Derwent Watercolour Pencils Review & Demo


Hi guys and welcome to another review video! In this video I’ll be taking a look at the
Derwent Watercolour pencils, the 24 set in particular. As per usual I’ll start off with an overview
of the packaging and the pencils themselves, then swatch the colours out and take a look
at their properties and after that I’ll be showing you a timelapse demonstration of
the set and go into a few more specifics about the product. As always, time stamps to the video sections
will be in the description box below. And like all of my previous review videos,
I’m not at all sponsored by Derwent or anybody else I mention in this video, so rest assured
that all opinions are my own truthful thoughts. So let’s start off by taking a look at the
packaging: So as I said, this is the 24 tin set of this
line, and they come in sets of 12 to 72 pencils. I love Derwent packaging- they almost always
come in these tins which are a great way to protect and display your pencils, but you
can also buy them in very sleek looking wooden gift boxes. The pencils are sealed into the tin with cellophane,
but the lid isn’t contained in this wrapping, so in the shop you can remove the lid to look
at the contents without the contents being removed, damaged or stolen. Like the front, the back has the swatches
of the colours in this set, but it also has description of the product and a couple of
different techniques. So it says:
“These versatile pencils have a water-soluble core allowing you to draw and paint with complete
control. They can be used wet or dry on wet or dry
paper to create a variety of effects. Apply dry pencil colour to dry paper and add
a light wash of water. Add dry pencil colour to wet paper to create
soft lines and edges”. Inside:
So here’s the cellophane I was talking about- I’ve already partly cut it open so I could
check all the pencils before making the review. I’ve been unlucky and had a couple of quality
control issues with previous Derwent purchases, but their customer service has been excellent
at sending me free replacements, but in any case I wanted to make sure the contents were
OK before I started filming. Lid: There’s a bit of history here on the
inside of the lid, but I actually wish they’d make better use of this space and instead
include lightfastness information here. I’d also quite like to see a little leaflet
included in the tin with some demonstrations of techniques, some inspiration, and maybe
a bit of advertising to see what other products they might have available. Derwent used to include such leaflets and
I wonder why they made the step away from this. Taking a closer look at the pencils themselves-
these pencils are pre-sharpened, hexagonal and 7mm wide with a generous 3.4mm core. The wooden casing is Californian Incense Cedar
and all Derwent Pencils are made using this wood, but I find that the hexagonal pencils
they make have a slightly lower quality, rougher feel than the 8mm round barrelled pencils
they make. On the plus side, the hexagonal barrel means
they won’t roll off your work surface as easily and offer a more precise grip. Each pencil is painted dark blue with a coloured
end-cap and has a smooth-non glossy finish. Printed on the pencil in silver text is the
place of manufacture, the brand and line name, a little paintbrush to signify that these
are aquarelle-able as well as the colour name and number. The text is really clear and readable, and
I always approve of Derwent having both the colour name and number written directly on
the pencil as it makes it easier to keep track of colours. So now onto swatching these colours out. I’ve drawn out a grid for each of the colours
here along with the colour name and number as well as lightfastness value. I’ve also drawn a line through each box
in a black pen to be able to gauge the opacity of each colour. When swatching any medium I like to colour
a gradient to get a feel for how pigmented the product is- so I’ve done both a wet
and dry gradient for each of these colours. The paper I’m using here is Canson Montval
300gsm watercolour paper which seems to work great for this type of medium as it holds
up excellently to wet techniques, but has a good amount of tooth to lay down the pencils. The pencils seem to be quite well pigmented
and the majority seem semi-opaque. Some of these colours appear to granulate
slightly around areas of pigment that haven’t been fully activated with water, so that’s
something to consider if you want smooth and even washes. As a whole, this range of pencils isn’t
