Derwent Drawing Review

Derwent Drawing pencils are not new to the colored pencil scene but are definitely somewhat overlooked from my perspective. I have long been a fan of the superior opaque qualities of their Chinese White pencil but have never gotten the chance to explore the other colors in the set. I finally decided to splurge and add to my ever growing collection of coloured pencils and of course, thought I would share my findings with you. 

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The opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and I have not been paid to give a favorable review. I, like many of you, rely on the reviews and feedback of people I respect and trust and there is no value to me to provide a review that is misleading or coerced. Please do however feel free to try this product for yourself and form your own opinions, as every artist will have slightly different preferences.

Please also note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

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Derwent Drawing Features:

  • The perfect medium for sweeping landscapes to detailed nature studies
  • 8mm diameter pencils have soft, creamy round 5mm leads
  • Colors are quickly and easily laid down in wide to thin applications
  • Drawing pencils produce a rich, velvety finish on paper
  • Metal tin of 24 shades and choice of traditional sepia tones

The packaging is typical of what you normally see from Derwent with the metal tin and multiple language descriptors on the back. I love that their packaging is sturdy and reusable. This also really makes me want to keep the pencils in the tins they come in. I love that the packaging always prominently features artwork created by a contemporary artist. In this case the cover art is by artist David Brammeld

The pencils themselves have a signature orange barrel colour, the colour name, number, the brand name and the indicator that they are made in England. The end of the pencil is dipped with a colour indicator as well as a copper coloured band. This is the only pencil in coloured pencil line to have a copper band. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what this signifies specifically but this featured coupled with the larger than average 5mm core definitely set it apart from the rest of Derwent’s product offerings.

barbsotiart_21_Apr_DD blog post content photo 6The pencil is wax based and has a very notably creamy feel due to this. As for accuracy of the painted tip to the actual colour, I find it to be pretty accurate for some and not so much for others. This is a big reason why I am passionate about creating colour charts when I’m first exploring a new product. I realize this practice isn’t for everyone, but until I’m familiar with a specific brand or line I find these charts really helpful to refer to when I’m creating a piece.

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A perhaps little known fact about the Derwent Drawing pencil line is that all the colours tested as 100% lightfast. The Derwent Lightfast line of coloured pencils, obviously gets heavily marketed for having that feature but Derwent was already offering a line a pencils that had those qualities for quite some time. That said, the palette is very limited to the 24 colours and if you are a portrait artist or wanted to create artwork with more vibrancy these would not have necessarily been ideal. 

Download a copy of the Derwent Drawing color chart and lightfast ratings HERE

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These pencils sharpen quite well in a conventional sharpener however, I will say that the softness of the cores does mean that they are very susceptible to breakage. I have unfortunately had a lot of break occur with the Chinese white pencils alone and experienced it a few times during the course of my test drawing with the other colours. Bottom line DO NOT DROP theses pencils if you can avoid it. It’s a good practice anyway, but in my experience these are a bit fragile. It feels even more depressing when you get a core break with these because the pieces look that much bigger with the already increased size. 


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Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

As I mentioned earlier these pencils have a beautifully creamy feel. They bend into one another quite well but they also give off a lot of pencil dust. Tracing paper under your hand or a dust brush is a must when creating a piece like this, as smudging is likely to occur. 


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Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

While it is possible to get a fine point on these pencils, fine or small details can be a bit of a challenge. The softness of these pencils don’t allow for as crisp of a line as I personally prefer. These pencils are normally marketed for landscape work which certainly can have more of an impressionist feel depending on your style, but fine lines are still something you would use them for. My suggestion if you use this product exclusively for a piece is to just to work bigger than you normally would. Blending was really easy with these pencils as they seemingly just melt into one another. 


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Artwork image ©Barb Sotiropoulos

Once again it was a bit difficult to get the level of fine detail I wanted with these pencils but colour saturation and opacity was awesome. You definitely wouldn’t need as many layers to cover the white of your paper. The somewhat heavy and waxy application however, may also require using some different techniques to achieve the look you want. 

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These pencils respond really well to a burnishing method of blending as well as using a colourless blender such as the Caran D’Ache one I used to finish this piece. Overall, I really love these pencils but for my preferences they are best used in addition to other pencils when you want something with more opaque qualities. As I mentioned, the Derwent Drawing Chinese White is a staple for me and I really love the palette selection in these pencils. For artists creating work with wildlife or landscapes as a subject matter these would be a great asset. 

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As with any product, there is always room for some improvement so let’s look at a quick recap:

– 5mm core for quick coverage with less layers 
– 100% lightfast in full 24 set
– really great opaqueness
– smooth buttery feel
– beautiful range of earth tones in palette selection
– great blendability

– only 24 colours available (no really vibrant/bright colours)
– soft core can sometimes be prone to breakage
– not ideal for fine or sharp detail compared to a harder leaded pencil
– pencils give off a lot of dust and prone to smudging

For more information on Derwent Drawing Pencils, visit the DERWENT WEBSITE

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for the review. You’re right, it’s nice to be able to read reviews, so thank you for taking the time to make a thoughtful and thorough review.

    1. Thanks Joy! I’m glad you find them helpful 😊 I try to look at these reviews from the perspective of what I think myself and other artists would want to know both good and bad. Even the bad things aren’t deal breakers for me depending on what it is but it’s good for people to be aware going in and of course it’s always important for people to consider their own experiences too. I’m just one opinion 😊

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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