April 19, 2024

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working with Water Soluble graphite

Getting Started with Water-Soluble Graphite

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Interested in working with Water-Soluble graphite? Here are the essentials!

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Water-soluble graphite is a relatively new addition to the world of drawing materials. This material allows artists to work with both dry and wet techniques, creating a wash effect when activated with a wet brush. Once dry, layers of graphite wash can be drawn over. Water Soluble graphite makes for a valuable contribution to any artist’s studio. As a drawing instructor and author of the book “See, Think, Draw: An Easy Guide to Realistic Drawing and Beyond,” I’ve tested these products and recommend them to anyone interested in getting started working with water-soluble graphite.

Pencils

Water-soluble graphite comes in many forms, like sticks, putties, tins, and pans. Pencils provide the best control and versatility when getting started in the medium. Select a set of pencils from a reputable manufacturer like these here. Quality pencils should be smooth and create consistent gradients. They should sharpen easily without breaking. Most importantly, when activated with water, they should dissolve completely and dry permanently.

Basic


General’s Pencil Co. Make excellent drawing materials and this is a great set for beginners looking to give water-soluble graphite a try.

Professional


Faber-Castell makes a wonderful set of water-soluble graphite pencils. They are resistant to breaking and deliver professional-level results.

Editor’s Pick


Derwent Graphitone pencils work as well for traditional drawing as they do when activated by water. With exceptional durability and consistency, these are a must-have!

Also Consider

Derwent Graphitint tinted water-soluble pencils

Derwent has made a vibrant addition to water-soluble pencils with his line of products. Adding color to your work increases the range of possibilities. They can be used dry as well as wet, revealing rich colors when activated with water.

Watercolor Brushes

You’ll need to have watercolor brushes to work with water-soluble graphite. If you’re ready to invest in the medium long-term, you’ll need a set of quality brushes. Watercolor brushes should be soft, have a large belly, and retain their shape while working.

Basic


Set of 5 Round Watercolor Brushes​ from Arteza​ make a good option for those looking to get comfortable with watercolor brushes. These synthetic brushes are versatile, durable, and hold their shape well.

Professional


Escoda’s Joseph Zbukvic watercolor 3-brush set feature brushes with synthetic hair that combine three diameters and three different lengths to achieve the perfect tip. It has one of the softest synthetic filaments that is able to retain large amounts of paint.

Editor’s Pick


Princeton Elite Professional Watercolor Brushes are great, affordable options for all artists. Their synthetic kolinsy bristles are nearly identical to genuine kolinsky, delivering precise control, holds a high volume of water, and excellent durability.

Paper

Working with water-soluble graphite requires a surface that is suitable for water, like watercolor paper. Hot-press watercolor paper has a smooth surface, while cold-press watercolor paper has a rough, bumpy surface. These papers come in a variety of weights, which determines how rigid the paper is. A standard, recommended weight for watercolor paper is 140lb (300gsm). Watercolor paper uses “sizing,” which is added to the natural fibers of paper and enables it to retain its structure and support when wet.

Basic


This 2-pack of watercolor paper from Arteza is a great place to start for someone looking to begin with water-soluble graphite. While it’s a cold-press paper, it finds a good balance between rough and smooth papers.

Professional


Arches Watercolor paper is a premiere product for professionals. With sizing “to the core” and long natural fibers, this is a resilient surface that works for any water-media. Its surface texture is perfectly balanced surface and works for any technique.

Editor’s Pick


Winsor & Newton is a well-respected brand when it comes to watercolor. This paper is durable, with an excellent surface texture. The sizing is applied to the surface, rather than to its core like with the Arches paper, but it still absorbs and holds water very well.

Demos

When beginning to work with water-soluble graphite, following a demo like the ones featured here can help to reveal the full capabilities of the medium.

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