I’m testing Faber-Castell Gel Sticks. These watercolors in gel form are meant for kids. They are like a twistable crayon and come in a set of 12 colors. I thought I would try them out on a flower sketch.
The Gel Sticks are a lot more water soluble than tempera sticks and they smudge more which makes them easier to blend and mix.
When I do a color test like this I like to speed things up by tracing a reference photo. The first thing I did was clip a piece of overhead transparency film to a clear clipboard, place the clipboard over my iPad, and trace the picture with a wet-erase black pen.
I then placed the clipboard on a light table, clipped a piece of watercolor paper over the transparency tracing, masked the edges with blue painter’s tape, and blocked in the colors using the Gel Sticks. Once I had the colors blocked in I took the clipboard off the light table and worked on the rest of the sketch looking at the reference photo on the iPad. This saves having to do a layout sketch in pencil on the watercolor paper and makes for a cleaner drawing as you don’t see pencil marks beneath the colors.
I wanted to see if I could add detail using just the Gel Sticks without using colored brush pens. The Gel Sticks are a smaller diameter than the tempera sticks. I found I could add detail by carefully using the edge of the Gel Stick.
I used a flat waterbrush to spread the color and a piece of paper towel to smudge and blend. I sharpened up some edges by rubbing colors with the damp waterbrush. My final step was to use white ink in a re-fillable marker pen to add back in some whites.
Fabriano 8×10 inch (20.3×25.4 cm) Studio Watercolor Hot Press paper, Faber-Castell 12 Gels Sticks, Arteza flat waterbrush, Molotow 2mm Empty Pump Marker filled with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White.
All in all a successful test. I like the soft look of this. These Gel Sticks fall somewhere between Mod Paint Sticks (which are tempera paint) and Neocolor II water soluble crayons. They blend well and are easy to carry and use.
Paint sticks and pens and other dry media like crayons and pencils are handy to carry and use on location mainly because you don’t have to wait for them to dry before adding additional layers and you don’t have to carry water and you don’t have to take time to clean a brush between colors. The down side is you can’t mix colors to gray them back or warm them up or cool them down or change the value. They work well for brightly colored subjects, but not for subtle color variations. A traditional watercolor palette or tube paints are better for that.