This is one of my paintings for example- I drew a light but detailed pencil sketch before putting on colors.
I am a self taught artist, so I am unaware of the ‘rules” if there are any.
But anyway you should be skilled in sketching to paint loose and free style without pencil.
Drawing with Watercolor Pencils Watercolor pencils can be applied just like colored pencils, but they will behave differently on the surface. This is, as mentioned before, due to the binder.
In the end it depends on you personal style and preference. Like I mentioned in my painting “Never Stop Exploring”.
The following video features excerpts from 2 one hour recorded live lessons on drawing/painting with watercolor pencils. (Members have access to the entire unedited lessons which can be accessed here.)
Watercolor pencils should be applied to watercolor paper or a heavy board such as illustration board. As water is applied, thinner papers will buckle or even tear.
“Lifting” or Erasing Watercolor Pencils Areas can be erased or “lifted” using traditional watercolor techniques. Water can be applied to the area that is desired to be removed and a cotton swab or brush can be used to pull color up. Although it may be difficult to remove the color completely, areas can made lighter using this technique.
Watercolor papers typically have a heavier texture or “tooth”. While some artists will prefer the texture, others may find that smoother surfaces are better suited for their needs.
Watercolor pencils are a medium that give the artist the best of both worlds of painting and drawing. They are similar to colored pencils but behave differently when water is added. This is because colored pencil pigment is held by a waxy or oil-based binder, while watercolor pencils have a water-soluble binder.
Here’s one that’s a bit closer to half and half. (A little bit of drawing, but not too much):
There are more than one approach to watercolor technique. In optical realism, in which precise representation of the subject is a key factor, it’s quite difficult to paint without a sketch, watercolor or not.
Lots of good answers here, what I can add are some examples. I say, you can do it either way – depends what you like! To me, it’s about degrees of detail. How sharp do you want it, versus how fun and wild 🙂
This is another one of mine where I directly started with colors.
You can check out other techniques I use here- Motoholic Works™ (@motoholicworks) • Instagram photos and videos
There are some sources and starting tutorials you might start exercising even if you never hold a brush.
When water is applied to areas where watercolor pencils have been used, a watercolor effect is achieved. When this happens, the medium behaves in a similar manner as that of watercolor.
But for paintings of objects of highly detailed nature ( vehicles/ complex objects/ portraits..) you can use a detailed but light pencil sketch. I said light because in most cases you might not want pencil marks to show through.
My compositions are usually highly complex drawings that have been worked out through a process of drawing and redrawing on tracing paper. Once the final drawing is established on a single sheet of tracing paper, I use a light table to transfer the drawing using a .03 HB mechanical pencil. I put no pressure on the pencil. The result is a very light, reasonably thin line that leaves no pressure impression on the paper. Watercolor paper seems to grab graphite so you need to be very careful.
Watercolor paper is pretty tough stuff. Since I really hate starting out with a pristine white surface, I use all sorts of methods to roughen and dirty my paper up and change the surface before I paint – I buy my watercolor paper in rolls, so sometimes when I’m doing large paintings, I like to roll it out in the dirt in my backyard, use a garden hose to wet it thoroughly then staple my sheets to the edges of my picnic table, and let them dry to stretch tight. Sometimes I’ll use sandpaper, sticks, needles, or other items to scar or scrape the surface – so some sections will soak up more color and furnish a deeper dimensional level to a painting. Folding the paper can add interesting effects to your image too. Sometimes I’ll soak my paper in a bathtub full of warm water to soften it up and make it more receptive to colors. This works really well when I want to stain or tone the paper for making chiaroscuro images (and yes, when doing chiaroscuro, I do use white paint!)
Seems like you already SEE a DIFFERENCE! For sure paintings without sketch is more alive, fresh, atmospheric:
While watercolor pencils provide some advantages, there are some traditional watercolor techniques that may be difficult to duplicate.
I always use mechanical graphite pencil (B) for sketching my watercolor painting, as this one. I draw very lightly so lines are made very thinly and they’d eventually be covered by the pigments. The signature in this painting is also done by the same pencil. I personally don’t have any problem with thin sketch on my watercolor paintings. In fact I found them quite artistic, as long as they’re thin.
Activating Watercolor Pencils with Water Watercolor pencils differ from colored pencils further with the ability to be activated with applications of water. It is advised to slowly build up applications and activate them in layers so that the value and intensity of the color can be fully controlled.
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For paintings of specific scenarios (urban landscape/ buildings/simple objects..) you might have a very loose directional sketch to get the proportions right.
for me sometimes I like pencil marks to show through the water color for dramatic sketch effect.
