Product Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

After reviewing the Derwent Graphitint Pencils, I had to review Derwent’s Inktense pencils. OK, I didn’t have to, but it gave me a great excuse to buy and try a new set of pencils.

The two sets are both watercolor pencils, but very different. Inktense colors are a lot brighter, which is to be expected. Graphitint’s (graphite pencils) description is that they have a “hint of color,” which they do, when put on dry. They develop considerably more when you wet them. But Graphitint are all muted graphite tones—wines, rather than reds. Barks, rather than earth browns.

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Derwent Inktense color swatch

Inktense is a different story. The pencils are a bit harder, but not scratchy. These are bright colors, but very transparent. When washed over with a wet brush, they look exactly as if they had been made with an ink wash. The transparency really surprised me. Ink washes have always been a bit tricky, they required putting ink into cups, adding water, then trying them out first. Here, they don’t. I apply the dry pencil to paper, then add the amount of water that makes the right tone for the wash.

Best of all, they can be used by brushing a wet brush directly against the pencil, then applying the brush to paper. That makes ink washes portable.

The combination of Graphitint and Inktense makes a wonderful combination set to travel with. I’ll probably add a few colors to the Inktense to give it the wider range I need for the desert, but the blending ability–and yes, they blend with each other, gives a wide range.

Note: if you blend the Graphitint with Inktense, you won’t get the beautiful transparency of Inktense alone.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach and a writer who teaches art journaling for people who can’t draw.

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26 responses to “Product Review: Derwent Inktense Pencils

  1. HI new here to the intense watercolor pens. I have been using artist quality watercolor paints for several years now but one book I read by Trudy Friend uses watercolor paints, pencils, pens, intense pens, etc. Just deciding the quantity right now either the 24 or 36 boxed set. I don’t think my local Michaels store carries anything larger than the 12 sent.
    Thanks for your good information
    betsy shipley
    port hueneme ca

  2. Good review. Thanks for mentioning the combo of Graphitint with Inktense- might have just helped me decide to spend the bucks for this new toy! I have 12 Graph’s and don’t use them much. I think mixing the 2 would make both more versitile.

  3. AM if you look on Derwents website under Inktense they have a chart that shows the lightfastness of every color. 42 of their colors are lightfast whereas 30 colors are not.

  4. Do you know if the Inktense are very lightfast? I’ve just read that the Graphitint are terrible for fading, even when artwork has been kept out of the light. I’m having trouble choosing between Inktense and Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils. Thankyou :)

  5. thefrugalcrafter

    thanks, great review, I was looking for an opinion before I bought, I guess I should choose a larger set! Thanks:)

  6. Thanks! I just ordered some Inktense pencils today. These should be great for what I’m after. The fact that it allows me to add a subtle wash is a huge bonus! Exactly what I need for my cartoon illustrations for my book.

  7. Can someone tell me if these are too soft and chalky or if the smear really bad when used dry? I’m hoping that they don’t. Does the point wear out quickly?

    • Inktense aren’t chalky at all, they are very creamy. They don’t smear at all–supposing you keep your fingers off them–and the color is rich and transparent– big joy with the inktense. The point is not as hard as a Prismacolor Verithin, but I’ve lost faith in Prismacolor. Once they were sold to Rubbermaid, I noticed a sharp drop off in quality. Derwent, however, has a huge selection. If you want a colored pencil (but not watercolor) that holds a crisp, fine line, try their Studio Line. Their regular watercolor pencils are also harder, but they are more opaque than inktense. My current favorites are their Graphitint watercolor pencils–in subtle colors dry, but wonderful, rich soft tones when wet. Also wonderful are the charcoal pencils, with a hint of color. You can use them dry and smudge them, erase them with a kneadable eraser or use a waterbrush to create a wash.

  8. Great review– thanks a lot! One question though– is there any way to view the image of your test swatches larger? It’s a bit hard for me to make out when it’s so small :(

    • If WordPress allows you to make an image bigger, I don’t know how to do it. Perhaps someone else can help me figure it out.
      But what I can do is send you the original scan I took. (That will be later today). One warning–monitors don’t always show the color right, and I’d urge you to make your own color watch of any color/watercolor/pastels you purchase.

      • Can anyone tell me why so many art supply sites have such bad quality color charts for their pencils? Dick Blicks are shamefully bad, for example.

        • Computer monitors vary. Computers geared for sales, pricing, shopping cards just don’t often have the ability to reproduce colors very well. I’m sure that’s not much comfort, but once the color is off, it doesn’t matter if it’s off by two shades or twenty. I also think that most people re-order colors, so they already know what the color looks like. Just a guess.

          • One shade or twenty? An ultramarine blue off by one shade is still ultramarine; maybe greener, maybe redder, but still ultramarine. Twenty shades? Doesn’t matter? What???? Could be anything from brown to gray to chartreuse.It makies a BIG difference. Monitors vary, yes. But not so much, IF properly set up in the first place. Seen my own art on a lot of monitors, but only if the setup was wrong did the pic change too much.

            I’ve scanned color pencil swatches. Using the proper settings showed me pretty much what I had drawn. The Dick Blick site’s “swatches” are so far off, someone insane must be doing the swatches. Most of them are not only WAY off, they look ugly. Their oil paint swatches are often excellent, why so bad on the pencil swatches? Their own brand is badly misrepresented. Anyone who thinks the customer will automatically know what the colors look like is living in a dream world. I*’m not re-ordering the colors, I’m ordering them for the first time; bad swatches do me a bad disservice.

          • For many people, and you seem to be one of them, the exact shade is important. I agree. So if the color shown is a little off or a lot off, it’s still off and it’s still not the exact color you want. I’m sure if you wanted a greener ultramarine and you got a redder one, you would not shrug it off. In that case, whether it is two shades or twenty, wrong is wrong. If you are doing exact work, you might phone the company and ask for a PMS-color match, or do matches using computer monitor registration numbers. Otherwise, whether it’s a print catalog or a computer screen, the colors can be off. It’s a problem that has been around forever.

            I can suggest you phone Dick Blick and ask if they have sheets with dots of paint color. For watercolor, you can get a use or two out of them, for acrylics and oils, you can see the color. Dick Blick’s site clearly says, “Note — Use this color chart as an approximation of the real color. If exact color matching is necessary, use actual samples of the materials.” That seems pretty realistic to me, Bryan.

          • Nope. I know about how hard it is to match colors, whether on screens or in prints. A French ulotramarine that shoiws as a normal ultramarine (more greenish) at least shows me an ultramarine blue. How can a greenish teal represent a dioxazine purple hue? Get real: misrepresenting the product you want to sell is off-putting to say the least, especially to an artist. Exact representations are impossible to come by, but why go so far astray?

            The Inktense scan shown on this page looks reasonably accurate, much more so than the abomination that appears on Derwent’s own site.

            How can you, as an artist, defend sloppy work like that?

  9. I just got a set of the Inktense this last weekend and I love them already!

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