The Stabilo All: An Aquarellable Color Wax Pencil

July 21, 2009

090715ALouRescueMe Left: A bit of a wonky sketch (the chin should be tucked more and he does have teeth!) of John Scurti as Lt. Kenny “Lou” Shea on Rescue Me, using the Stabilo All Aquarellable colored wax pencil, on Lana Aquarelle 140 lb. HP paper which is what’s in the current journal.  

I mentioned Stabilo All Aquarellable colored wax pencils in my July 17 post. And before too much time passed I wanted to post a sketch I made with these pencils. I have about 6 of these pencils, but my favorite is the brown pencil. Typically I use it when I’m drawing on acetate overlays to “try things out” before committing to the final drawing under the overlay. But after Liz mentioned this pencil on our outing to the Bell Museum I wondered what it would be like to sketch with it on the 140 lb. Lana Aquarelle Hot Press watercolor paper. Later while watching an episode of Rescue Me I sketched one of my favorite characters.

The pencil works really well on this paper. The waxiness of it being a bit of an advantage, giving it a slight, smooth drag across the surface. The down side of the pencil is that you have to sharpen it frequently, and I didn’t, loosing highlight in the second eye and detail in the mouth while working with an ever more blunt pencil. The texture you can get with this pencil is similar to much softer, drier pencils and pastels, which tend to flake, break apart, and wear down even faster. It’s a line with character, without all the dust.

090715ALouRescueMeEYE Right:
detail of “Lou’s eye” will show you the wonderful texture you can get
with this pencil on this smooth paper. And as long as you keep it sharp
yo can go in and delineate some details. Click on the image to view an

I like this pencil used dry better than wet. Even on watercolor paper it doesn’t dissolve to smooth washes like watersoluble colored pencils (which are meant to do that). (Let me be clear, these pencils are not supposed to act like a watersoluble colored pencil—I'm using it not as it was intended.)

This is not a pencil made for making archival artwork and marks. You use these pencils for marking contact sheets (I’m sure some photographers still have these) and other surfaces. Because of their intended use I’ve never done any lightfast tests with them and always assumed they were made with  fugitive colors. However Stabilo's website lists them as having “leads made from the highest-quality pigments and finest graphite.” The line has 8 colors (red, blue, green, yellow, black, white, and orange) which are clearly meant for their intended target group: “artists and professional users with special requirements—e.g. in the industrial sector.” I wouldn’t count on them for longevity, except as  I mention in the next paragraph.

I have also used these for sketching on gessoed canvas and then sealed the drawing with clear gesso. I use the biggest flat brush I can find (3 to 5 inches) so I make as few strokes as possible. The lines blur when the wet medium hits them, but if you work quickly they don’t completely dissolve, and future colors cover any smears. I haven’t had them seep forward through paint years later, so I figure as long as the paint is going to cover them that’s fine too.

I mention them here because I said I would in my July 17 post, and  because they are fun pencils with which to draw. Sometimes you just want to play. Or maybe you have a need to write on film, acetate, plastic, glass, metal—and later wipe it off. If so you might want to have a couple of these pencils at hand.

  1. Reply

    Interesting. I use them for scrapbooking.

    • Jon Harl
    • July 22, 2009

    Roz, I use this pencil in sign painting for laying out MDO Ply and banners and such. Once you have the lettering done and dry a little bit of Windex and the Stabillo lines will come right off. I’ve learned about these pencils when I went to LA Trade Tech (Sign Graphics AA degree) in 1984. Cool… I use the blue one on light panels and the white one on dark panels.

    • Roz
    • July 22, 2009

    Cool Jon! Thanks for telling me about this!

    • Carril Karr
    • February 15, 2011

    Dear Roz Thanks for all the info on the Stabilo pencils. I went to a solar plate workshop last year and found that the black Stabilo watercolour pencil was one of the few drawing implements we could use on plastic or glass that had really good dense pigment for making drawings to use to make the solar plates. (This is for printmaking)

  2. Reply

    Carril, I’m glad this was helpful. It makes perfect sense for me that this pencil was good in this situation. That’s for letting us know!

  3. Reply

    this was a really helpful post;
    I try to not look at blogs because they are distracting, but this was the most helpful published document on these pencils that I could find.

    I found these on my way home from work at a scenic supply shop down the street from the house. never seeing these before, had to pick a couple up. I love stabillo I had no idea what these were for, and in my unknowing experiments I found many things to do with can basically write on everything… even the pencils shavings are treasure onto themselves. what bright pigments. I love how they look when you dip them in water. thanks for the ideas !

  4. Reply

    Josey thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I’m also glad that you’ve been experimenting with these pencils. They are really a lot of fun. Have you tried working with the ORANGE on toned paper?

    Recently (at the end of 2012 which still seems recent) I took some of these pencils along with some other drawing implements to draw dogs in Wisconsin. If you go to the following link
    you’ll find a photo showing what I took, and at the end of the post there is a video flip through of the loose sheet journal that I did in those 3 days. It includes a lot of work with the Stabilo All, including the Orange, and also the graphite one.

    Hope you continue to have fun with them.

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