Water-soluble graphite is a type of graphite that is soluble in water, which just means it can be dissolved. Now, regular old graphite can also be “spread” with water a bit, but the water-soluble graphite will actually dissolve and become ink-like when it’s wet. It can be moved and spread over a surface, much like watercolor paint. You can control how thick (dark) and thin (light) the wash becomes by how much water you add.
Water-soluble graphite comes in different grades of hardness the same way graphite pencils do. There are a couple different companies that make water-soluble graphite, but the one I enjoy the most is the Lyra Graphit-Kreide Water-Soluble Graphite Crayons.
My top tips for using water-soluble graphite:
- Sketch with a light hand as these don’t erase well
- Graphite can be layered to built up color
- Once dried you can lift color with an eraser or with a wet brush the same way watercolor is removed
- Graphite tends to dry flatter than watercolor
- You can add additional layers when it’s still wet or once the previous layers dry. If you add graphite to a wet surface the area will be darker and the marks don’t blend out as much
- Color a blank page and then add tons of water to make an easy background wash
- Save your shards if you sharpen the crayons, these can create an liquid ink when added to water
- Spray water to create great looking splatters (creating graphite blooms like watercolor)
- Graphite can be blended with a blending stump
- Dries down like a gritty graphite
- Best when used with watercolor paper, canvas paper or mixed media paper (or add gesso to your page first)
How do other mediums react when layered on top of water-soluble graphite? Well, let me know you…
I created a flower and filled it with a graphite wash and let it dry. I then used a different medium in each petal and leaf to test how each would react to the graphite wash.
The Inktense, Watercolor, and Watercolor Pencils had the most reaction since I was adding water on top of the graphite, which when rewetted reactivated. If used with a light hand and be careful not to overwork, these mediums can be used well with the water-soluble graphite. Of all the ones I tried, I think my favorite had to be the soft pastels and pastels pencils. I think they played the nicest with the water-soluble graphite. The acrylic paint worked well also, but the graphite seemed to get lost beneath it.