Derwent Inktense Pencils

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

Inktense Pencils by Derwent are described as “watersoluble ink pencils” meaning they offer the best of three worlds: 1) Control of pencils 2) Blendability of watercolors and 3) Highly pigmented, intense color. These pencils come in 71 assorted colors plus an outliner which can be used to draw non-smearing, permanent outlines.

Aside from their intense pigment, what sets these aside from ordinary watercolor pencils is that inktense pencils are permanent once they dry. They can be used just like regular watercolor pencils and while wet, the colors are blendable. Once the ink has dried, the built in glaze makes it permanent so additional layers of color or other mediums can be applied on top. Unlike regular watercolors, the artwork will not become “muddy” with the addition of more color (one of the things I hate about regular watercolors).

Because my watercoloring skills are amateur, I prefer the control of pencils. By varying the amount of pressure The above sample shows four different looks for the same blue pencil. Applying color directly to the paper provides more intense color and applying color from the pencil tip with a wet brush gives a softer, more traditional watercolor look. My favorite look was a combination of lightly shading the paper and adding extra color from the brush because it had lots of smooth color.

Like many of you, I own several styles of pencils and I wanted to see how they compared to other products. But because Inktense pencils are unique in nature, so it is difficult to do a direct comparison because there are no like products. But just to give you a rough idea, I did a side-by-side comparison of both wet and dry of three products on Canson 120lb Watercolor Paper. From left to right are Lyra Aquacolor Crayons, Staedtler Karat Aquarell Watercolor Pencils and Inktense Pencils. The Staedtlers were the smoothest to apply to the paper but the Inktense blended the smoothest.

I started with a set of 24 and at the same time I also purchased a Derwent blender and burnisher set, and two good brushes. The artist who demoed the pencils for me (and made it look really easy and fun) recommended good brushes and a using the Derwent blender with Derwent pencils. I definitely agree and the proper tools did make a large difference. Since my initial purchase I have purchased: Thistle, Fern, Payne’s Gray, Sienna Gold and Crimson and I have found these colors to be among my favorites.


  • Intense color
  • Permanent- no smearing, easy to add additional layers of color
  • Versatile- watercolor and pen and ink looks from 1 product


  • Set of 24 had too many dark colors and no pink
  • Product difficult to find- available in art supply stores or online only
  • Skilled watercolorists might prefer traditional watercolor pencils

In summary, Derwent Inktense pencils are my favorite pencils for their plentiful pigment, blendability, versatility and permanence. They are available in fine art stores or discounted online from Dick Blick, Jerry’s Artarama and Amazon for about $1.50 or so each. This is the best product I have reviewed for Craft Critique and I rate them a 10 out of 10!

Have you tried Inktense pencils yet? Do you think they’ll take the place of more traditional watercolor pencils?

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6 Responses to Derwent Inktense Pencils

  1. Michelle Adams August 15, 2008 at 11:13 am #

    Thanks for the awesome review! I have been considering these pencils but wasn’t sure about them…You’ve just made my mind up! ;0)

  2. Fabrizio August 15, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    Hi Heather I can only agree with what you wrote. I have the box of 24 too and I’m lusting for the 70-72 (can’t remember) tub of them which has a price tag of 80 pounds in the UK (read 155 US dollars – ouch!). I like using them and mixing them with some other mediums such as pastel pencils to add some extra shades.

    I also hear ya about your watercoloring skills, I’m always cagey when starting coloring using pencils but now I find it quite easy and enjoy using them. The other day I even found myself apply the brush to the pencil and ‘painting’ on cardstock (shock horror – LOL). Thank you for your very interesting posts and your tests using different brands of products. You save us ‘discovering’ what works and what doesn’t. Thanks again, X Fab

  3. Linda B August 15, 2008 at 6:02 pm #

    Thanks for the helpful review….I have been dithering about what to buy as my budget is very limited and I think you have sold me on Derwent. Thanks!

  4. Anonymous November 25, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi, I am so pleased to read the comments about Derwent’s Inktense pencils. I have just bought the wooden box set of 71, and was quite nervous about it! I have tried the traditional water colour pencil from a few distributers, but found the colours too weak. so I am delighted to hear that the inktense pencil not only offers control, boldness and a wide spectrum of colours, but are also ideal for the amateur artist. I look forward to having them delivered! I will let you know how I get on using them!

  5. Kim Nath September 13, 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    I only have a couple of these but I absolutely love them! The intense color looks great and they are really easy to use with an aquabrush. For a beginner like me they are great.

  6. thefrugalcrafter April 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Thanks, I have a set of these sitting in my shopping cart wainting to press the “buy” button:) I know Kim (above commenter) and between your review and her OK I will get some. Thanks for the review:)