Sunday, November 18, 2018

Testing watersoluble pencils for faces

After my post on Friday about trying a Dina Wakley-style face with a Stabilo All pencil, someone asked on my FB Artist Page about the Stabilo pencil and whether we can get it in New Zealand. The short answer is that they are not easy to find here (please leave a comment if you have a ready source!) I originally sourced my one online from Fishpond, but they are not always available, and I was lucky to be able to purchase a single pencil. Often you have to buy in bulk which makes them a bit spendy and risky if you're not sure if you're going to like them.This is the particular one that artists (Dina Wakley, Effy Wild, Roben-Marie Smith) are referring to : Stabilo-All Pencil 8046 Black  (The number 8046 is critical to get the right one) Click on any photo to see it larger if you need details of the pencils.
It's watersoluble, it's very dark, it leaves lovely smudges/shadows on your work - you can use a blending stump or water. These were my faces using it and water on Friday
So with the question of alternatives in mind, I decided to do some testing for all of our benefit. When I originally tried to source the Stabilo I went to Office Max. They suggested the Staedtler lumocolor non-permanent (there is also a white which may be useful for sketching on dark backgrounds - purchased but not tested yet). Tried on another page from my altered art journal, but I sprayed first using a stencil with Dylusions ink - also very water-reactive. So this was a fun experiment in itself because the ink remains usable for colour in the eyes etc
But not very useful for how soluble that pencil actually is. So I did another face just with the pencil, and then decided I should use the same paper for a fair test so : 
Both the above were done with the Staedtler Lumocolor non-permanent pencil (purchased from Office Max) - the page on the left is thicker, but the pencil reacts about the same. Not as dark or as blendable as the Stabilo All 8046 below (same paper as above right) but depends on what you want : 
The above is the same pencil used in those original faces from Friday. The more pencil you lay down, the darker and more colour available to move around with water. Now using the same book paper for rest of tests. I really like Charcoal - below is my Derwent charcoal pencil (I think maybe purchased at Warehouse Stationery - they definitely have charcoal pencil options)
I usually rub the lines laid down with this pencil with a blending stump rather than use the water. I quite like this look - still not as intense as the Stabilo All but good coverage and can lay down more charcoal for more intensity. Then, just because I have them, I thought I'd test out the difference with the Derwent Inktense and Graphitint watercolour pencils. This is Derwent Inktense Ink Black : 
I really like the look of this - nice and dark and a bit more control with using the water with it than the Stabilo. Derwent Graphitint Midnight Black : 
Very disappointing - remembering that the graphitint colours are generally more muted than the Inktense, this is still what I would call grey rather than Midnight black! Perhaps if more colour was laid down in the future but I probably won't pursue it since there are some lovely alternatives here. This might be nice for general shadows since not so intense.
Hope that was a useful exercise for you to see as well. Apart from the learning about the pencils, although I didn't spend much time on these faces, the repetition was a useful experience. I'm feeling much more confident about eye position, and I like the nose and lip shapes developing naturally too. In Dina's class, she asked people to do a 'before' face for comparison. I didn't do one since I've been drawing faces since 2015, but often with a lesson for guidance/reminders of proportion. I did find this face from 2016 as a comparison - one I did quickly in my art journal without proper thought to eye position, for example.
Although she is a pleasant face, I would be drawing my eyes larger and a bit further down on her face now ♥ Practice - a lot - #arteveryday - and your skills will increase and your style emerge.
Two more things of interest : I haven't tested this with the other pencils but one advantage of the Stabilo All is that if you prepare your surface with gesso first, you can actually remove the pencil marks you don't want completely using a baby wipe - this is VERY useful as you can imagine and should work with the others since they are watersoluble too.
Remember most of these pencils will remain water-reactive so if you're going to continue to work on the art, you'll need to spray with a workable fixative and let that dry before continuing. This is what I currently use - 
available at Warehouse Stationery or Office Max. Shop around for specials/best price.
Ask me anything and I'll do my best to help :-)


  1. I get my Stabilo All pencils from Tiger Pens in the UK. Very reasonable prices and excellent service. Buying 6 pencils at a time is bulk buying for me.

  2. Thanks Pearl. I hope that is useful for overseas readers. Here in New Zealand postage can be an issue which is why I look for specials on Fishpond here - Free postage :-)

  3. Hi Lynette, I live in Nelson,N.Z. When you order pens/pencils from Tiger pens UK they arrive by letter mail so the postage is very reasonable. Much cheaper than Fishpond.

  4. Awesome - I will look into that next time then ♥ Thank you so much for clarification

  5. Very helpful post and experimentation.

  6. I was so glad someone asked - a very valuable exercise


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