incredibly bright or vibrant- they all have a slightly subdued feel to them although of
course some colours naturally pack more of a punch than others. The colour range is excellent I think, there’s
a good variety and it’s particularly strong in the green and brown part of the spectrum. I think this would make a great set for natural
and landscape drawings. As usual, the end caps don’t exactly match
the pigment colour but they’re good enough to be a rough guide. I always recommend making and using a swatch
chart for yourself, but if you’re interested in seeing mine I’ll leave a link to a scan
in the description box. So on the back of the tin it said that you
could either apply the pencil to dry paper and activate with a wet brush, or apply the
pencil to damp paper to get soft lines. First off I wanted to see just how easily
these pencils activated with water and how much of a residual line would remain if I
just applied one stroke of the damp brush over the applied scribble compared to really
scrubbing at the mark. I was surprised to see that with just a soft
touch of the brush, the pigments dissolved really readily and although the marks still
clearly remain, a lot of pigment got pulled across onto the bare paper. The swatch I scrubbed at with the brush dissolved
entirely- which is fantastic. The pencil lines applied to wet paper did
soften a bit and appeared a little more saturated than when it was applied on dry paper. I have heard of people touching a wet brush
to the tip of the pencil in order to apply the wet brush or pencil to the paper to get
a really saturated colour, but I would advise against this as getting the wood on the pencil
wet can actually result in the wood cracking. On the side of the paper I also tried out
some different blending techniques. My first blend test was with 3 primary colours
to see how well they blended into each other without the aid of water. I found this to work really well and they
blended together excellently. This goes to show that you really don’t
need a huge set of these pencils to be able to have a good range of colours if you’re
just ready and willing to do a bit of blending. I tried a similar blend test with water and
it did work, although I’m pretty clumsy and not very proficient with a paintbrush
so I didn’t get as smooth of as a transition as I would have liked, but I’m sure it’s
entirely possible with a little bit
of practice. I wanted to try the wet blend again but with
harder borders between the colours and once again my clumsiness prevailed and I ended
up lifting more pigment than pulling and blending together. I did notice that these pencils to stain a
little if you apply them to the page with a good amount of pressure, so although I was
able to mix some of the colours together, the boundaries had been sealed into the paper
and it was difficult to get a seamless transition. Another little test I did was to see how many
layers I could get with these pencils. Applying the pencils in light layers I felt
like I could achieve 6 different levels of saturation, and I could get an even darker
shade by doing one layer of firm pressure. The laydown of these pencils is quite different
to regular coloured pencils- they do have a dry feel to them but you are certainly limited
to the amount of dry layers you can apply as they quickly build up a waxy film. I imagine that you could layer more over areas
you’ve burnished by dissolving some of the wax away with water. I tried erasing a thick layer of the dry pencil
with my Derwent electric eraser, and it did an excellent job of removing the majority
of the pigment although the paper was stained a bit afterwards. I also tried lifting the pigment with a wet
brush which did a better job of cleaning the paper. I repeated this test with an area I had activated
with water to see how well the pigment would reactivate, and I got just the same result. I also wanted to see how well the white mixed
and blended, and it seemed to do an excellent job. It seems like a very pigmented pencil. Demo: So now onto the demonstration part of the
video! I’ve already sketched out here a picture
of a peacock butterfly on some buddleia and foliage. As always I leave the link to the royalty
free reference I used in the description so if you want to recreate this image, by all
means you can. When doing these videos, I try to choose subject
matter that suits the colour palette that I have with the materials I review, so as
per usual I went for something colourful, but because this set is strong in the more
