floral watercolor still life of a rose
The beginnings of a watercolor illustration, ready for layers of colored pencil
Watercolor illustration of a rose in a bud vase underway, ready for adding colored pencil

Watercolor and Colored Pencil Illustration Art Supplies

The paper used on this art is Borden & Riley #120P Bristol Plate held with Frog masking tape to a masonite board to keep the paper flat.

Caveat: this paper is not meant to be used for watercolor. (I’m sorry to be a rebel.) Borden & Riley plate finish Bristol is meant for illustration, pen and ink, and drawing – not wet, juicy media like watercolor. It works, and leaves some speckling (see below), which doesn’t bother me, and it’s tough enough to withstand colored pencil application and buffing. Have you ever used it for illustrations?

Close up of the upper left corner of the floral illustration in this post, to show the speckling effect of watercolor pigments on the Borden & Riley Plate Finish Bristol.

Paper and Paint

You can use the Borden & Riley paper, or I’d recommend trying traditional watercolor paper with your watercolor and colored pencil experiments too. Either cold press, hot press or rough paper will work. Use what you have. And if you’re not sure about watercolor paper, here is a primer all about the stuff.

The watercolors in this painting are a mixture of Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith tube watercolors, squeezed into a Winsor Newton metal travel palette I’ve had for 30+ years. You can get watercolor travel palettes quite affordably now like this one.

A watercolor with Colored Pencil illustration of a bud vase on a sunny sill with a red rose in it
Petite Floral Still Life Watercolor and Colored Pencil illustration – available in my Etsy Shop here

Brushes and Pencils

The brushes used were an inexpensive flat and a round DaVinci Cosmotop brushes like these. The brown handled flat in the photo above is a very old Princeton that is now labeled as their Elite series.

The colored pencils are Prismacolor Premier Verithin lightfast, like these. If you’ve used other brands of colored pencils, please leave details in the comments. Variations to consider from different brands shared among more experienced artists is always helpful for folks just getting into colored pencils. See a few articles on pencils below.

Colored Pencils in a rolled canvas carry case
My canvas roll pencil holder. Starting on the left – 8B woodless pencil for sketching and a green Pentel telescoping drafting eraser. Then a metal drafting ruler, and two technical pencils (this is my favorite, for the rotating lead). Then a small set of watercolor pencils from Derwent, and an assortment of prismacolor colored pencils for sketching on the go. I keep this roll in my tote bag so I can sketch on the couch, at the dining room table, or in the yard.
This video demonstration will help you gather ideas to rescue a failed watercolor with colored pencils

Colored Pencil Around the Web

  • New York Magazine published an article in their Strategist section reviewing brands of colored pencils. Similar to the ModernMet colored pencil review in my recent post – they break down costs and harvest reviews from amazon to set a ranking for each brand. You can read it here.

  • Will, from the youtube channel Behind the Mask, filmed a detailed colored pencil demo showing the effects of blending via burnishing, colorless blenders and solvents, etc. Watch that here.

Colored Pencil on a Watercolor illustration of a rose
Up close – colored pencil on top of watercolor – in solid darker shades under contour lines of lighter shades – to suggest rose petals
Colored Pencil and Watercolor Illustration close up
Layers of light crosshatching of colored pencil to adjust the values on the window sill – in various greens, blues and yellow strokes.

Fix an Old Watercolor

If making something new is hard for you right now, maybe it’s easier to fix something old.

Example: I recently spent a few months locked into my keyboard during the rebuild of my website, so I didn’t touch art supplies. Eight weeks is just enough time away from art for me to feel rusty and uncertain about where to start – even with a thousand ideas bouncing around in my head.

Playing with colored pencil on the watercolor illustration at the top of this post was just the right level of effort to loosen up, and remind myself that this art stuff is fun.

Ophelia woman floating peacefully in water with her eyes closed holding flowers in her hand
This piece started as a very faint, barely there ghost print from a monotype, but colored pencil carried it back from the ledge of the shredder. Read more about that here.

Colored Pencil Experiments

If you’re feeling a little rusty too, pull out an old, less than glorious watercolor, and play with colored pencil on it. If the watercolor didn’t sing to you when you finished it, there’s nothing to lose with some colored pencil experiments.

Try not to aim for a masterpiece when you’re launching straight out of the no-art-for-awhile cannon. Give yourself time to warm up to it slowly with some fun mini sessions using colored pencils on older watercolors. It could be just the thing to start your creative engines.

If you don’t have a failed watercolor, scan one of your beauties, and print it on smooth drawing paper from your computer so you can add colored pencil to the print. Either approach will liven your sensibilities about adding colored pencil to your watercolors.

There’s a round-up of previous watercolor and colored pencil illustration posts from this blog below.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. Deborah Paris is a landscape painter I admire, and she recently posted a brief essay about Why You Should Draw. She references landscape painting, but her observations apply to still life, figurative and all other genes of representational art-making too. Read that here.

Art Quote

Of all the tasks which are set before man in life, the education and management of his character is the most important, and, in order that it should be successfully pursued, it is necessary that he should make a calm and careful survey of his own tendencies, unblinded either by the self-deception which conceals errors and magnifies excellences, or by the indiscriminate pessimism which refuses to recognize his powers for good. He must avoid the fatalism which would persuade him that he has no power over his nature, and he must also clearly recognize that this power is not unlimited

William Edward Hartpole Lecky, The Map of Life
adding colored pencil to a collagraph of a sleeping cat
Adding Colored Pencil to a Collagraph of a Sleeping Cat. See more of that here.

Round-Up of a few Colored Pencil and Watercolor Illustration Posts

  • Hahnemuhle paper supplied samples to test in this post, and I used watercolor, pen and ink and colored pencil on several papers meant for mixed media illustration.
  • This post features a tiny portrait illustration in profile done with watercolors and colored pencil. There are several links to colored pencil resources and demos in the post too.
  • A multi-figure portrait of children reading with a dog nearby started as a graphite drawing, with watercolor and then colored pencil. See the steps in photos here.
  • A little variation on a theme: here’s what happens when you add colored pencil to a dark field monotype print.

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3 thoughts on “Watercolor and Colored Pencil Illustration – Twirling Sangria”

  1. Pingback: Watercolor and Colored Pencils - Mixing Your Media - Belinda Del Pesco

  2. Absolutely stupendously fantabulistic! Thank you for the beauty! Gorgeous pieces! (cute vase 🙂 OK I’m headed to my watercolor pencils, I know they’re here somewhere. You are the inspiratrix most maximalacious! And we love you for it xxxxx

    1. Dearest Ms Grubinger, Ahhh, yes, the vase. That lovely specimen was stowed away in my luggage, unbeknownst to me, by a flower fairy with an extraordinary collection of bud vases. It looks luminous in the sun on my sill, so it often lives there. (Thank You.) I will imagine you dabbling with colored pencils all weekend. Hugs & love, from the lower step XOXO

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