Derwent Watercolor Pencils – And Best Tips for Using Them

Do you own a set of watercolor pencils? If not, why not? They really are an absolute blast to use in creating beautiful art.

They are the best of both worlds–colored pencils and watercolor painting–and are extremely versatile.

But just like everything else, not all watercolor pencil brands (also known as water-soluble) are created equal.

This post focuses on a brand I have worked with and find very delightful: Derwent Watercolor Pencils. I will also share tips for using them.

If you are not familiar with how to use watercolor pencils, please check out my post “How to Use Watercolor Pencils”.

Straight to the Facts

Here are all the reasons to enjoy Derwent watercolor pencils:

  • Professional Quality.
  • Great Color Range/Selection
  • Comes in Protective Tin or Wooden Box
  • Highly Pigmented for Rich, Vibrant Color
  • Easy to Layer
  • Blends and Performs Beautifully
  • More Affordable Than You’d Expect
  • 3.4 mm core
  • Pre-Sharpened
  • Open Stock Available
  • White is opaque

This article contains product links for your convenience.  They are affiliate links – click here for explanation.

Where to Get Them

==>Here is a link for Derwent Watercolor Pencil Set<== from Amazon if this post has motivated you to get them already. 🙂

This link is to the 24-count set in the metal tin.

Although this post is about the regular Derwent watercolor pencils, they also make “Inktense” watercolor pencils you can check out.

==>Here is a link for Inktense watercolor pencils.<==

Let’s talk about the Quality!

Even though these pencils are an artist grade art material, please don’t shy away from them if you are just starting out. If fact, that’s all the more reason to use them. They’ll make your artwork easier!

Indeed, Derwent has designated these pencils as artist grade because they really are a superior, professional quality pencil. Here is a link from the Derwent website itself for additional info on this product direct from the “horse’s mouth”.

They boast a 3.4 mm core encased in a wooden barrel. It is hexagonal shaped making it comfortable to grip for more control. Each pencil has a color name and number printed in silver on the dark blue barrel as well as the actual color on the back end of the pencil.

Derwent sets come in a metal or wooden case with grooves for the pencils, so they are protected and stay in place. The metal tin inside cover makes a nice tray for using the palette colors.

The photo above shows how I took advantage of this as I was working. 😉

The color range and selection are loaded with rich, vibrant color—you won’t be disappointed.

In the 24 set I have, I’m so happy with the colors they chose to include in the set, which happens to be more affordable than you would expect from a professional brand. With this set, I could mix to get most any color by using the ones in the set, honestly.

[It should be noted, though, that Derwent makes another water-soluble pencil called Derwent Inktense Pencil Set

(ink-based, unlike the regular watercolor pencil, the pigment becomes permanent after wetting), which is even more vivid than the regular watercolor pencils.]

==>Click Here to check prices on Derwent Inktense Pencil Sets<==

But How Do They Perform?

No worries there! They perform so well. What you absolutely need in a great water-soluble pencil is dissolvability.

This is why I love Derwent. The pigment dissolves and turns to fluid paint leaving no strokes behind.

As you begin to work with these, they feel like a colored pencil, and actually, you can use them dry, too without wetting them, if you wish!

You can use them right out of the tin since they are pre-sharpened, too.

Here is a picture of a Hummingbird and flower study I did. You can see how my first layer on the photo to the right just looks like regular pencil.

Of course, the one on the left is the completed picture with many layers buildup.

Layering is a breeze with these pencils.

But do make sure you are using watercolor paper.

You will need this when you work with the water.

I tend to work with watercolor pencils by laying down color and wetting/painting it layer by layer. Please always let dry in between.

Having a good watercolor paper is important for this. More on that later.

Then once the color is down, you can wet and paint with it. The color does tend to intensify when it’s wet. You can see that in this photo.

Colors mix together without any issue. In my hummingbird, I needed more of a “teal” color, so I layered “May Green” and “Kingfisher Blue” to create just the color I needed.

As you can see, they mixed wonderfully without issue.

Blends Beautifully

One of the key aspects of a good watercolor pencil is how well they blend. Derwent aces this category as well.

I had no problem blending and softening hard edges nor blending color mixes.

This is because the pigment spreads nicely when you transform it into paint, thereby making the blending effortless and smooth.

Even when layering multiple layers, blending is easy because the layer re-wets the layers underneath, which blends and adds to the top layer beautifully.

Pleasant Surprise!

I have never seen a white perform as well as the Derwent white watercolor pencil! I was surprised when I laid it down dry over a darker area that I could actually see it. 

It wasn’t white white, but definitely lightened the color under it.

Still, I was sure it would become transparent after I wetted it.

Boy was I wrong! It stays opaque after you wet it. It literally looks like white paint!

Since I can actually use the white pencil and know I can rely on it, I will most likely buy an extra one on open stock to be sure to have it on hand.