natural shades I went for an image that was strong in that area. The paper I’m using for this piece is Clairefontaine
pastelmat. I wasn’t too keen on the feeling of these
pencils on the regular watercolour paper as they have a dry feeling to them which I’m
not used to- compared to the waxy regular coloured pencils I usually work with, and
I know that pastelmat can hold up just fine to water. It’s just a personal preference- they work
just fine on regular watercolour paper but I had a feeling that my overall experience
of these pencils would be improved using this surface. I also thought that the pastelmat would really
help to pull the pigment from the pencils and get good and punchy saturation- something
I was a bit worried about given that I thought that the colours are a little on the subdued
side and I wanted things to be as vibrant as possible. As you can see I start off with the background. This piece was my first I completed with these
pencils and I’m certainly unfamiliar with water activated pencils so the process was
a bit of a learning curve. To begin with I decide that I’ll layer down
a lot of dry colour to a point I’m happy with, then blend out with water and add back
in extra details and contrast at the end. It probably wasn’t the best approach but
I like the painterly outcome. I bought this set for 149,- Norwegian kroner-
or about £13 or $18 from my local Clas Ohlson a week or so ago. If you hadn’t guessed by the price, they
were on sale at around half their usual price in this shop and actually worked out cheaper
than I’ve found them online, so I just knew I had to snap them up. I think these Derwent sets have been reduced
recently to try and clear out old stock as Derwent have recently redesigned a lot of
their packaging, so if you’re watching this video at the time of uploading I recommend
looking around to see if you can find any similar bargains. After I have the main bulk of the background
in, I start on the flowers because I know I don’t want to leave these fiddly things
until last! The light violet colour in the set would’ve
been perfect for these flowers but I had chosen to avoid this colour and the rose pink as
they both have very low lightfastness ratings. Instead I use a mixture of blue, purple and
white to achieve the colour I want. Speaking of lightfastness ratings, this tin
is definitely a mixed bag. Derwent uses the Blue Wool scale to rate their
artist products, which is a scale of 1 to 8 where 1 is the lowest rating and 8 is the
best. A 6 or above is considered archival so the
colour should remain true and not fade or change for at least 50 years of standard display-
and many artists like to use this as a cut-off point for what is or isn’t acceptable to
use for a piece they intend to sell or display. I’ll leave a link down below to a chart
that I’ve found helpful in processing Lightfast rating information in terms of what it really
means. But in any case, going by the 6 or above cut-off
point, only 14 out of the 24 are ok to use under these circumstances. I’m ok with going down to a rating of 5
personally- for reasons I’ll probably explain in a future video about lightfastness- but
that still means that 7 of the 24 pencils are unusable outside of sketchbook work or
pieces I’d hide away in a portfolio. It’s also worth mentioning that the more you
dilute a colour, the quicker it will fade- and I feel like diluting the colour and creating
washes is something that you’d want to do with watercolour pencils. As expected, most of the bright and pale colours
score lower on the scale, and the earthy tones such as greens and browns and neutrals score
well. But the whole lightfastness thing is actually
something that frustrates me frequently about Derwent. I really love their products and variety,
but most of their colouring products seem to have mixed lightfast ratings which takes
the allure away from them a bit. Many of their products are marketed as artist
and professional grade, so you’d expect the high lightfast ratings to match. Out of the entire line of 72 watercolour pencils,
only 35 score 6 or above. That’s less than half- which means that
if you’re only going to use the lightfast colours you’re essentially paying double
for the pencils you can actually use if you buy the entire set. Fortunately, these pencils are available as
open stock, so if you’re only interested in the lightfast colours you can buy these
individually. Anyway, I’ll leave a link to the colour
chart in the description box below, which also gives information about lightfast ratings
