Review: Derwent Artists-series Coloured Pencils

This review is written by my friend Teo Hwee Lee.

What do I personally look for in coloured pencils?

As with any colour medium, I place utmost importance on the intensity of pigments in the pencils. Whether they are bright or muted, whether it is easy to cover large areas and their look on gray or tan toned papers that I like to use so much.

The next factor I would consider is the hardness or softness of the leads. Too soft and the leads smudge and snap easily, too hard and the leads scratch the paper badly.

The third factor would be if the pencils are suited for layering or blending. Layering does not require additional tools but can take longer to achieve the optical effect desired and the much dreaded "wax bloom" can occur, while blending will require additional purchase of a blender stub/pencil/marker or solvent of some sort e.g.mineral spirits, or just the use of water for dissolving the pigments if the pencils are of the aquarelle watercolour type.

Derwent pencils have been manufactured by The Cumberland Pencil Company in Cumbria in the UK since 1832 and is now a brand under ACCO UK Ltd. The Artist pencils are one of the five Derwent colouring ranges, the other four namely: Studio, Coloursoft, Metallic and Drawing.

Derwent Artists pencils are available in a range of 120 colours, of which 70 are available in its Studio pencils range. For the purpose of this review, I used a 24-colour tin set.The pencils feel drier and more scratchy on paper than Studio pencils and leave more obvious stroke marks too, astonishing as I had assumed that the Artists range would be creamier in texture than the Studio range.

Erasing is difficult and an issue so extra caution during use is recommended. In addition, they also feel more waxy than the Studio pencils, maybe that is the reason why only the Artists pencil tins have it printed on the back that the range has a “slightly waxy texture”. I have included 24-colour strips of the Artist and Studio pencils,as well as similar colours in the Derwent Coloursoft range for your reference.

The list of colours included in this set are:

  • 0200 - Lemon Cadmium - LF 1
  • 0600 - Deep Cadmium - LF 4
  • 1000 - Orange Chrome - LF 5
  • 1400 - Deep Vermilion - LF 4
  • 1800 - Rose Pink - LF 1
  • 2000 - Crimson Lake - LF 4
  • 2300 - Imperial Purple - LF 3
  • 2600 - Light Violet - LF 1
  • 3200 - Spectrum Blue - LF 3
  • 3500 - Prussian Blue - LF 3
  • 3800 - Kingfisher Blue - LF 6
  • 4500 - Mineral Green - LF 4
  • 4600 - Emerald Green - LF 4
  • 4700 - Grass Green - LF 7
  • 4800 - May Green - LF 6
  • 5100 - Olive Green - LF 4
  • 5400 - Burnt Umber - LF 8
  • 5700 - Brown Ochre - LF 8
  • 5900 - Golden Brown - LF 8
  • 6100 - Copper Beech - LF 8
  • 6700 - Ivory Black - LF 8
  • 6800 - Blue Grey - LF 4
  • 6900 - Gunmetal - LF 4
  • 7200 - Chinese White - LF 8

The lightfast rating for most colours in this set are quite lousy. Derwent uses a lightfast rating from 1-8 with 8 being the best. From the list above, you can see that most of the earth colours have good to excellent lightfast rating. The rest are just not as good with only borderline LF 3 and 4 ratings, so they will fade faster with time. The Derwent Artist-series has 120 colours and the quality of the whole range is not too different from the list of 24 in this box. The Artist series is more for casual work rather than permanent work. Make sure to scan your artworks after you've created them to keep the digital files as archive.

Another big minus is that its colour intensity is much much lower than that of Derwent Coloursoft or Prismacolour and slightly lower than the Studio range. This is not the range to get if you like your colours to "pop". However,I did get a very nice subtle-looking portrait that I was very satisfied with, using just graphite and two colours on toned tan paper, so the range can be great for subtle drawings or muted background work.

I would highly recommend multi-layering to achieve a blended look instead of using a colourless blender, which I did to disastrous effect a.k.a "wax bloom".


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)

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