Media & Techniques

Watercolor Pencils: Providing Painting Control in the Art Room

Have your students ever completed a beautiful and intricate drawing pre-painting, only to have the drawing get obliterated by gobs of paint during the painting process? It’s always sad to see the beautiful details of a drawing become lost, and often makes me wish I never allowed students to use the paint in the first place.

One trick I have to keep details sharp in a drawing, while still getting that painterly look and feel in the end product, is using watercolor pencils.


Although there are many advanced watercolor pencil options to purchase, for my younger elementary students, the Crayola brand seemed to do the trick. Watercolor pencils work especially well for younger students who can’t yet control some of those fine motor painting details. You can dip the pencils directly in the water, but I prefer to have students color on the paper first, and then paint over the color with water and a VERY small brush. There are always a lot of Ohhhs and Ahhhs during this demonstration.

I recommend students to complete the smaller details of their drawing with watercolor pencils, and add a wash using regular watercolor over the background or larger areas. This balance of media keeps the artwork looking sharp and provides students with the satisfaction they deserve in the end product.

What are some other tips you have for controlling paint in the art room?

Do you like using watercolor pencils as much as I do?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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