and which pencils are contained in what set. Now I start on the butterfly, and I work more
with layering here and applying water in between. I’m careful to build up the colours separately
to try and avoid the colours muddying or mixing where I don’t want them to. I found out the hard way that I had to extra
cautious with how much water I applied to the paper as the water spreads a lot on pastelmat
unlike watercolour paper, and as a result just a little too much water can result in
uncontrollable bleeds. I’m really focusing on detail and contrast
as I work on this part of the picture as I really want the butterfly to be in strong
focus. These pencils sharpen well to a fine point,
which makes them great for detail work too. The cores seem pretty solid and I didn’t
have any breakages, but like I mentioned before the wood on the pencils seems a little flaky
and rough compared to the wood on the round barrelled Derwent Drawing and Inktense line. I also want to mention that some of the cores
perhaps didn’t seem perfectly centred as when I sharpened them, the fresh tip wouldn’t
be revealed evenly, so on one side the wood would come up much higher than the other. This isn’t a real issue other than needing
to sharpen the pencils a little more frequently, but I have heard that misaligned colour strips
can increase the chance of pencil breakage during sharpening, so keep that in mind if
you encounter this problem. So, as for value for money… I think these pencils are reasonably priced
at their current price on Amazon (£22 or $20). The quality of the pencils is good- they really
have that beautiful watercolour effect to them but with the control and precision of
a pencil. I think the 24 set is a brilliant size as
it offers a great selection of colours- that can be mixed to achieve all the colours you’d
want- but also small and compact enough to be easily taken with you on-the-go. Paired with a waterbrush and watercolour or
mixed media sketchbook this would be a wonderful portable set for all your arting needs. Speaking of which, they’d be excellent for
sketchbook work where you’re not too worried about lightfastness issues. But they’d be fine for displayed work if you’re
only using the more lightfast neutral, brown, blue and green end of the spectrum- in which
case they’d be good for landscapes and wildlife studies I’d imagine. I can’t compare them to any other watercolour
pencils right now as I haven’t had much experience with them, but I’m looking into
buying some other sets to try out. I’m especially interested in trying them
out against the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer pencils which seem to be at a similar price
point but look to be more lightfast. So here’s the finished piece and I’m really
happy with the outcome. I’d love to try these pencils out as an
underpainting to coloured pencil pieces as they lay down a little quicker, are a bit
more forgiving and blend out easier than coloured pencil with organic solvents. So going over a quick summary about what I
liked and disliked about these pencils: Starting off with my biggest hang-up about
these pencils- I don’t like how these have mixed lightfastness ratings- relatively low
compared to other artist grade pencils, and I feel like this fact alone could make this
set a lot less competitive. On the other hand the cores in the pencils
feel great and I love their laydown and effects they give, but I think that the overall build
quality of the pencils could be better as the cores aren’t perfectly centred and the
casings don’t feel top quality. But they are good value for money -especially
at the price I got them for- and are one of the cheaper sets of artists’ watercolour
pencils out there. The colour selection in this set is perfect
and are on the slightly subdued side which I think really enhances that watercolour feel
and lends themselves brilliantly for more natural scenes. The printing on the pencil is also really
clear which is something I appreciate- especially for pencils in larger sets. So that’s it for this video! I’d love to hear if you have had experience
with these pencils or perhaps you’re looking to buy them! As always I’m free to answer your questions
in the comment section Thank you very much for watching, I hope you
found this review interesting and helpful- if you did please leave it a like and hit
that subscribe button if you want to keep up to date with more arty videos. Thank you very much for watching, have a lovely
week and I’ll see you in the next video!

