Watercolor: Pencils vs Crayons vs Gel Sticks

Comparing Mediums Dry

One thing that I think stampers deserve credit for is a broad knowledge of a lot of different art mediums. Most of us don’t claim to be experts in most of the mediums we use, but we know at least a little bit about a lot of them! I think this is one of the things that keeps stamping interesting.

This week I am working on the next VSN eArticle, “Watercolor Crayon Techniques For Stampers”. In working on this eArticle, I found some similarities between this art medium and the art medium covered in the current VSN eArticle, “Gelatos, Gel-Sticks & Stamps”. So this morning before getting back to working on the new eArticle, I played around with three similar art mediums: watercolor pencils, watercolor crayons and Gel-Sticks.

The watercolor pencils I used are Derwent Watercolour pencils. The watercolor crayons are Lyra Aquacolor. The Gel-Sticks are from Faber-Castell. I tried to use fairly similar colors for this, although you’ll see that the greens in particular varied quite a bit. Here I was just creating color swatches by rubbing the art medium back and forth on a piece of Canson cold press watercolor paper (80#.)

Comparing Mediums Dry

What struck me the most about the three mediums is that the color stroke goes from fine to coarse. The watercolor pencil is fairly hard and has a small point, creating fine little lines of color that pick up fine texture in the paper. The watercolor crayon is much softer with a wider tip and colors in wider lines. It is easier to cover larger areas quickly and more opaquely with the crayon. Notice that it still picks up the texture of the paper but it is a coarser texture. The Gel-Sticks have flat broad tips and are very soft so they go on very opaque, covering the area fast with the most coarse texture.

Comparing Mediums Wet

Here I’ve run a waterbrush back and forth across the colors. The watercolor smooths out the color more so that you no longer really see the texture of the paper, but the color strokes still vary from fine to medium to fairly wide. I think it is interesting that when you look at these colors dry, the intensity of the color goes from least intense to most intense as you move from pencil to crayon to Gel-Stick. But once you blend them with water, the intensity of the three is more similar and the colored pencil may even be most intense.

Comparing Mediums on Gesso

I did also experiment with these three mediums on paper first prepped with acrylic gesso. Probably unsurprisingly, none of them faired well on this surface when I blended them with water (bottom row of above picture.) When I tried to dry blend with a finger (top row), the colored pencil was about the same on this surface (not moving much at all). The crayon moved in uneven ways that didn’t look very good.* The Gel-Stick was the only one that seemed to like being on the gesso, dry-blending better there than on un-prepped cardstock.

*UPDATE: Craftygoofy49 mentioned in a comment (below) that she likes blending Caran d’Ache’s Neocolor II watercolor crayons on surfaces prepped with gesso. In the photos above, I had tried it with Lyra Aquacolor crayons. So I tried the Neocolor II and agree with Craftygoofy49 that the Neocolor II blend nicely with on this surface. So brand definitely does make a difference!

This was a quick and dirty experiment. I was doing quick coloring and didn’t work to build or layer color or vary my strokes. This is also likely to vary a bit between brands and grades of art mediums. Artist grades tend to be more highly pigmented than scholastic grades of art mediums for example, so depending on what you use, you might get different results. And the surface you are working on can also make a difference.

But still, I thought it was an interesting bit of play time. So often we tend to reach for favorite mediums or for the medium specified in project directions without thinking about possible alternatives. Comparing mediums head to head in this way can be useful in making choices for future projects. So give this kind of experiment a try with the art mediums you have in your stash and see what you can learn about them.

What are your favorite art mediums? How do you decide which coloring medium to use on a given project?

Nancie, VSN

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Nancie Waterman

Nancie Waterman created and self published Vamp Stamp News magazine for nearly twenty years. These days, Nancie creates and posts monthly eArticles on stamping topics on the Vamp Stamp News website (http://www.vampstampnews.com)

4 thoughts on “Watercolor: Pencils vs Crayons vs Gel Sticks”

  1. I love working with watercolor crayons. I use the Neo color II and they seem to work well when the page is gessoed either with white or clear gesso. I know gelato’s are popular but I do not like them on the page, i like rubbing them on the palette and wetting to make the pool of color for painting.

    1. Hi Craftygoofy, The watercolor crayons I was using are Lyra Aquacolor crayons. I’ll give the Neocolor II type a try. (I have some; I just didn’t use them for this experiment.)
      . . . .

      Just tried it. I agree. The Neocolor II does blend well on the surface prepped with acrylic gesso. Thanks, Nancie

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