Pencil Games-Paint Stage-First group

CallaLily-Musgraves Pencil under Watercolor
Watercolor over pencil made with Musgrave pencils in 2H,4H and 7H

Testing a number of pencils by creating drawings of calla lilies with different brands, gave me a good feel for the lightness/darkness factor of each brand as well as, amount of pressure needed with each.  While all were nice drawing pencils, some had different strengths pertaining to the watercolor over pencil botanical painting technique, I prefer and teach in my workshops.  I have narrowed down my choices.  The next step is to play with my favorites until I fall in love with one. Or maybe two.  I could even fall in love with three.  Time will tell!


For each painting, I used tube watercolor paint and kept it simple with only three colors, Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow and Sap Green. Windsor & Newton paint was my choice for all three colors.  This is not to make an argument for or against Winsor & Newton, though it is my choice frequently, but along with other quality paints from other manufacturers. My goal was to keep the variables to a minimum so that the focus remained on the pencils.

The Musgrave pencils in their Unigraph series have a nice smooth flow and are the darkest of the H pencils I tested. The Unigraphs had the characteristic harder H graphite making the pencil marks no problem for the paint.  No discoloration occurred when the paint was applied. No bits of graphite came up to muddy the paint. The Musgraves pencils created a deeper drama in the shadows requiring less paint.  Artist’s taste would be the deciding factor on whether or not the deeper shadows are preferred.

CallaLily-Steadlter pencil under watercolor
9H, 6H, 4H Steadlter pencils under watercolor


Steadtler pencils were the lightest in tone, making more distinct marks that were less visible.  The shadows were softer, less dramatic creating a gentle flow with the variances in light and dark.  These pencils are very nice in an underpainting requiring the artist to apply a few more glazes of color to the areas of depth.  Virtually no pick up of graphite by the paint suggesting these pencils will create a very clean underpainting. My suggestion for artist preference would be the artist who loves the paint layering process with water color.




Prismacolor Turquoise series 9H, 7H,

The Prismacolor Turquoise Series pencils in 5H, 7H, and 9H were the happy medium between the deeper darker shadows created by the Musgrave Unigraph and the Steadlter H series with lighter more distinct marks on the paper. The artist who prefers a mix of the dramatic underpainting and the softer, lighter version will love the Prismacolor Turquoise series.  There was no noticeable pick up of the graphite by the paint.  Colors were clear and bright, not cloudy and muddy. The Turquoise series is a wonderful combination of the soft and the hard in H series pencils.  These are for generalizations of underpainting mark making.  Make the mark but don’t make it obvious.



This group provided dark, light and peanut butter and jelly.  Prismacolor is the peanut butter and jelly.   Its all a matter of preference.  Steadlter provide the light, Musgrave the dark.  Steadlter is all soft Italian bread while  Musgrave is a dark whole wheat bread.  Take your pick. Its all in the taste.  Its all in the drama.

What drama you want is your priority.  Own your choices. For me, I’m inclined toward the darker, more dramatic as the lighter ones require more effort to achieve the drama I crave.  Some days and some flowers may cry out for softness, low drama. Its great to know there are choices.  At least it seems so in my world.

Next up: more choices!




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