Derwent Inktense review

Good morning, all you lovely people, it’s pencil review time! Today lets look at the Derwent Inktense pencils. At first I planned to do water soluble pencils after I’ve finished regular ones but the those just keep piling up on me so lets just look at Inktense now because.. why not 🙂 I’ve been sort of saving this review since I keep wanting to figure out more to write about them but well, lets just do it, shall we?
All pencil reviews can be found HERE.

Derwent is a UK based brand, they make a lot of pencils and other supplies and quite a few cool tidbits like their electric eraser and such. I must admit I don’t like their pencil extenders much but everything else I’ve tried is very cool. Their blenders are cool too, I’m on my fifth I think and I don’t even use blenders all that much 😀 Anyway they have a ton of different products. Inktense pencils are one of their coolest inventions, I don’t know if there’s anything quite like this on the market. If there is, I haven’t heard of it, if you have, let me know.
Inktense pencils are like watercolor pencils with one very major difference – they don’t wash into aquarelle but permanent ink. The layer of color is there once you wash it, it won’t melt back up when re-washed. So that creates a whole new array of possibilities (and also limitations) as to what you can do with these. You don’t have to stop with paper, Inktense is also great on fabric and wood. There are also Inktense blocks that are good for big surfaces.
Inktense comes in tins of 12, 24, 36 and 72. Also in wooden boxes of 48 and 72 and a blister pack of 6. I kind of wish I’d gotten mine in a wooden box since Derwent doesn’t really charge THAT much more for it but the tin is nice as well. I keep all my pencils in their original cases because I just have too many to arrange in any other way. So the case is important to me.
Inktense pencils have a round cedar casing with a blue as their main color and color coded tips. The 72 tin has two layers of pencils. They’re quite big and have a wide 4mm core.
The pencil has the color and color code printed on it in addition to the pencil type and company.


  • Beautiful vibrant colors
  • Melt down completely very easily, no pencil streaks left and no need to flood with water either
  • They make it a point to say no animal products have been used with these (so they’re vegan friendly)
  • Lightfastness is pretty decent, about half have a very good rating
  • Beautiful range of blues and greens and a good variety of natural greens, which I find to be the weak spot for many pencil sets
  • Incredibly cool that it’s waterproof ink, you can create tons of effects with layering and also use them on fabric
  • The white is actually opaque enough to be usable, unusual for a water soluble pencil
  • Not crazy expensive
  • Good quality casing, no splintering
  • Great customer service
  • Easy to get hold of
  • Good thick 4mm lead in 8mm casing, generous amount of lead there with the standard usually being 3,8mm
  • Will fit most sharpeners
  • Available open stock in some art stores and Amazon


  • I always end up with blue fingers when using these, I guess the lacquer layer is too thin so the blue stains my fingers. No biggie, it washes right off but it is a bit annoying
  • I wish there was even MORE colors
  • Most yellows and reds are not lightfast and the worst of them all is Amber with rating of 2 only. That should be taken into consideration if you frame your work. Inside books it doesn’t matter. I do wish they’d print it on the pencil as well, the rating
  • There are a lot of blacks, I’m not sure that many are really needed, I’d prefer more purples and peaches instead

Since these are unique in the world of water soluble pencils, I won’t compare them to other watercolor pencils. Inktense dries into a waterproof ink so working with it requires a bit of a different mindset then with watercolor pencils. That is, considering you use watercolor pencils like you’d use watercolors, doing washes and re-wetting things. If you like things to stay put where you put them and still play with water, Inktense is the best thing since Christmas and just for you. If you’d rather move and mix the color a bit later as well, these won’t work.
They lay down pretty muted and when wet, transform into an explosion of brilliant color. I suggest keeping an extra sheet of paper and testing out what you’re going for before you commit to it on your project because well, as said, they won’t lift once washed and the colors do look dramatically different at places when wet. And always always ALWAYS chart your pencils. Seriously. It applies to all pencils. You can not rely on barrel color, you have to chart your own pencils if you don’t want to shoot in the dark. Specially so with all water solubles.
When just starting out with water solubles, it’s easiest to control them when you approach them sort of like regular pencils, lay them down and then wet them with moist (not dripping wet) brush in tiny circular motions, the colors won’t move around too much like that. While wet, you can clean the brush and go over them again to blend better. And also important, always start with wetting the lightest part and moving towards the darkest. Always clean your brush when you lift it up (unless you are planning to put that color elsewhere as well). Play and have fun and they’ll be rewarding.
As for what brush to use, it doesn’t matter, as long as you feel comfortable with whatever you’re using. With these pencils I love my Kuretake water brushes but you can use anything you like. I also have a handful of regular brushes, most of them sable because I just prefer those with regular aquarelles but I tend to use a water brush with pencils. All a matter of style and preference, try out different things to see what you like best.

Color chart:
My illegible ones (you can click on them for bigger view)

Official color chart:

Example piece with Inktense:
Picture: Vinterdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon

I love these. That’s pretty much all there is to it. They’re my most favorite Derwent pencils ever, I think they’re the bees knees. The colors are gorgeous, they wash nicely, no pencil streaks are left showing and you can do a lot of fun stuff with them. What’s not to love? I’d get these again in a heartbeat if I had to.

Next I’ll try to show you something else that is water soluble. Or Derwent Artists. Not sure yet 🙂 I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!

Disclaimer: all of the above opinions are mine, you might have a different experience with these pencils

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