What exactly does that little paintbrush symbol mean on the side of your Technalo? Well... If your pencil is sporting a little brush, that usually means the core has an extra special property - it's water-soluble!
Water-soluble pencils, first developed by Caran d'Ache in 1931, contain a propriety blend of materials that, well, dissolve in water when you get them wet. They're also known as watercolor pencils, and are usually seen in colored varieties, but graphite types are easy to find as well.
So what do you do with them? The short answer is easy - treat them like a watercolor! Now, I am not an artist by any means, but I have done my fair share of dabbling in the watercolor arts, and was privileged to sit through a thorough water-solubles demo at the Caran d'Ache factory in Geneva last year. I'll share what I know, and hope it inspires you to get up and play!
- Paintbrushes (if you want to get specific, watercolor brushes are best)
- Heavy paper (I've used Viking watercolor paper here, but any paper that won't tear or ripple too much when wet is good)
- Brush pens (Caran d'Ache makes a great one)
- Art palette or plastic cutting board
- Water solubles!
The easiest way to get started is just to color a bit with your watercolor pencil, then take a wet paint brush or brush pen and smear the coloring around. This will give you an idea of how saturated the color is when wet.
You can actually use your water-solubles as a regular old watercolor. There's a couple easy ways to do this:
1) Using a piece of paper, color a rich, thick blot with your pencil, then apply water and dip your brush into it to fill up your brush.
2) Color a swatch on a plastic artist palette or a cutting board with a slight texture to it, and apply water to create the paint. This way, if your paint swatch dries out mid-doodle, you can apply water to it again to re-saturate (whereas on a sheet of paper, if it dries out you're out of luck!).
3) Actually run a wet brush over the tip of a water-soluble pencil, as if you're coloring the tip of your brush. This will give you a small amount of really saturated color.
My favorite way to work with water-solubles is to apply them dry, then take a wet paintbrush to blend colors or create shading.
I find that less is more when you're shading, particularly with the Soft Carbon pencil. You don't want to fill in too much dry color, or the color will be over-saturated once you apply water and you won't get much color-variation.
With colored pencils like the Prismalos used below (or Supra/Swisscolors!), I have the most fun by blending colors. I tend to keep my brush just damp - if it's too wet, the colors run too much. Here's an illustration dry:
And here it is after applying a little water:
One more super fun (but ULTRA MESSY) tutorial. Using a sheet of paper and wet paintbrush, paint a doodle with JUST water. Now, take your sandpaper or nail file, and files a watercolor pencil right over your doodle so the little flakes of color land on the wet brush strokes.
Pick it up, tap off the excess pencil bits, and voila! A weird, marble-y sort of drawing. Practical application? I'm not sure. But it's fun!!
What's your favorite way to work with water-solubles?