“ Manufacturer: WHS Smith / Type: Drawing „
One of my hobbies is painting and drawing. As a general rule of thumb I go to art shops or places like Hobbycraft to stock up on the items I need, but occasionally I try out supplies from other places including high street shops. I picked up a pack of 24 WHSmith watercolour pencils some time ago for £9.99. According to their website (27/10/13), they are still at that price today.
A good range of colours and shades (including black and white) pencils are included in this set. The pencils are neatly presented upon a bevelled plastic tray within an attractive, art-inspired, blue tin. Tin size is 18cm x 19.5cm x 1.1cm. The sticky price label is easily peeled off if you wish to give these as a gift. Inside the lid are instructions on how to use this product.
The instructions advise that you apply the dry colour pencil to the paper and then disperse the colour with a wet paint brush. You can also take colour directly from the pencil with a wet brush should you wish but make sure the nib of the pencil is dry before you reuse it on the paper.
It advises not to dip the nib of the pencil directly into water as the nib is more fragile than an ordinary graphite pencil.
For more defined images it advises to wet the paper itself and then use the pencil.
A metal sharpener is recommended for use with these pencils due to the fragility of the soft pencil strip. Plastic sharpeners tend to damage the soft nibs.
Experience of the product:
I wasn't expecting wonders from these pencils. They are approximately half the price of the pencils I usually buy. But for the price I think they're not bad at all. I find I end up using more water to blend the colour than with my more expensive ones - but saying that, these are quite workable. For the best results you must use proper watercolour paper. Ordinary paper - even thicker paper will usually wrinkle up when wet. When using the correct paper, (or watercolour board) I find that the colours dry quickly and you are not held up long before you are able to apply the next tone.
I have treated these pencils as per the instructions on the tin and they are still going strong after almost a year of use (despite the fact that my black pencil has mysteriously disappeared). Some of them are getting quite short now, but I have never had a problem with the nibs breaking off. They are not as easy to blend as the top quality ones; the colour strips in these pencils seem very slightly firmer than those in my more expensive ones - but I feel they are ideal watercolour pencils to use if you are just taking up the hobby. I was certainly impressed by the quality for the price paid. Would recommend.
I've been drawing and painting for over forty years now and started to make a collection of pencils along with other art supplies for about the same length of time. As one type went out of fashion or wore away to nubs, I have tried almost all the colored pencils on the market and came to the conclusion that you don't have to spend a fortune to get some good kits. I was hoping to review the W.H.Smith field kit pencil collection, but since it's not currently in the store I'm guessing that it's gone out of fashion. The kit is very handy and does retail under other makes in different stores, so if you find one then snap it up.
Basically it's a cloth case with a section for 36 pencils, a space for a sketch pad (A4 or A5), an elastic type folder containing a water bottle and another for a pencil sharpener. There's ample space for brushes as well. The whole kit cost me £9.99 two years ago and that included the watercolor pencils made by W.H.Smith. I find it invaluable to take with me on visits to family and days out as it fits easily into a brief case or shoulder bag. As I've used up the pencils I've added others, which can be bought in Smith's in a tin containing 12 to 36 pencils in total.
You could make something similar for yourself with a standard make-up wrap or buy a wooden case or similar cloth folder elsewhere. The pencils are always available in Smith's and you can use them either wet or dry, the choice is up to you. The pencils are watercolor based and are ideal for a student or a dabbler like myself. The colors vary with the size of the tin, but I generally find that twenty-four are more than enough for me. You can buy a more expensive make though I'd only advise this if you intend to use them for a finished project. The idea behind these is to use them on the go so you can capture moments of beauty as they appear.
Most artists carry sketch books and pencils with them to sketch something unusual, a pretty cottage, a memorable sky, trees in all shapes and sizes, people on the go, the possibilities are endless. I've often stopped walking to do a rapid sketch of a break of light in a dull sky or a shadow over a mountaintop. I've even sketched a clump of primroses. Of course you can make notes in pencil if you only have ordinary pencils, but the watercolor are much better because you can get the shape of the object using the pencil as normal but then blend in a little water to the color and you have a very quick impression that you can add to when you get home.
Another technique is to use them at home on various colored backgrounds. I like using beige or grey. It's a technique favored by the impressionists and they often soaked paper in tea or coffee rather than buy expensive paper. With a colored paper the pencil strokes can do the job of making very fine marks and this is very effective when drawing fur or whiskers on cats or dogs. If you make a block color then make fine lines through with a bare nib or even your nails, this makes the impression of white areas or a shine on fur.
