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Latest revision July 2017

You will note the very strong colours involved and the high pigmentation. Most colours show up much stronger after the addition of water.  

The chart shows the first line of colours in their dry state

The second line shows the addition of water first in concentration and then as a sweep of a small amount of the wet colour off into a paler, less concentrated form.






( The Cumberland Pencil Company )

DERWENT market the biggest range of Coloured Pencil brands and are possibly the most active in producing new products.  

At the core of the range are the hardest of the pencils and some of the longest in their production,

ARTIST and STUDIO.  These are most suitable on a hard surface paper like cartridge or a smooth (HP) watercolour paper.  

There are a good range of greens and landscape colours and some unique shades. Most colours match across the two lines, the only difference being that ARTIST is sold in 120 colours, round barrelled with a 4mm core, and STUDIO is sold in 72 colours, Hexagonal barrel, and 3.4mm core.  The Pencils in these two lines were designed many years ago and there are a larger than average number with low lightfastness.  They are good pencils, though, and a lot of professional artists still rely on them.

See the Derwent site for official colour charts and ratings.     www.pencils.co.uk    

See also the Penciltopics chart taken from the actual pencils and available as part of the colour comparison set from this site  

Derwent Artists chart


This new line of wax and oil based pencils has been launched in July 2017  and there are a number of reviews out there on the Internet.  

At present I have yet to handle an example of the range ( Derwent don’t send me samples any more ), but I will test out the pencils and report shortly.

Until then. I have one or two observations which may assist you if you are considering spending money on a set.

1. Have a look at some of the You Tube reviews - particularly the one by Jason Morgan.  

2. These pencils are positioned in the Derwent range between the hard pointed Artists pencils so loved by botanical artists,

   and the soft cored Coloursoft range.  

3. They are targeted at serious artists ( hence the ‘Pro’ bit of the name ), but - for a company with a serious reputation for pencils, it seems odd that they have concentrated on the hardness and handling and appear to have ignored the trend for modern professionally used pencils to have good lightfast qualities. The range of 72 pencils is no better for lightfast levels than Coloursoft with approximately 25% of the colours in the 72  set having a blue wool rating of 4 or less.  For those unfamiliar with the ratings,  5 and above ( out of 8 ) is accepted as being just about acceptable lightfastness.  Too many of the pencils ( for a modern formula range ) rate as ‘1’ - poor.

4. They appear to rate - for handling - on a par with Faber Castell Polychromos.  A very old formula oil based pencil that does not suffer from wax bloom, is easily found in suppliers as open stock, comes in a range of 120  and at a lower price.  

I may change my mind over this line of pencils when I handle them, but at present I am not inclined to spend £135 to buy a set to test.

I could buy a set of 120 Polychromos for the same money.

Derwent WATERCOLOUR pencils have been in production for many years and were replaced in 2009. The old design had Turquoise coloured wood and came in 72 colours.  Some of the colours in the original line had very low lightfastness ratings.  

I liked the old pencils which are medium hardness and handle well.

The new line still has 72 colours ( some new ), a softer core and higher lightfastness levels.  The Derwent website does now give details,  There are still some poor ratings in some colours.  I did use the new formula pencils for a picture over the 4 days of the Art Materials Live Show at the NEC in November 2009 and they worked well.  A little softer than I like and I had to revert to other slightly firmer pencils for end detail, but the result was very acceptable.

When using Aquarelle pencils to make a watercolour type wash for backgrounds, Derwent Watercolour pencils have some colours that do not make a good wash - the pigment is possibly not as finely ground as some brands. This is only likely to be a problem at greater dilutions and is unlikely to create difficulties when using them as a dry pencil before adding water to the paper.

I have had comment from a user of the new pencils who took them to Tunisia in temperatures of 30 degrees and found they were inclined to soften and break easily.  I think that this could well be a problem for many of the softer cored brands.  My suggestion is to keep all Wax and oil based coloured pencils in cool conditions if you are working in a hot climate - possibly a coolbag might help.

See also the Penciltopics chart taken from the actual pencils and available as part of the colour comparison set from this site

Derwent Watercolour 2010 chart

If you wish to try Aquarelles ( water soluble pencils ) and notice sets of the old Derwent turquoise coloured watercolour pencils on sale at a good price, take advantage of the offer.  You may see deals like ‘half original price’ and the old pencils are good, even if they are a little harder to the touch than the new ones.  You may even get a fancy wooden box with them !!!!    And you may also find they work well in Tunisia.

