Art Journaling Tip: Watercolor Pencils

Hanging out with art pal Lynn T. today, we were talking about making it easy to take along a journal and use it. She reminded me of a handy trick I haven’t used in a long time. It’s a great idea, so I’ll share.

Blending on the left, creating a palette on the right.

You’ve played with watercolor pencils in your journal. Depending on the quality, you may see some pencil streaks after you apply the wash. (See the left side of the page.) I was playing with blending colors. Supposing I want to take a journal with me, but not pack a lot of watercolor pencils or watercolors. On the right side I used my excellent-quality Caran D’Ache (pronounced to rhyme with Baron Wash)  and scrubbed them heavily directly onto the page in small squares.

Work from light to dark, using the squares of color as paint.

Using a travel watercolor brush with a reservoir, I used the squares as you would a half-pan of watercolor. Wet it with the brush, and use the color to paint the vine.

Detail of color blendsIf you work quickly, while the first color is still wet, you can blend in a second color with great results. In the photo above, I’ve marked the leaves with the squares I used to blend the colors.

You can use the back pages of your journal to create a palette. You can use primaries, or as many as a page or two will hold. Then you pack your journal and your traveling water brush, and you are ready to go!

–Quinn McDonald is an art journaler and color lover who always wondered what to do with the last few pages of a journal. She now makes them into instant palettes.

16 thoughts on “Art Journaling Tip: Watercolor Pencils

  1. Fabulous idea Quinn. Thank you for sharing. I think I will make up several of these on some postcard size watercolor paper and just keep them in my journal. I can pull them out and use them like a portable palette. I happen to love using the Moleskine watercolor journals and these will fit right into that awesome little pocket in the back of the book. Oh….I think I’ll go do that RIGHT NOW!!! EeeeeHaaaaaa!!

  2. As one who has a long-running tendency toward ‘overpacking’ I LOVE this idea 🙂 Thanks so much for showing the ‘how to’ (and the great photos of blending colors)! I will soon have a ‘journal to go’ at the ready *w00t!*

  3. I love this idea and have to thank Kevin at Arizona Art Supply for sharing it with me. I am now able to grab my sketchbook, a couple of pens and a water brush and away I go!
    Q, it is always so much fun to get together!! I can’t wait to do it again!

  4. I loved this post. I have been looking for one of those water pens. I saw one at the Long Beach Quilt show last weekend and thought I might find it less expensive and I just did. thanks! when are you teaching another class????

    • My next class is online and stars on August 14 on the Yahoo Group Artists of the Round Table. Anyone can join, the class is free, all you need to do is buy the book. I’ll be teaching at The Craft Retreat as soon as I can make the samples for the two classes.

  5. I use the water brush straight onto the watercolour pencil/crayon leads, as if they are solid paints, and even the less expensive brands give off brighter colours this way. Couple it with a few watersoluble graphites for shading and your palette is almost limitless! Its less messy and takes up less room than a regular paint palette.

    • Yes, using the pencils as paints is another great way to get rich color. What I liked about the “scribble the square” method is that you don’t need to take the pencils with you if you are on a sketch crawl.

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