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What is the budget friendly watercolor pencils?

Finding high-quality watercolor pencils that don’t break the bank can be a challenge for aspiring artists. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to determine which watercolor pencils provide good value for money. This article will examine some of the most budget-friendly watercolor pencil sets that still deliver on quality and performance.

What to Look for in Budget Watercolor Pencils

When searching for inexpensive watercolor pencils, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • Number of colors – More colors give you greater flexibility for mixing, but you can start with as few as 12 colors.
  • Pigment quality – Better quality pigments provide richer, more vibrant colors.
  • Blendability – The pencils should blend well both wet and dry.
  • Cost per pencil – Bulk sets with more pencils reduce the cost per pencil.

You’ll have to weigh up these factors against the total cost to find the right balance for your needs and budget.

Top Budget-Friendly Watercolor Pencil Sets

1. Arteza Watercolor Pencils, Set of 60

With 60 vivid colors for under $20, Arteza offers one of the most affordable large watercolor pencil sets on the market. The triangular-shaped pencils are easy to hold and layer colors smoothly. The pencils are student-grade, so the pigments may not be as rich as artist-quality brands, but the variety of hues and low price make this a great starter set.

Key Features:

  • 60 different colors
  • Triangular shape for easy grip
  • Vibrant student-grade pigments
  • Blendable
  • Very affordable price

2. Shuttle Art Watercolor Pencils, Set of 72

Shuttle Art provides an even wider spectrum of hues with 72 pencils for a bargain price. Like the Arteza set, these are student-grade pencils, so hardcore artists may want something more high-end. But for beginners, the range of colors and low cost make this pencil set a great entry point into watercolor pencils.

Key Features:

  • 72 different colors
  • Vibrant student-grade pigments
  • Provides a wide range of hues
  • Easy to blend
  • Extremely budget-friendly

3. Faber-Castell Goldfaber Watercolor Pencils, Set of 12

Moving up to an artist-quality brand, Faber-Castell’s Goldfaber line provides professional grade watercolor pencils a an affordable price point. With buttery smooth pigments and excellent lightfastness, the pencils blend beautifully and allow for detailed watercolor artwork.

With only 12 colors, the range is limited compared to larger student sets. But the superior quality pigments compensate by enabling beautiful watercolor effects. And at around $1 per pencil, they are very economical for artist-grade supplies.

Key Features:

  • 12 professional grade colors
  • Smooth, buttery pigments
  • Great blendability
  • Very lightfast
  • Reasonable price for artist quality

4. Prismacolor Premier Watercolor Pencils, Set of 24

Another artist-quality brand, Prismacolor produces watercolor pencils acclaimed for their superb blendability and vibrant, rich pigments. They glide onto paper with a soft, creamy consistency and can be layered effectively for multidimensional watercolor effects.

With a set of 24 colors, you get a wider range than the Faber-Castell set for a very competitive price. The Prismacolor watercolor pencils offer professional quality at a price point accessible for intermediate artists.

Key Features:

  • 24 vivid, premium quality colors
  • Creamy, highly blendable pigments
  • Vibrant, rich watercolor effects
  • Good mid-range color assortment
  • Reasonably priced for artist-grade

5. Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils, Set of 12

Derwent Inktense pencils utilize a unique ink-based pigment that dissolves almost instantly with water. This allows dazzlingly vivid colors and flowing painterly effects. With the concentrated ink pigments, you need very little product to achieve bold color saturation.

The Inktense line is on the pricier side, but the set of 12 provides a selection of vibrant hues at an attainable price point for the average user. Just be aware, they are harder to erase than wax-based pencils.

Key Features:

  • 12 ink-pigment colors
  • Intensely vivid and colorful
  • Produces bright, flowing watercolor effects
  • Highly concentrated pigments
  • Ink dries permanent on paper

6. Marco Renoir Watercolor Pencils, Set of 24

Boasting high pigment concentration and excellent lightfastness, Marco Renoir watercolor pencils deliver vivid color that lasts. With 24 richly saturated colors that emulate natural paint pigments, this set provides a versatile palette for blending and mixing.

