Watercolor pencils are a fun tool that can be used in a variety of ways. One fun thing to do with them is to brush over them with water, which creates a ghost image that you can rework with various media, from pastels to watercolor. This is a great technique to try if you get easily lost in the details and would like to find a way to loosen up your style a bit.
Follow along with this step-by-step demonstration of this mixed media painting technique. Then, try it for yourself!
Draw a rough outline of your drawing with pencil on watercolor paper. (I used cold press 140 lb.)
Color the drawing with watercolor pencils.
I layered several colors to get smooth transitions and interesting colors, but I’m not trying to be very precise or spend too much time on this stage, as I will spray the drawing with water in the later stages and most of the details will be lost.
This is what the painting looks like when I am done coloring it with the watercolor pencils. The watercolor pencil pigments accumulate on the peaks of the cold press paper for now, but this will change once I spray the drawing with water. The colors are also very light, but they will darken when sprayed with water.
Spray the paper with water. Spray enough water to get the watercolor pencil pigments to bleed, but not too much to cause the colors to mix completely on the paper.
This is the fun part, as you are letting go of control and leaving some part to chance! Let the colors bleed and leave the paper to dry for about an hour, trying to not move it too much.
Once everything has dried, you’ll see a ghost image of your painting. Now is the time to add more definition. Have some fun and make it your own!
Start by adding more colors. I used pastels — you could also use watercolor, colored pencils, ink, or whatever medium you choose.
Here, I am blending the pastel on the paper, using a stiff brush, so I can get a smoother texture. As I am adding pastels, I will spray fixative when the painting is done to fix the pastel pigments.
I am also adding a bit more definition by outlining some of the contours with the watercolor pencils. At this stage, you can use whichever medium you would like to as long as it is a bit translucent so you can see some of the textures that were achieved by spraying the watercolor pencils with water. This is where you will start adding more details if desired.
Here, I decide to unify a bit more of the background by painting a light green watercolor wash over it.
To paint a light green wash, I did mix a bit of Sap green and Lemon yellow watercolor paint with water.
I am covered the background with this light green wash. The underlying textures will still be visible under the semi-transparent wash. You can still see a bit the watercolor pencil strokes in some places, which is a nice effect.
Here is my finished painting. My last step is to spray it with fixative because I used some pastels. If you used only watercolor and watercolor pencils, you will not need to fix the painting at the end.