Giving Watercolor Crayons a Try

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Watercolor Crayons

We've tried watercolor pencils before a few times and they've never worked well for us, but I recently ordered some watercolor crayons to try and we are all thoroughly impressed. Daphne, Maia, her friend Marlise, and I all spent much of the afternoon drawing with them yesterday and then painting over the drawings with water to create the watercolor effect.

They really work! And they are easy and fun to use.

Watercolor Crayons

The watercolor crayons are by Faber-Castell (I ordered ours from Stubby Pencil Studio) and I understand that there are versions made by other brands as well. These particular watercolor crayons feel and draw more like oil pastels than traditional crayons which is a plus in my eyes. They glide on smoothly and the colors are vibrant. They are also rather easily breakable as you can see from the photo above. Two of the crayons are broken after one afternoon of drawing. But that doesn't faze us. It just means two people can use the same popular colors at the same time.

Watercolor Crayons

First we drew our pictures with the crayons. Here, Maia is drawing an underwater scene for Marlise.

Watercolor Crayons

Then we painted over our drawings with water. You can see from this picture the smooth transition from drawing to painting. This effect worked best if the watercolor crayon coverage was thoroughly and evenly applied and if the water was painted on thoroughly as well. When the crayon coverage was spottier or the water brushed on quickly, the effect was different (you could see the crayon lines underneath) but still attractive and effective.

Watercolor Crayons

Daphne enjoyed painting water over many of her marks.

Watercolor Crayons

Marlise painted water over her drawing of outer space (complete with a black hole and various planets that she described to us in detail).

Watercolor Crayons

You can see the crayon lines under Marlise's drawing/painting of a princess.

Watercolor Crayons

And here's Maia's experiment with multiple colors of the watercolor crayons scribbled all over the paper then painted over with water.

Watercolor Crayons

I think we have a new favorite art material in the house.

Have you tried watercolor crayons? I'm curious if other brands of watercolor crayons work as well as these. I'd also love to hear if you use watercolor pencils and like them (maybe we just haven't tried the right brands…).

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  1. Shannon says

    I’ve never gotten watercolor pencils to work. I will definitely try the watercolor crayons! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. says

    These look wonderful! I’m also thinking they would make a great DIY paint with water activity. My 2yo doesn’t have a super-long attention span yet, but loves the few paint with water we’ve been able to find (immediate gratification when you hit it with water!). I could make him some sketches and he could “paint” them with water later! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. says

    First, I love Marlise’s princess. Worthy of being a children’s book illustration.
    Second, any time you ask “Do you like this art material?” or “Have you tried…?” I almost always scream yes yes yes! And On this question, YES YES YES, I love watercolor crayons and I have tried them. Aren’t they wonderful? A great change from painting, especially if you need a non-messy watercolor activity. Super for taking to grandma’s house or for when a babysitter comes over and needs a fun thing to do with the kids. Thanks for the reminder, Jean.

  4. says

    And to respond to your questions further: I have tired Crayola watercolor crayons and they work great. Watercolor pencils work great too, but you get more color to smoosh around with the crayons. Pencils give a “finer” line and spread of color. I’ve used many different pencil brands, but find Crayola to be a trustworthy result, though probably not as artistically present as some fancier brands.

  5. says

    I bet your 2yo would have fun drawing with these, too. They are very satisfying to draw with! And when his attention begins to wander, bring out the water and the brush and, voila, it’s a whole new activity!

  6. says

    I introduced watercolor crayons to my students (4-6 year olds)just yesterday! They LOVED them, so I think they will become a standard material to use. I have a set at home that my daughter started using. I’m thinking these would be great to take on a road trip along with some water brushes for easy travel painting. A fun alternative to the “paint with water” books :-D

  7. rachel says

    we’ve enjoyed the pencils around here… not our fav art material, but they have been enjoyed. we’ve had the most enjoyment dipping them in water as we draw… making fuzzy lines. painting w/water over a drawing hasn’t been as much fun. the crayons sound fun, will have to try those!

  8. says

    We have a set of watercolor crayons by Alpino. I bought them from the stubby pencil studio at a discounted price. I think they stopped carrying them, because their sets arrived looking a bit “scuffed” which is why they discounted them. We really like them though. They are chunkier than the faber castell, and we haven’t had any break.
    We have the oil pastels for kids from faber castell and really love them.
    As far as watercolor pencils go, I had a set that I loved from Derwent. It was a tin box, and had maybe 12 pencils in it I think.
    They sell them at Dick Blick in different sizes:
    http://www.dickblick.com/products/derwent-watercolor-pencils/
    They colors are rich and fun. Sophie loved them. I need to buy another set soon!

