Can Marco Raffiné colored pencils be used as watercolors?
When I was playing around with my Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons I had my Raffinés next to me, as I’d just been working on the Egypt picture in the same imagimorphia coloring book. I’d done a lot of research on them before purchasing, and one thing that had come up in people’s comments were how some of them had been able to use them as watercolors, though not everyone had that luck. The Raffinés are oil-based colored pencils, not wax-based like Crayola and Prismacolor and most others, so they do color and shade and grip the tooth of the paper in a different way, but were they really so different that they could dissolve in water enough to be used as paint?
Let’s find out.
This is the page in the back of the book right before the hidden objects are pointed out. I colored a bit of it with the pencils then used the same small brush and water pot as I used for the Neocolor IIs.
Here’s a before-and-after closeup of the lower section of the page.
The top image is the dry coloring, and the lower image is after I’d applied water. At first I was happily startled to see that it did appear to work! I had to double check the ‘before’ pic on my phone to be sure, but seeing them side by side it’s hard to deny that there’s a clear difference between the two. The light pencil strokes in the worm (?) have blended outwards, as well as in the pink flower on the left and the green leaf in the background. The orange puff ball looks exactly like a watercolor had painted it, and even the browns in the fox (?) and mushroom are more evened and fluid.
I immediately checked the back of the page even though I wasn’t really concerned with bleed-through, but sure-enough there was none.
So if I think it sort of worked, why am I hesitant to say that outright? Because while the colors did wetten and spread, once dried the strokes were still visible and retained the soft look of the oil-based pencils. It’s hard to explain but it sort of looks like I’d done a light wash of watercolors over or under the pencils, as they’re both visible.
Since it was hard to compare the ‘after’ with the small image on my phone, I decided to do a definitive comparison test in the book itself.
The first image below (top left) is my initial coloring of the royal penguin on a skateboard. I drew a line down the center to keep the division clear and then colored both sides with the Raffinés. Then I wetted the left side only. Did the pigment become a wash of color? Yes… there is a visible difference in the two sides, with the left side looking more even and ‘full’. But I still wanted to see a bit more.
In the top right image I added a few more test things to try out. On both sides I put a light shading of red and blue to see if it would be possible to blend them once wet, and I also drew a quick leaf and colored it with some light and dark shades to see if I could get blending on that. Basically I was trying to mimic effects one would be trying to achieve in a coloring book or drawing.
The bottom right image is right after I wetted the left side. I did my best to blend the red and blue together, as well as the colors in the leaf. Those items are still wet, but the penguin is already begun to dry and look a little different from when wet – a touch less blended and spread, and a bit more colored-pencil-y (if that makes any sense at all).
Finally the bottom right image is after everything had dried, for a full comparison. I’ve included a solo pic of that image here, so it can be viewed larger:
So. Do we really have “All the Answers”? Did the blue and red blend? Not really. There was a bit of pigment bleed spreading the colors to one another, but no real blending of the two to become purple. What they did do, was soften alongside each other. In fact, that seems to be what all the colors did. The pigments spread slightly, giving a bit more color to the background of the pencil strokes and softening the overall look of the colored image. In real life the coloring looks very dry, almost pastel-y, and the pencil strokes are visible over the softened backgrounds.
I think the final answer is that they DO spread somewhat with water, but not completely nor efficiently to claim they would be an inexpensive comparable to true watercolor pencils. What they DO do, is soften the pencil look. I think they would be great used with stamps for cardmaking, where one can lightly shade the image then soften the pencil colors. In knitting there’s a term called ‘fulling‘, where the yarn is plumped up and thickened while still retaining some stitch integrity (unlike complete felting), and that’s how I feel about adding water to these pencils; when wettened the color plumps and fills its space while still retaining the original lines and strokes.
TLDR: Do they watercolor? No. Does applying water slightly bleed and soften the colored pencils for a unique, almost delicate look? Yes.
If interested in either the colored pencils or book that I’ve talked about in this post, you can check them out here:
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