Watercolour pencils or soft pastels?

Sure I played with watercolours in kindergarten, who didn’t? But from that, to actually knowing how to use them properly and create art, it’s a long way. I decided to take the first step this Friday, and see how watercolours pencils feel like – it was a first for me! And because Sunday brought sun and autumn leaves with it, I also dared to test soft pastels as well, and create an autumn forest. Good weekend, indeed.

Watercolour pencils are great! I learned that you can use them in 2 different ways: either you draw on dry or wet sheet and then, if wanted, dissolve them with water, or you can take the colour with the wet brush directly from the pencils tip, and spread it on the paper as you would do with normal watercolours. I used a mix of both techniques, to get different effects. You have pretty much control in manipulating this medium, and the details can be so delicate. I decided I would paint a couple of mushrooms, and then will try to paint my first watercolour fashion illustration. Here you have the final results:


In my desperate attempt to put anything down on the white paper at the beginning, I searched for inspiration, and found this video that helped me and got the creative process started. Youtube offers many other good examples as well, you just need time to browse them all 🙂

Soft pastels, on the other hand, are more trickyer. Why? Because it’s such an unusual medium, that offers little control on details, and it’s so “movable” that if you are not careful, you can smear them all over the canvas. It’s like working with coloured dust, if you like. It’s all love the place, but if you dare to play with it, and can set your mind to forget about the details and focus on the big picture, it’s amazing what the result can be.

An important thing I have learned today about soft pastels, is that you have to start with the background, the colours and textures that are “underneath”, and work your way out to the “surface” of the drawing, and the last details. I used a coloured paper, namely the Murano Pastel Paper, warm colours, from Daler-Rowney. It’s easier to start already on coloured paper, because you will find out that pastels can’t perfectly cover the surface of the sheet, and you don’t want any white spots on the final piece. Once you are done, make sure you fix the pastels with a fixing spray, otherwise you risk to damage it just by touching it.

Here you have some pictures on the evolution I made, as well as the final piece.

pastel evolution

pastel woods

Both watercolours and pastels can be quite frightening at the beginning, especially for someone with no “arts background”, as me. Beginners have the tendency to focus a lot on details, on making something perfect and as close to reality. This is impossible to achieve from the first day. As any other craft, drawing and painting requires hours of exercise that would help you get accustomed to the techniques and possible mediums. What helped me is to think that this is just an experiment, and I can redo the experiment as many times I would like. There are no mistakes. There is just the plain, deliberate process of testing, learning, adapting. And I loved it all the way!

I would love to hear your experience with these mediums, as well as whatever tips you could give to beginners as myself.

Until next time, dare to play with your ideas!

Yours truly,



3 thoughts on “Watercolour pencils or soft pastels?

  1. jmnowak says:

    I like all the images in this post, especially the mushrooms and the second ‘evolution’ pic, which has a lovely soft abstractness to it. I’m used to using oil pastels, which are very like crayons, and they are very hard to control!


    • anamariadorgo says:

      It’s interesting to see how different medium feels like, especially when you try it out for the first time and you don’t know how it will behave. Looking forward to my first encounter with oil pastels, any tips are welcome. Thanks for the supportive comment 🙂


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