And by the way, that’s a nice bonus of Derwent, that you can buy them individually. This way if you use up your favorite color, you won’t have to buy another whole set to get that one color!


Lightfast. One con I can see with these pencils is their lightfast rating—if it even is a con. Here is a link to Carrie Lewis’ post on Derwent, where she did a lightfast test.


Overall, she was very satisfied and does state the lightfast rating is on the pencil when used dry only.

Still, for those of you who would like to see actual ratings on the colors, here’s a link.

According to this rating chart, 44 of the 72 colors are 5,6 or good/very good rating and above.

6 or above is considered highly lightfast; will not fade for 100+ years.

But 28 colors were below 5 with 18 being only fair/moderate and 10 being below fair.

Having said all this, if you are only selling prints and not your originals, you won’t have to concern yourself with lightfastness as all. If you’re just selling prints, it’s a non-issue. And artwork made by Derwent does photograph well.

Price Some may think these are expensive going for around $40 for a set of 24 (as of the date of this post). But compared to another professional brand—Faber-Castell—Derwent is less expensive. Again, here is a link to Derwent from Utrecht Art Supplies ($38.49).

Also don’t forget the core is thicker, giving you more quantity of pigment, more bang for the buck!


I believe all artists would agree you should use watercolor paper when working with watercolor pencils. The reason is obvious: you will be working with water, so it is imperative to have a paper to withstand being wet.

Canson XL Watercolor Pad - 9'' x 12'', Euro Fold, 30 Sheets

I recommend, Canson XL Watercolor Pad, cold press. Cold press has the texture and works quite well. This is what I used for the Hummingbird study.

You can also use hot press. Hot press is the smooth watercolor paper. This does work quite well for when you are working dry with the pencils.

==>Click here for price<==

Tips for Using Watercolor Pencils

Here are a few tips for working with Derwent or any other water-soluble colored pencils:

Since the color tends to intensify when wet, it’s always a good idea to test out your pencils on scrap first to see what each color is going to look like when wet. Also, testing color mixes on scrap is recommended.

Using light pressure as you apply layers works best and dissolves/blends better. If you go in heavily, you may deposit too

much pigment at one time, and it will be harder to dissolve when wet and may make a gloppy mess! (Consider yourself fore warned!)

When applying dry, using the side of the point will help you cover the paper more quickly since you are using more surface area of the point.

Unlike regular colored pencils, you do not have to be concerned with direction of lay-down of dry color. You can be sloppy! Quality pencils like Derwent will be very forgiving if you applied it every which way since they dissolve and blend so well.

Don’t be afraid to layer multiple light-pressure layers to get to your desired color intensity. Each layer reacts with the

previous layer, mixing and enriching the color.

Definitely allow the paper to dry in between layers. But it is advisable to use a hairdryer to dry your layers, especially large areas. The advantage to doing this is that the dryer heat helps the paper return to its original state.

Decisions, Decisions

Well, there you have it, my take on Derwent Watercolor pencils, and it’s up to you to decide. Hopefully, you have found enough reason to want to give these a try. Believe me, they are well worth it!

If you enjoyed this post, please, by all means share it!

Let us know if you’ve used watercolor pencils. What is one favorite thing about the medium?? Please leave your comment in the box below – your email will never be shared.

Have a colorful day!


6 thoughts on “Derwent Watercolor Pencils – And Best Tips for Using Them”

  1. Hi Elaine,
    I have just had a look around your website, please see below:

    Great site I can see you have put a lot of effort into the site
    Plenty of blogs with great content and images
    The colours on the site blend well, must be due to your art qualification
    No issues that I can find
    Great site well done

  2. Hi there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  3. I’ve been teaching colored pencil classes to adults for 2 years & I love the rich pigment of Derwent pencils. I demo several brands so students can choose with some clarity about the differences in brands. Derwent makes several types going from harder “lead” to “softer”. My preference is the softer ones because they blend better. Colorsoft and Chromaflow. As you know the softer the pencil the earlier you have sharpen them. That bothers some people but I find if I use the sides of the pencil rather than the point it doesn’t create “gouge lines” into the paper & rotating around the sides of the lead keeps it sharper longer. Personally I don’t mind sharpening them when I need to make a fine line. I WAS WONDERING IF DERWENT MAKES MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF WATERCOLOR PENCILS AS WELL. I HAVEN’T USED THEIR WATERCOLOR PENCILS YET. I’ve been using Polychromos & love them but I love to try different brands like most artists. I won’t name names here of the brands I’ve found to be disappointing. I love your tips & tricks in your art box articles. I’ve been painting & drawing since about 4 years old & have a degree in Fine Arts but I still learn from your articles & am reminded of things I ‘ve forgotten. Thank you so much for doing what you do. Jewell


Leave a Comment