The triangular shape makes them easy to hold and use. Smooth application and effortless blending capabilities make these professional-quality pencils a great mid-range option.

Key Features:

  • 24 highly pigmented colors
  • Lightfast and fade resistant
  • Triangular shape for easy grip
  • Smooth, blendable consistency
  • Professional grade pigments

A Comparison of Budget-Friendly Watercolor Pencil Sets

To summarize the top affordable watercolor pencil options, here is a comparison chart:

Brand Number of Colors Quality Key Features Price
Arteza 60 Student grade Large color range, good for beginners Under $20
Shuttle Art 72 Student grade Huge color selection, extremely affordable Under $15
Faber-Castell Goldfaber 12 Artist quality Smooth pigments, blend beautifully Under $15
Prismacolor Premier 24 Artist quality Creamy and vibrant pigments, highly blendable Around $25
Derwent Inktense 12 Artist quality Intense, vivid ink pigments Around $25
Marco Renoir 24 Artist quality Highly pigmented and lightfast Under $20

Factors to Consider When Buying Watercolor Pencils

When selecting the right watercolor pencil set for your needs and budget, keep the following factors in mind:

Quality Level

Student grade pencils use less expensive pigments and fillers, but offer great value for beginners. Artist quality provides richer, purer color for best results.

Number of Colors

With at least 12 colors, you can mix a wide range. Larger 60+ sets provide endless options for blending, but can be overwhelming for beginners.

Color Selection

Look for sets with a balanced selection of primaries, secondaries, neutrals and specialty colors based on your subject matter.


Artist grade pencils with very lightfast pigments will resist fading over time. Student sets often have lower lightfastness ratings.

Pencil Texture

Softer pencils give creamy, blendable application. Harder pencils offer sharper definition. Try a set first to test the texture before buying.

Tips for Choosing the Best Starter Set

When selecting your first watercolor pencils, opt for a mid-range student quality set with at least 24-36 colors. This gives you enough variety to experiment at a reasonable cost. Avoid massive sets with 60+ pencils, as the excess colors can be overwhelming.

Look for a set that includes a basic color palette: warm and cool primaries, earth tones, common secondaries, blacks, grays, and whites. This versatile foundation allows you to mix a wide gamut of hues.

Focus on value for money rather than absolute lowest price. Cheaper sets often have poor performance and pigment lightfastness. Slightly higher priced options around $15-25 provide good quality at an affordable rate for beginners.

Best Paper for Watercolor Pencils on a Budget

Quality paper is crucial for bringing out the best in watercolor pencils. For those on a tight budget, here are some good options:

Student Grade Watercolor Paper Pads

Brands like Canson, Strathmore, and Art Alternatives offer inexpensive student grade pads. These have decent texture for pencils and accept washes moderately well.

Mixed Media Sketchbooks

Mixed media paper holds up acceptably for pencils and light washes. Brands like Canson XL and Strathmore provide affordable sketchbooks.

Bristol Paper

With a smooth, sturdy surface, Bristol paper works well for detailed pencil drawings. The smoother surface makes washes more challenging though.

Multimedia Drawing Paper

Papers marketed for pen, pencil and markers, like Canson Pro Layout and Strathmore 500 Series, can also handle light watercolor techniques.

For best results, invest in at least a couple sheets of professional grade watercolor paper like Arches or Fabriano to really unlock the potential of your pencils. But the options above help you get started on a budget.


Finding high-performing watercolor pencils doesn’t have to demolish your art budget. Excellent starter sets are available for under $25 from brands like Arteza, Faber-Castell, and Marco Renoir. Focus on quality over quantity – a thoughtfully curated palette with strong lightfast pigments will take you further than a mammoth box of lackluster hues.

Prioritize value for money over the absolute lowest prices. Seek a balance of quality, color selection, and budget cost. With the right set of budget-friendly watercolor pencils and some economical paper options, aspiring artists can begin exploring and experimenting with this versatile medium.