Whatever way you use them the pencils are a delight to use and are inexpensive. Some artists find they prefer to use wet paint and that works just as well. But colored pencils are so versatile and don't make a mess as some other kinds of kit do. I love pastels but get myself filthy using them.
What to buy.
After giving you an idea what to use these for I really should describe them. A standard set of twelve will include red, green, blue, yellow, orange, lilac, gray, chocolate brown, black, yellow ochre, cadmium red and maybe white. A tin of 24 will have several shades of each color for shading and adding interest. Once the impression is made on the page a wash of water will dissolve the color and give a full block of colour or a mixture, depending on how you use it.
The pencils are made from blocks of watercolor with a hard surface for drawing with. Unlike graphite pencils they are softer so don't cost as much as some of the drawing and sketching pencils. Graphite pencils are graded by the amount of product and the difference from a HB to an H (hard) or B (Bold) can be up to 8 in each category.
True watercolors are made to a very high standard and cost more than the pencils, but the effects can still be stunning. Because they are cheap then you can afford to buy more, experiment and even allow the kids to use them.
So if you're stuck for a present then why not consider these. You don't have to be brilliant to use them and you might be surprised at how good you can get with them.
Prices range from about £4.99 to £7.99 so why not treat yourself as well?
Thanks for reading.
I am a regular visitor to our local WHSmith simply because the shop seems to stock goods that may be hard to find unless you visit the city centre. Arts and crafts have always been a bit of a passion of mine, I am no Picasso but I do like to sit and dabble. Up until a couple of evening class painting terms ago I had never seen these watercolour pencils in action. I had come across them on the store shelves but had shunned them thinking that they would be useless.
Good quality watercolour paints are expensive and these watercolour pencils are not cheap to use either. There are 24 pencils in a flat tin and this set of painting equipment will set you back about £10.50. The pencils are light wood and the top of each pencil is the same colour as the paint it contains inside. I have found that watercolours can be difficult to use, when the wet paint is applied to the surface of the art paper you are not in full control, the paint develops a life of its own and goes everywhere but where you want it to go! Saying that this does create some fabulous and unusual paint patterns.
Ideally these WHSmith watercolour pencils should put you firmly in charge of your painting and this is what I wanted to try out. The paint in the centre of each pencil is fairly soft so although the `leads` can be sharpened they do have to be handled with care.
I have gathered that the watercolour pencils can be used in whatever way you think suits you the best. A friend at art class has recently started using them and she enjoys to `draw` the picture and then paint over the surface with water to bring the colours to life. The effect is good but I feel it looks a little bit flat.
Watercolour painting needs light and shade to breathe life into it. Dampen the end of the pencil and apply a very light layer of colour, dip a paintbrush into some cold water and run the brush along the colour. You will notice that the more water that you apply the lighter the shade will be and vice versa. Interestingly enough by adding more water to a small patch of colour it is possible to lift more of the paint colour out and lighten the shade even further. If you wish the colour to be darker then touch the surface with another light layer of colour and keep adding until you achieve the tone that you want.
This does mean that these watercolour pencils afford you more overall control but personally I would not choose to use them for a wash background or a large painting project. For starters painting a large wash background would swallow up a huge amount of the expensive pencil so it is cost effective to use ordinary watercolour paint for the washes.
Apply the pencil colours to the paper and they are vibrant but they tone down well. If you need an extra bit of vivid colour then there is nothing to stop you applying the tip of a small paintbrush directly to the top of the pencil and dabbing it on.
Ring the changes and experiment. Try adding the pencil to some wet textured paper and see what happens. The pencil marks swell on the wet paper and the colour edges outwards and fades towards the outside. Build up the layers of colour by adding one layer of pencil at a time and adding water in between.
From my point of view I was quite happy with the way in which the watercolour pencils worked but I have put mine to one side for smaller projects. The soft coloured leads soon need to be sharpened and it would take a fair amount of pencil to paint a large piece of work. I can see that they offer far more control but I am not too sure whether it it a touch too much control. When you sharpen the pencils then naturally you lose some of the lead and that precious lead contains the expensive colour. The shavings could be saved and separated but it would be a bit tedious! When you use normal watercolour paint then the remaining paint stays on the palette ( well, it does here anyway!) and it is used during the next session.
I am quite happy to experiment with the watercolour pencils but they are not something that I would use all of the time. They are too expensive for the kids to use so they will stay hidden away in my cupboard.