  9. says

    We’ve been wanting to try the Gel Sticks too. They are on our list to buy! I think they would be a lot of fun. We’ve used Faber Castells Oil Pastels for kids and they are a lot of fun too.

  10. says

    Also, for the derwent watercolor pencils – what works best for us is to let the pencil tips soak in water for a minute. Then we color with them. It lasts a while, and then you dip them back into the water if you need to. It softens the tip and it’s a lot of fun to work with.

  11. says

    I never saw watercolor crayons ?? very cool I may try them, but you did not give a price$$. You know that really does make a
    difference to many of us. I have watercolor pencils but it took `years’ before I could afford them in my artistry collection.
    Frankly, they are not something that you just let small kids `play’ with at the prices art supplies are. If you share prices I would LOVE LOVE to know. My son is a major art freak & I share my art supplies. He gets to use the watercolor pencils *after* he does his many many drawings has his picture perfected. (Same w/paints) The watercolor pencils can be used by either dipping in water then rolling on a sponge to asorb drips & keep pencils all lined up on the sponge as you use them to keep damp.. or draw w/ them & sponge or spray w/water after, you have to develop you own technique. I use a variety. Test them out on a small picture.

  12. ailikate says

    I have a set of watercolor pencils that I love, I believe they are by Prismacolor, but frankly they’re upstairs. We also have a set by Artist’s Loft that are sort of mediocre. We mostly just use them as pencils. So in one very small survey, there seems to be a big variation in quality. The color from the crayons looks so lush! We’ve never tried them, but I’ll have my eye out now.

  13. kate says

    I like the faber castell gel sticks. The colors are a little odd (no purple!) but they have a second set with metallics that includes purple. The effect is similar to the crayons, but I thin it is easier for a younger child to lay down a lot of color with the gel sticks, which gives a more satisfying watercolor wash. We lik them to travel with, since they give a lot of different washable art experiences in one product.
    You can also smear them with your hands in a manner not unlike oul pastels, but they are non-toxic and wash off. Discount School Supply makes a cheaper version with fewer colors. One additional warning. The discount school supply gel sticks are made with glycerin, and so taste slightly sweet. Once my 18 month old discovered this, we had to stop using them for almost a year. I haven’t tasted the faber castel ones.

  14. Chelsea says

    Thanks for the info! I actually have the discount school supply version and didn’t realize that you could use them like that. Guess I should have read the description more closely!

  15. Bee Lian says

    Hi! My 7-year old started WC pencils at 4 but preferred the crayon type for more color. When she turned 6, she wanted more detail, which can be layered over an initial wash that’s dried. What worked for us was trying other brands. The better the quality of pigment that dissolves easily, the better the effect. Good brand for water color pencils are Prismacolor, Derwent, and Faber Castel Albrecht Durer . These are pricier ( in order) compared to Crayola or Faber Castel Artist Grip. We use both watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons (by staedtler). Try using watercolor paper which handles watercolor better than construction paper! We love the combination. Good luck!
    Bee Lian

  16. says

    We have the gel watercolor sticks also. I, I mean, the kids, had a blast with them. I must try the metallic gels, the 5 year old is into gold.

  17. says

    Thanks for the technique ideas. If you follow the link you can see the price of the watercolor crayons. Since I don’t sell them myself and I imagine prices vary, I don’t usually include them, but perhaps I can try to mention prices more often.

  18. says

    We like these here, too! (We use the same brand). It’s the perfect thing for both kids to use at once (I have two boys, almost 7 and almost 3) and the cleanup is minimal! The lighter the pressure with the crayons, the less the lines show when the image is brushed with water. I think when it’s pressed too hard, the crayon just gets really packed into the smaller spaces in the paper and there’s no way to really “wash” it out completely.

  19. says

    I looove watercolor crayons. Actually, I love water-soluble crayons, pencils, and blocks of all kinds! My current favorite crayons are from Staedtler. They have SO MUCH pigment in them — they are just awesome. We used them for this “watercolor flower garden project” at our store.
    http://blog.pufferbelliestoys.com/2012/05/02/tuesday-crafternoon-watercolor-flower-gardens/
    I am also kind of into the Derwent Artbar at the moment. They are pricier but really nice and soft, and they’re triangular so you can get some great variations in your marks.