In July 2012 I noted Amazon.co.uk had a wooden box of 48 of the new Design Derwent Watercolour pencils on sale at around £40 compared with the RRP of £64 so there are still deals around - even of the newer design pencils.  I think in this case the box is an old design box, but it still has the new design pencils and that is what really matters !

INKTENSE have been one of Derwent’s more successful innovations. There are 71 colours in the full set with a non soluble black outliner making 72 pencils in all.  These are water soluble pencils which erase as a dry medium, but once washed in with water, are permanent on the paper.  Don’t confuse permanence with Lightfastness, there are still a number of lower rated pigments here, though not too many.  A good option if you work with bright or strong colours.   A number of professional artists like them for underpainting the paper before adding dry colour.  It speeds up the painting process a great deal.  There is quite a major step up in colour strength when wet, and you need to know what the effect of water is going to be before you set out on a picture.  

I suggest you do your own chart showing the colours both dry state and also after wetting.  The darker colours come up very strong ( see linked chart ) and only show differences when well diluted.  I strongly advise that the first time you use them, you test the pencils and paper out first, and keep your pigment strength low on the paper until you are used to them.  They probably have the highest colour strength of any aquarelle pencils.  

See the Penciltopics chart linked to this page and to the Colour Comparisons section  Derwent Inktense Chart

In January 2014 I sorted out the pencils I use regularly into a new set of zipped cases and prepared a small card to remind me of the performance of the contents of each set.  The card for Inktense is copied here to show the vibrancy of the colours.

In 2011 Derwent introduced a further new product in the Inktense group - Inktense Blocks.  These are hard pastel like sticks with a flat overall shape designed to be used as either a drawing tool ( like pastel ) or as a source for wet pigment ( like a paint box pan colour).  There are 24 colours available in sets of either 12 or 24.  Pigment and handling are said to be the same as the Inktense pencils.


Introduced early in 2012, These are triangular shaped soft wax crayons containing a soluble medium and strong pigment content.

I have not tested these and from the demonstration video shown on the Derwent web site, they appear to be more a craft than a fine art product.  There are some interesting accessories ( this seems to be the current trend - to introduce a product and sell a number of associated tools and pieces of equipment ).   I will investigate both the Artbars and the Inktense blocks later this Spring and report further if they seem to be of use to the Coloured Pencil Artist.

COLOURSOFT are the Derwent answer to the American Prismacolor.  A soft wax pencil in strong bright colours in a range of 72. The Earth colours are totally light stable but there are a few in the light shades ( e.g. Pink) to be cautious over the risk of fading.  

These pencils handle well, though the 8mm round barrel does not fit in all power sharpeners and that can be inconvenient.

See also the Penciltopics chart taken from the actual pencils and available as part of the colour comparison set from this site

Derwent Coloursoft Chart

DRAWING. This small range of 24 natural colours are all totally light stable. The wax based pencils are on the hard side and suit a hard surfaced paper.  A long standing range in the Derwent collection with some good colours for portraits and animal studies.

GRAPHITINT  a water soluble coloured graphite pencil, There is a range of 24 colours. When dry colour is applied they are all shades of grey.  The colour only really comes out when water is applied.  The original formula was very low on fade resistance in half of the colours and the range was therefore not recommended, but an upgrade has resulted in only 4 of the colours now having a low blue wool scale rating.  Very soluble and an interesting collection of  shadow colours which will appeal to those looking for a different approach to colour.  If Graphite ‘rocks your boat’ these pencils could be worth trying.

There is a Penciltopics standard chart for Derwent Graphitint colours.   This enables you to match the colours dry to other brands but a wash version of each colour is also shown

METALLIC An interesting line of 12 reflective colours which do excellent work on dark papers.

Best used alone - they do not need white underneath on black paper.

All the new lines from Derwent are manufactured in a state of the art factory which operates to top environmental standards.  

The paint used to colour the wood of the pencils is environmentally sound and uses no solvents. This does mean, however, that some colour may be expected to leach from the barrel of the pencil on to your hand when used on a hot day.

Derwent seem to be standardising on sets of 72 colours which will enable them to market pencils in standard sized tins and boxes. For the serious artist, this may reduce the colour choice if the older lines are totally withdrawn, as the main competitors are selling sets up to 120 colours in range.

Derwent also make a Blender pencil and a Burnisher pencil - sold in a pack with two of each, an eraser and a small sharpener for around £5.50.  The burnisher can also be used as a resist for keeping pale lines reserved.  ( see techniques - working the surface - ‘protected’ & ‘burnished’ )

Among Accessories marketed by this company, are a battery eraser, various sharpeners, pencil extenders and tools for manipulating the colour on the paper.