Derwent Metallic Review

Derwent is fast becoming a popular choice amongst artists working in the colored pencil medium. With a history dating back to 1832 in Britain though they are not by any means new to the scene. The pencils are still manufactured in the UK today and with a very apparent and genuine commitment to hearing the artists that use their products and working to improve their product to meet those expectations.

I must admit I have a bit of a fascination with metallic mediums. When I used to paint with acrylics more exclusively, I always liked adding a bit of silver or gold into my pieces. When I started using colored pencils with mixed media I started using pearlescent watercolors to add an extra bit of dimension to some of my pieces.

I was very skeptical but also excited when I saw that Derwent had a newly formulated version of their metallic pencils. One thing I will say about Derwent is that when they release a specialty product, it usually does live up to its claims. That said, I still wanted to test-drive these for myself.

This review is going to be a bit different than the direct comparisons I normally do. In this case, I’m comparing the same brand but a water-soluble vs non-soluble version. I’ll also be using the water-soluble pencils on white paper and the regular colored pencils on black paper. Both papers are a Strathmore mixed media paper. While you can use both products on either a white or black paper I wanted to showcase each on the paper type I feel best showcases them. You’ll see in my color chart studies though what each pencil looks like on each type of paper. I should also note that I, not being paid or incentivized by the Company or any other party whatsoever and that the opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.


  • Available 24 colors for the regular and 12 in the water-soluble
  • Hexagonal 6.9 mm barrel
  • 3.4 mm core
  • Work best on dark paper


I purchased the set of 12 of the reformulated Metallic colored pencils and the set of 12 water-soluble pencils. Both come in the standard Derwent metal tin that features information on the company and product in English, French, German and Spanish. This is a quality feature I really appreciate about Derwent because it shows that they want to be accessible to artists who speak different languages. That said, I’m not sure if the product packaging is different depending on the country it’s available in. The information on the pencils in the tin I received however is in English only.

The barrel of the pencils in regular colored pencil tin are a copper color with a black band separating the pencil color indicator. The water-soluble version are silver with a blue band separating the pencil color indictor. There was a noticeable font different being used between the two pencils. The water-soluble pencils also feature a small paintbrush icon. Both barrels say Derwent metallic as well as the color name and number. The water-soluble version says England while the colored pencils say made in Britain.

Finding the lightfast ratings for these products wasn’t initially easy. Normally, Derwent links them on the same page then you can purchase the product on their website.  The information I was able to find rates the set of 12 as having excellent lightfast ratings for the majority of the set apart from the usual suspects in the pink and purple hues.

The water-soluble pencils weren’t as easy to find but there were ratings available for the 12 water-soluble paint pan set which contains many of the same colors in the set of 12. These are also rated very high according to the chart created by Derwent.

You can look at the charts here:


Both products have similar production materials and therefore sharpen relatively identically. There was little to no breakage and they both handled a point well.

Most sets of colored pencils include a silver, gold, and sometimes bronze or copper-colored pencil but often they tend to be disappointing and not really worth using past logging them on my color charts. Gold in particular tends to come of greenish-yellow or a weird brown. I found that the water-soluble version of these pencils still has a bit of that look to them on white paper however less so on black. The regular metallic pencils had both very nice silver and gold pencils that were especially nice on black paper.

My test swatches on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

On the initial application of the water-soluble version of the pencils, the metallic qualities don’t seem very apparent at all and completely disappear when water is applied. I found the pencils fairly pigmented though which was nice.

For the initial application of the regular version of the pencils, the metallic qualities really pop and while they aren’t super shiny, the metallic qualities are definitely visible.

The colors on the water-soluble version blended quite well into themselves. They were soft enough for decent coverage but also sharpened well to a point for detailing.  When water was applied the colors mixed well with one another as well.

The regular metallics blended fairly well but I found it was really hard to distinguish much contrast between hues. The colors between each set were relatively the same but where I could use a blue to create a darker area with the water-soluble version, it didn’t work the same way in the regular metallics.

Both pencils sharpened well to a point and details were easily achieved. When it came to multiple layers and blending there was more flexibility with the water-soluble version to create more depth and contrast by mixing colors and building up layers. One advantage that the regular metallics had was that the lighter colors, like silver, layered over top of the other colors well and was really opaque.

Both of these products were really fun to use. I’ve never done a full piece with metallic pencils before so that was an interesting experience. While the regular metallic pencils definitely were shiny especially on black paper, I don’t know that I love the product for doing a piece by itself. if you like the subtlety of the colors then you may like it but the appearance on black paper is also sort of dull so you may need to use other black paper rendering techniques to help get your colors to pop more.

As for the water-soluble version, I really enjoyed using them but in the end, the metallic quality was completely lost which makes me wonder why you would even bother with the metallic version. I used this product wet and dry to create the piece to see if some of it returned on the dry application but it wasn’t really noticeable enough for me to warrant the specific purchase.

I think if you were to purchase one of these for the metallic qualities alone I would go with the newly formulated regular Metallic Pencils. In my opinion, these would be best used to highlight areas in your artwork or for adding an element of interest for the in-person experience.

You can purchase Derwent Metallic Pencils HERE or check with your favorite retailer




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.

One Response

  1. Derwent metallic colored pencils are fantastic for complicated art projects. I like how the colors are easy to combine or distribute for softer, tinted, and more creative outcomes. It’s simple to mix the hues, make them ideal for layering, and create a variety of colors.

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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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