Use a medium-hard (4H, 5H) pencil to sketch very lightly on your paper. Keep the lines as faint as possible so that they are easily concealed by the watercolour paint. Use a kneadable eraser to remove unwanted pencil lines before applying your paint.
If necessary, you can add more pencil lines over top of the paint layers once they are dry.Go to YouTube and search for demonstrations of watercolour painting. There are many videos out there; some are very good.
There’s more to explore on using watercolor pencils. Here’s an additional video that features excepts of a Live Lesson (1 Hour) of a demonstration on watercolor pencils… (There’s more information on this page as well.)
When I make a watercolor, I’ll do my initial drawing with either watercolor or india ink, depending on the image. In either case, I dilute my media with lots of water so that it’s nearly invisible – depending on which paper I’m using, I’ll use either a brush or a dip pen to make the initial drawing. Sometimes I use wooden coffee stir sticks, or even popsicle sticks to do that initial sketch. Using the almost colorless mix for the sketch means I can build up a few layers in the drawing without having to do any additional mixing. Once during a demonstration I had a student comment “But you are just painting nothing!” She thought my wash was just water.
Traditional watercolor techniques can be used even when watercolor pencils are used.
If you try to maintain a high degree of realism in your watercolor painting, then a thin sketch would certainly help. Apart from that, sketch may or may not be necessary. If you do a more expressive watercolor painting where precise representation is less important than the brushworks, especially when done on a large piece of paper, then a thick-fast-expressive graphite sketch could look great. Or you can do it with no sketch at all.
Because the medium is encased inside of a pencil that can be sharpened, the artist can create detailed and delicate marks that may be difficult to achieve with a brush.
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Watercolor pencils are a unique medium for creating art. They combine drawing with painting in a manner that no other medium can replicate.
Original watercolor muscari painting by Olga Peregood (2018) without sketching before
Typically, water is applied with a brush, but sponges and other tools can be used as well. Nylon brushes work well for this, but natural hair brushes work too. Bristle brushes are typically used for heavier bodied media like oils or acrylics, so it may be best not to use them with watercolor.
As an illustrator, my specialty was watercolor. My methods probably differ from more fine arts artists. The biggest problems with using pencil, as mentioned by at least one of the other answerers, ae scarring the paper with pressured lines and pencil dust graying your pigment. Incidentally, I avoid touching the watercolor paper unless you have freshly washed your hands because a residue of oily fingerprints resists the watercolor. Watercolor paper will grab it even if you think your hands are clean. And keep your nails trimmed to prevent accidentally scratching the paper.
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Layering Applications of Watercolor Pencils As layers dry, additional applications of watercolor pencil can be drawn over layers underneath. This allows the artist to control the color and adjust the painting gradually.
Watercolor pencils are inexpensive and portable giving them an advantage over traditional watercolors. They can be picked up at any art store. Because they can be sharpened to a fine point, it is easy to apply details that may be hard to get with traditional watercolor paints. Watercolor pencils can be used alongside traditional watercolor pencils.
So start from sketching before and don’t stay here for long if your heart call for freedom. Don’t stay in a cages of lines if you want to paint with freedom, atmosphere and style.
Keep in mind that if you use india ink, it will be permanent and successive layers won’t bother it. If you use watercolor, it will blend slightly with whatever you paint over it – if your wash is weak enough, this won’t have any serious effect on the colors you paint next – it may even just disappear entirely as you . How detailed the initial sketch is depends on the subject and style I’m painting in. There aren’t any hard and fast rules. Sometimes its fun to start a painting with a few broad brush strokes, just to see where the paper and paint take you!
I use 140 lb good quality paper because I am using a light table and to have an illustration that can bend around a scanning cylinder. I’ve noted that fine artists tend to prefer 300 lb, but that is too thick for a light table and too rigid for cylinder.
The following video art lesson demonstrates an overview on how to use watercolor pencils…
The manner in which watercolor pencils are used is ultimately up to the artist. But, as with any medium, there are some things that may be helpful to keep in mind. Here are a few suggestions for drawing with watercolor pencils…
Original watercolor baby deer painting by Olga Peregood (2018) without sketching before
Don’t worry too much about the initial sketch showing through your watercolor image, whatever method you choose to use. A good painting, in addition to its illusionist qualities, is also a document of the processes you used to make it –
Areas do not have to be completely dry. Pencils can be applied while areas are still wet producing interesting effects.
A solution for these artists would be illustration board. Illustration board will provide the rigid support that is required while providing a smoother surface for more precise detailing.
In my opinion, it depends on the subject of your art. If you are painting a more natural scenery (clouds/ nature/ mountains..) you need not sketch with pencil first.