34 comments

  • kitse_xiii

    Great review! I agree that Derwent has some low lighfastness across a majority of their products. Did you notice if certain colors dry transparent or opaque? I found that the browns and blues dried much more opaque than the reds and greens

    Reply
  • Tania Montandon

    How do you organize and store yours art materials? I'm just curious

    Reply
  • Sylvie Dufour

    Great honnest review Claudia, wonderful picture and i had order the Sennelier and winsor & Newton watercolors set, do you like that kind of watercolor sets Claudia, to me it will be my first try xx

    Reply
  • Sayanti Fine Arts

    like the review… like all your reviews a lot… very in depth…..thanks a lot!! I use watercolor pencil mixed with tube watercolors to have best of both worlds…… I like the faber castel watercolor pencils a lot

    Reply
  • Snorlax

    I'm very disappointed with most Derwent products. The only pencil line I like is the Derwent Graphics AFTER the rebranding, but again, they are still not my favourite. I experienced endless breakages with all their lines except that one. My 12 Pastel pencil tin broke so badly (all 12 of them) I had to get a replacement from Derwent. I found the Studio pencils (big mistake, bought the 72) are super dry and scratchy, and I could not get the saturation despite many layers. They also blended quite badly with rubbing alcohol, which works for my Polychromos and Luminance. The sketching and water-soluble sketching pencils are very dusty and difficult to sharpen. I use their accessories like electric erasers and pencil extenders though. But on the subject of these pencils, I would also think that they are dry and waxy. I wouldn't like how they look, which actually affects my mood when I'm drawing. For the price I pay for Derwent pencils, it is not worth it. Bear in mind, my local art supply shop sells the Derwent Pencils a lot cheaper than online or overseas. All the 72 sets cost about 60 USD compared to 110 on amazon, or 516 Krone (I assume you use that currency), but yet, I don't feel that it's worth it. I'd rather pay 2 times the price for a Polychromos Pencil. I also realised, now that you mention it, the Albrecht Durer cost about the same as a Derwent Watercolour on Amazon! That is insane. I can't buy Faber-Castell coloured pencils locally because they are seriously expensive. I have a bias for Faber-Castell btw. every product I have got from them, including their kid's watercolour and classic pencils, are of a superior quality to competitiors, and for a very reasonable price, compared to Derwent at least

    Reply
  • Ramona D

    Great review and demo ! Thank you.

    Reply
  • Raul Brozzi

    Nice review, Claudia, love it. I'm lucky enough to have both sets, Derwent 72 watercolor tinbox and Albrecht Dürer 120 tinbox. Derwent is not bad at all, depict their lightfastness, but Faber Castell's are incredible! You should try them as fast as you can, and you will never look back. 😉 Regards and thank you.

    Reply
  • MaZEEZaM

    I have a fairly old version of these pencils, mine came in a light blue tin. I agree on the additional material, I always enjoy the leaflets showing other product options from the company, also having useful info on the underside of the lid would also be valued. Great review and drawing as always 😊

    Reply
  • MaZEEZaM

    I wonder regarding the lightfast rating for this set shows two ratings, one for dry pencil and separate rating for once it’s been wet? Obviously this is going to vary depending on dilution.

    Reply
  • MaZEEZaM

    You should contact Caran D’Ache or similar to see if they will send you out sets to review. I have no issue with this as you would continue with unbiased reviews. If you show them sample reviews that you already have, I think you would have a good chance of them sending out their products to you.

    Reply
  • MaZEEZaM

    I have a vague memory of hearing of a glass used over pictures that has its own ability to increase lightfast rating of the image. Have you heard anything like that? Something galleries would use? Block UV rays perhaps.

    Reply
  • Anat Maor

    Hello Claudia, great video thank you for sharing. where can i find the details of the color used in this video? can you please make a tutorial of sunset and sky with water color pencils showing the techniques?
    thank you

    Reply
  • Guru Jad

    Another lovely and educational video.
    I cannot get bored from your posts.
    You are so resourceful and knowledgeable.
    This is something to be Proud off.. even Bragged about..

    To tell you a secret, just between you and I…. I possess most of the materials you show. BUT, they are allllll still packed and closed. I seem to be an art-materials collector rather than a user… something that is bugging me lately. I do not know how to begin.. or I do not want to start off with something and find that I am either unable to do things with it or it is a disappointment… So I keep buying stuff and preserve them.. It is not ending! Any advice?!

    Reply
  • IIVxoletXx

    Oh I have the 72 it had
    Two layer but I'm not sure if the
    24 has that too

    Reply
  • Ricky Porras

    Derwent wc pencils are my fave wc pencils. They're soft and creamy and has a great color payoff. I like them better than Faber-Castell wc pencils coz they are softer and the feeling of using them on cold pressed wc paper or sanded paper is heavenly.

