Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 Watercolor Pencils Review

(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter.)

There's an element of "jack of all trades, master of none" to these...pencils? Crayons? Paints? But that doesn't stop the Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 Watercolor Pencils from being a fun family activity. They're designed for kids and they passed my rigorous kid-test with flying colors.

The wood case is made from sustainable wood, with a break-resistant core. They're short and bulky, like the jumbo crayons marketed for preschoolers. They're a bit uncomfortable to hold, I felt, and the thick core only allows for the boldest of bold lines.

The core is very soft and lays down a smooth thick layer of color. It could easily achieve solid coverage on smooth paper. When you add water to the applied color, the results vary somewhat. Some colors are more soluble than others--black dissolves almost completely and spreads nicely, but silver doesn't appear to be soluble at all. Most colors are somewhere in-between, with at least a little of the original crayon line still visible after painting. I also tried dipping the crayon in water and drawing, but the core is too waxy to work well that way. It repels water rather than absorbing it, so I'd get maybe two strokes of painted line, and then it would return to a normal dry crayon line. Wetting the paper first and applying the color to the wet page created a neat feathering effect as some of the pigment ran, but the crayon line is still clearly visible. This could make for some really fun blending techniques.

Despite the heavy line put down by these, it doesn't take much color to get a rich puddle of watercolor. I think a wonderful use for these (for those of us who aren't inclined toward thick crayon art-making) is in creating washes or backgrounds for journals or other media. A fine layer blends into a lovely background with enough remaining texture to add some nice depth. Once the wash is dry, you can write or draw over it. The crayons even write well over themselves, creating some fun layered effects. They also work on different colored paper--and, because they are water-soluble, on chalkboards and glass. I haven't tested them on glass yet, but I'm envisioning some festive holiday window art.

After asking my eldest to test these, he has officially claimed them. He's never been the type to sit and color (or sit at all, for that matter), so he only reluctantly agreed to try these, and promised only a small, quick sketch. Instead, he patiently covered every inch of the large A3 watercolor paper. And then he liked them so much just as crayons, he resisted my suggestion to add water. And then when I convinced him to at least try adding water, he enjoyed that so much, he painted over the whole thing. Y'all, I got a good half-hour of peace and quiet out of it. And a lovely piece of art.

The crayons/pencils/paints come in sets of 6, 10, or 18. They're also available as open stock--but as far as I can tell, you need to buy a set to get the custom-sized sharpener. I'm not sure what other sharpener might fit these beasts. One thing the sets do not come with is a paintbrush. Instead, the 18-color set comes with a perplexing cardstock-cutout of a paintbrush in a compartment where you're clearly meant to place your own brush. I imagine it's there to indicate that "no, we didn't forget to add your brush--you just don't get one". These sets aren't cheap, and I feel like they really ought to come with a brush. Even a skimpy plastic one. If you plan to order these, be sure to have a brush on hand, or order one at the same time.

As for offering my recommendation, if you have an aspiring young artist in your life, I think these would be a big hit. But if your resident artist is old enough to take care of their art supplies, I'd actually recommend the Derwent Inktense Pencils instead. They create a better watercolor effect, are fine enough to color smaller details, and are considerably less expensive. They can't tackle as many surfaces as the Woodys though. If you want to color on the windows (and I had no idea how much I really do want to color on the windows until today), you want these. They'd also be great for drawing strategically-placed mustaches on the bathroom mirror. Art is art.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

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Posted on December 8, 2016 and filed under Stabilo, Pencil Reviews, Watercolor.