includes a total of 72 unique colors. The pencils have an ergonomic design to make them more comfortable to hold. Artists will appreciate the break-resistant tips, as well as the soft inner wax, which is equally as shatterproof.

Overall Take

Attractive PackagingThe amazing artwork on this watercolor pencils set packaging makes it an excellent choice for gift giving.

 Strong Contender

Coolbank Water-Soluble Watercolor Pencils Tin Box Set, 160-Count


Water-Soluble Watercolor Pencils Tin Box Set, 160-Count

There isn't anything you can't create with this watercolor pencils set. You'll get 160 durable basswood pencils, each with its own shade. The lead is thick and oil-based, which works well for layering, shading and blending. The tips are also pre-sharpened, so you can begin using them right away.

Overall Take

Large QuantityAll of these watercolor pencils are labeled and numbered for easy identification.

Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, DWYM analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the watercolor pencils available to purchase.

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

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Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Drawing in Colors, Review Meta, Wow Pencils, The Smart Consumer, Createlet.


User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including

Our experts reviewed the top 17 Watercolor Pencils and also dug through the reviews from 24 of the most popular review sites including and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Watercolor Pencils.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

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Our Expert Consultant

Amy Markham  
Artist and art educator

Artist and educator Amy Markham is the creator of Starling, a podcast dedicated to helping artists develop depth in their creative practice. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Amy has been an art educator since 2001. Today, she teaches middle school art at a school outside of Memphis, Tennessee. Her personal artwork explores myth-making and symbolic understandings. Through her brand, Starling Creative Living, she leads others to explore art production as a method for enriching their life experience.

What to Look For

  • Determine the best set for you depending on your skill level. Start with a smaller kit if you are just beginning out and a larger set if you’ve got some experience.
  • You can use quite a few things to add water to your watercolor pencil art including spray bottles, cotton swabs, spray bottles and toothbrushes even.
  • A good sharpener will make a world of difference, especially with the wooden watercolor pencils.

Watercolor Pencil Rankings

7. Magicfly Non-Toxic Watercolor Pencil Set, 72-Count

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 5

8. Arteza Woodless Watercolor Pencil Set, 24-Count

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 4

9. OOKU Portable Watercolor Pencils Artist Set, 48-Count

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 4

12. Ohuhu Easy Clean Watercolor Brush Pencils, 6-Count

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 4

14. Crayola Pre-Sharpened Watercolor Pencils, 24-Count

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 1

17. Derwent Professional Watercolor Pencils, 24-Count

Overall Score: 8.9
Reviews Included: 4

More to Explore

Although there is evidence that the ancient Greeks had wax-based crayons, the first colored pencil did not enter the art scene until the 1800s. The German company, Staedtler, in 1834 created the colored, oil, pastel pencil. They were not readily used by artists until the 1900s by artists. In 1924 by Faber-Castell and Caran d’Ache placed colored pencils on the market for art purposes. They were followed by quite a few other names in the industry such as Progresso, Blick Studio, Derwent, Rembrandt and Lyra. Since then, colored pencils have been progressing with different medias and binders. That is where watercolor pencils come into the picture. As manufacturers discovered they could use different binders mixed with the pigments, watercolor pencils were born not long after the traditional colored pencils.