    Reply
  • Watch it

    Nice one Claudia, gonna try it aswell. I happend to have the same image you used. I found it royalty free on pixabay but I might go with something else. Great Review and Thx for schowing your methods.

    Reply
  • Jennie French

    I have a suggestion that I came across especially since I enjoy multimedi, pastels,watercolor and ink. I use Strathmore 400 series paper and stretch it. In other words I wet it then I use a clear liquidex gesso but only one fourth amount to the water. I tape it with artist or brown tape. When it dries, the pastels and watercolor show brighter and the ink well is ink. The paper does not warp but it takes a couple tries because if too much clear gesso will impead the intensity of color. Give it a try

    Reply
  • gbpatriot2

    Excellent tutorial, and very timely for me as yesterday I visited the Derwent factory outlet shop and museum in Keswick and bought the 36 artist pencil set.
    Having completed my own swatches and test piece I agree with most of your conclusions.
    After many years using the student pencils I was particularly delighted with the much denser pigments in the artists quality.
    For anyone planning to visit the museum be aware that all the Derwent pencil sets are on sale at vastly reduced prices.
    Thank you Claudia.

    Reply
  • Gitte Van de velde

    Love the butterfly!

    Reply
  • John Jarvis

    Excellent video. Very helpful. Thank you.

    Reply
  • HN Painting Academy

    Faber-castel and darwent which is best watercolour pencile. . . ? Please inform me

    Reply
  • JulesSB

    I just purchased derwent pencils but i throwed it in the trash after sharpining they just break the whole time. Im gonna switch back to my faber castell gold faber 12

    Reply
  • human !

    We use these in art class and I really enjoyed trying them. I'm considering buying some for myself but they are pretty pricey

    Reply
  • Katherine Salinas

    Derwent watercolors pencils or Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolour Pencil? Which one is better?

    Reply
  • CHARPENTIER3

    I love a lot of Derwent products and absolutely LOVE them, but the I bought the 72 pencil box watercolours and this was a huuuuuuuge disappointment. The colours are generally drab, the perncils not pleasant to use, scratching the paper like raw hard clay or chalk…..I bought this set for the nice range of browns and ochres…..no Derwent, this one should be a lot better to keep up your great standard….especially after using inktense and Graphitints…… Pity for the money.. Koh I Noor Mondeluz are a lot better and half the price…. but perhaps Derwent will produce a GOOD watercolour set in the near future….

    Reply
  • Claudia Sketches

    Hi friends! I've been noticing a lot of comments on my older videos where people tell me to turn off the background music! Thanks for the feedback- the advice was heeded a while back (November 2017-ish, around the time I was able to upgrade my audio quality), so be sure to check out some of my newer videos. 😊
    PS: Be sure to check out the cards in the top right for other reviews on watercolour pencils!

    Reply
  • I'm so Kawaii

    Omg thx for reviewing . I was planning to buy them . But not really sure of them before .
    And Now I'll be buying soon

    Reply
  • Twinkie Production

    I just got the same watercolor pencils im making a wonderland art❤❤❤

    Reply
  • Art of Bikki

    This video is absolutely perfect and really really helpful, all my questions and doubts are answered here since i m just starting color pencils, thank you for this wonderful demonstration i am buying this set right now ☺️👍

    Reply
  • FloridianCalypso

    What a thorough review! I greatly enjoy your review style, looking forward to watching more!

    Reply
  • No: Six

    I like it! I subscribed.

    Reply
  • Andreia Fernandes

    loved it!!

    Reply
  • Andreia Fernandes

    I would love to learn how to color butterflies with Derwent and Prismacokor as well. Thanks!!

    Reply
  • blender mind

    derwent has to improve their lightfast pencil problems, or classify their products as a studio range.
    only derwent drawing and derwent lightfast are good lightfast pencils.

    Reply

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