I must say that I am a big fan of water-soluble pencils, and I’ve already confessed my love of watercolor pencil here on the blog. So, it’s no wonder that I include water-soluble graphite as part of my artist’s tool bag. These pencils work very much like watercolor pencil, but the just do it with graphite instead of colored pigment. You can use them in a number of ways like watercolor pencils, but I mostly draw and shade with them first, and then brush water over the marks. The pencils give me a lot of control, but with a little water, I get a nice painterly effect.
I’ve used many different brands of water-soluble pencils throughout the years, but I am currently using Faber-Castell’s Graphite Aquarelle Pencils. Faber-Castell is a maker of high quality pencils, colored pencils, pens, and markers, and the Graphite Aquarelles are no exception to this quality. They are a chunky pencil with a barrel that’s slightly larger than your average pencil allowing for a thicker graphite core. They blend beautifully with water, and come in five hardness grades — HB, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B, allowing for a full range of value. Conveniently, you can get all five in a set, but if you were to get just one pencil, I’d recommend one of the darker pencils, either the 6B or 8B, since you can control the value by how hard you press.
Over the years, I’ve used water-soluble graphite in my journal and in stand alone mixed media work and graphite drawings, and I’ve loved the effect in all instances. It’s easy to build up layers of graphite using all of the hardness grades, and this is one of my favorite ways to use them. I start with the lightest pencil — the HB, and establish a composition on mixed media paper painting over it with clean water. After it dries, I build up another layer with a darker pencil, and I continue with all the pencils to achieve dark, rich values. But the effect can be a little bit messy since painting over the graphite is never extremely precise, so I like to use regular graphite on top to make edges crisp and to even out values. The combination of water-soluble and regular graphite results in a rich piece. Of course, the Graphite Aquarelles work excellently in mixed media pieces as layers in with materials like pen, marker, and collage, and having the ability to spread and blend the graphite can lead to interesting effects. You can also combine the pencils with other materials, and the darker pencils are great to use with acrylic paint or medium as they will mix and blend with the wet acrylic.
Students experimenting with water-soluble graphite and white acrylic paint.
Overall, the Faber-Castell Aquarelle pencils are a versatile medium to use on it’s own or with other materials, and the selection of five hardness grades gives an advantage to Faber-Castell over some other brands that offer just one grade. The only downside that I can see is that by themselves, the pencils can be rather messy when brushing over them with water, but using them with regular graphite or other materials easily makes up for it. I never go anywhere without at least one tucked in my bag.
Please remember that I do not receive payment or any other benefits from the makers and manufactures of the materials that I share on Materials Mondays. These are materials that I personally use and enjoy!