Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

From Johanna Basford’s Magical Jungle coloring book. Done with Derwent Inktense pencils.

Derwent Inktense… The name shrouded in mystery and fervent gasps from colorists all over the world. If Wonder Woman were a pencil – these would be it. And in this article I will add some words to my experience.

I’ve had the full set of 72 Derwent Inktense pencils for a couple of months now. These pencils were in no way new to me, as I’ve bought several in open stock a long while ago, learning how to play with the colors and how they work when adding water. I’ve used them mostly for coloring in books by Johanna Basford and thus I can’t say how they will react to other coloring books. One thing you need to remember though: because of their water soluble abilities you need good quality paper which is typically found in Johanna Basford’s coloring books.

1. The lead – hard and long lasting

The Derwent Inktense leads are made of water soluble pastels that blends into a powerful and intense color palette of various shades. They can be used just as they are – in a “pastel like” or “chalk like” fashion for numerous artistic outlets. Add water though, and you’ll see the color bloom into the most vibrant and deep shades, which is why the two words “ink” and “intense” is mixed to create the name “Inktense”.
In the full set of 72 pencils there are a lot of “darker” shades, which makes the “inktense” theme a bit more dramatic – or so it would seem.
The leads in these pencils are like Derwent’s other pencils – strong, thick and what I’ve also noted is that they rarely break.
Also, they are very economical in use – a little bit of color goes a long way, as showed in this post.

The color laydown. WARNING: stays put!

One of the things that sets these pencils apart from the rest are these two distinct features:
– The color is permanent when dry (and therefore non-eraserable)
– They can be applied to various surfaces like stone, clothes and so on

As the color is permanent you need to be sure before applying it. Although I’ve tried to erase the Derwent Inktense color before adding water, the result was… mildly dissapointing, although not unachievable. But as soon as you add water, the color will come through anyway. So be sure that this is the color you want and you’re putting it where you want it. It’s possible to mix and blend two or more Inktense colors together (layering/shading – see picture below) before adding water. Wait while the first layer of water dries. Then add another layer of color. Add color. The colors will not blend. This is one of the most amazing features about these pencils if you ask me!

I have only tried these pencils on ordinary paper, but feel free! Go creative! Go big! Use them on clothes, stones… even the walls in the house! (But don’t let your children near them unless you want to repaint the entire house…)

Vibrant colors!

The Derwent Inktense color range

Derwent Inktense color range is – as mentioned before – a bit dark. But very very vibrant at the same time. There are endless possibilities of using all sorts of shading with these pencils, even if they’re inky, and when you add color on the paper they will feel “chalky” in the way they lay down. At first you might believe them to be just that, but again, add water and you will experience the magic.
As a lot of us colors flowers, leaves and botanical stuff you will probably be very satisfied with the range of greens, purple, pinks and reds in this set. There are a lot of browns too, which I (for obvious reasons) haven’t tried my luck at yet – but one day I’ll brave that barrier 😉

The case – could be better

I suggest you buy another case or pencil case for these pencils. Even if the tin box itself is pretty, it’s not very practical if you want to carry your Inktenses around as the lid fall off rather easily and without warning. The full set carries two layers of pencils in a cheap plastic craddle, the first layer with the yellow/reds/blues and the other with the green/brown/black theme.

Amazon has some pretty good deals on “72 pencil cases” and such – take a look here:
Two layer 72 pencil case
Wearable 72 set pencil case with hand grip
3-winged pencil case with zipper
Pencil case and pouch 72 pencils


Final thoughts on Derwent “Inktense” pencils

Derwent is a British pencil brand with a wide range of lovely articles. You can feel the quality in every pencil, even if the boxes aren’t that practical and have lids that are prone to fall off. Other than that the Inktense are super nice for that extra “oomph” you need in vibrant colors! I’ve often used Inktense as my to-go solution for leaves, when I needed the colors in the picture to stand out from the rest.
You can blend Inktense with other mediums when the ink has dried, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend using Inktense with other mediums or brands of pencils, not unless these pencils had some water soluble abilities as well. They can blend nicely with my Caran D’ache Supracolors and probably with Neocolor 2 (same brand), but that’s not something I’d like to do a lot. Even so – feel free to jump into the project yourself!

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