Derwent Inktense Review

Hello Everyone and Happy New Year!
I’ve been hearing from some of your that you would like to see more product reviews, so let’s kick off 2018 right!

I recently purchased a set of 12 Derwent Inktense water-soluble ink pencils and couldn’t wait to try them out. I’ve been in a bit of a water-soluble pencil phase so I thought these would be a great addition to my current arsenal of tools. I was really happy with how these pencils performed overall, but like everything, there’s still room for improvement in some areas.
Let’s dive into all the details!

First Impressions
The set of 12 comes in a tin feature the work of artist Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art on the cover. It also shows a small color bar at the bottom of the colors that are in the tin. Right away I noticed that they haven’t included a white pencil, which I found kind of interesting and also a little refreshing, to be honest. In the smaller sets of colored pencils, it’s probably the one I use the least. Since I consider sets of 12 in any product a “test drive size” it’s nice to get an extra color as opposed to a white. The information was clearly marked on the outside and the tin itself seems sturdy and able to withstand many opens and closes.
The back side of the tin gives a short preview of what Inktense pencils are and some of their features and benefits in English, German, Spanish and French. The backside of the inside cover also features a little bit about Derwent as a company also in multiple languages.
Inside the case, the pencils come pre-sharpened and the brand name and color indicators are easily visible in gold on the uniformly colored casings. The end tip of the pencil also indicates the color of pencil for on a glance reference. The set of 12 is also a good size to fit into my travel sketch zip pouch.

The lightfast ratings were not indicated anywhere on the packaging. I had to go and seek this information out on Derwent’s website. Compared to other brands, this was bit disappointing. As a graphic designer, I get it, there’s a lot of information packed on all side of the tin. To me and a lot of other professional artists, however, this seems like rather important information. When I did find the information, I was happy to see that they were using the Blue Wool scale as a point of reference. According to that scale, anything rated a 6 or higher is considered to be lightfast. In this set of twelve, nine or (75%) of the colors were considered lightfast. Unfortunately, the ones that weren’t are in the warmer hues, however, this seems to be typical for most brands.

Swatch & Color Fidelity Tests
As I’m sure most of you know by now, I’m a big supporter of doing swatch tests and color charts with any new product you get. I was immediately impressed with how saturated and vibrant these colors are. That aspect is definitely true to their marketing. The consistency of the pigment when wetted was really smooth and seems to stretch on forever which was so awesome to see. That means that a little bit of the dry color actually goes quite a long way when wet. I’m glad I had a chance to experiment with these before using them on an actual piece because it would be really easy to over saturate. Inktense pencils are not reworkable when they have dried so that is an important point to consider when you are applying your color. It’s especially important to start light and build up until you are more familiar with how it performs.
The color swatch on the end of the pencil is actually a pretty good indicator of what the color will be compared to the actual pigmented end of the pencil. The color chart on screen is relatively accurate, but again this is why I always recommend doing your own. Having the exact right color can be very important and having your own minimizes any unwelcomed surprises.

Mixed Media Application
My first test drawing was in my cold press paper watercolor sketchbook. The colors layered and blended very well but in a dry application, these would be better used on a hot press paper or something with a smoother surface. I had no issues inking over top of dried applications.
In my Canada 150 Illustration “Remembering Our Past, Embracing Our Future” I used the Deep Indigo and Sea Blue for the base layer of color on the raven. Layering over top with my Faber-Castell Polychromos and Derwent Chinese white was effortless. Because of the vibrancy of the ink even with multiple layers of additional colors over top, it still maintains a nice depth of color.
Quick Overview Pros and Cons

– Supersaturated and vibrant
– Performs well dry and exceptionally well when wet (2 in 1)
– Sets come in a reusable and sturdy tin
– Permanent when dry
– Of the colors that do test lightfast, many are rated at an 8
– Markings on pencils are easy to see
– Less mess than traditional liquid inks
– Are able to be used on fabrics, not just paper

– Only available in 72 colors
– Lightfast ratings not present on the packaging
– Not reworkable when dry
– Only 40 of the 72 colors available or 55% are considered to be lightfast.
– Majority of the non-lightfast colors are in the yellow-orange, orange, red and fuchsia range
– Not ideal for selling originals of a piece that included a range of warm hues.
– Takes a little longer to find the color you are looking for since the entire body of the pencil isn’t one color

Overall, I really liked the Derwent Inktense pencils. As someone who enjoys using ink traditionally, I love seeing this type of innovation in products. The 12 set of Inktense is a great portable and low mess option for on-the-go sketching. Because they are so vibrant and saturated, I feel these are best used in illustrations and mixed media applications. It’s unfortunate that so many of the warmer hues aren’t considered lightfast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them for pieces you plan to only make prints from. If you’re curious about this product I would definitely recommend giving it a try and experimenting with it for yourself.

Have you tried Derwent Inktense pencils? What did you think? Share with me below!

Please Note: I am in no way being paid to promote this product. The opinions in the blog post are my own.

For more on Derwent Inktense Pencils visit their site at:

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.

5 Responses

  1. I also have the set of 12 Inktense pencils but mainly use them for adding a little emphasis to lines rather than “painting” with them. The blocks, however…I love those and play with them all the time. I like how they’re more intense (hence the name) than watercolors and, being ink, stay put if I layer them with another color. I haven’t done any “real” pieces with them, so the lightfastness hasn’t been an issue.

    1. I haven’t tried the blocks yet but I hear they are great as well! I don’t think it will ever completely replace traditional ink for me but I like that it’s an option that performs similarly. Kind of a cool product either way!

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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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