The Creative Plan – Inktense Pencils Day 1


My mix of old and new Derwent Inktense Pencils

This is a product I’m already familiar with and love them to bits. As the name implies they are intense in colour as well as coverage. The first set I bought was over seven years ago and I remember the reviews weren’t particularly great. There seemed to be a defensive reaction to the colours they created and the lack of control when wetted. 

LunaPark002 LR
A  sketch done several years ago using Inktense

Since then, not only is there a greater range of colours and the pencil body has changed from a hexagonal to rounded shape, the reviews online are much more positive. Which is great! And like all things there is an extended range of blocks and paint sets. Sometimes I find it all too overwhelming regarding the number of new products out there where I cannot tell or understand the difference between them all. Mind you, I just watched a promo for the Inktense paint blocks and they look pretty drool worthy. 


For my colour chart each strip was given a single “scribble” stroke of brushed on water. One or two looked different from their dry state but overall they were consistent.

My Inktense colour chart

Transference test

One aspect of Inktense that I love is the ability to transfer some wetted pigmented to another section and use it like a tint, a lot like how you would use watercolours. You can see it in the clouds in my drawing above.

Dry state of three colours examples where the pencil has been applied with varying pressure

Apart from the Willow colour most turned out pretty well, even the box with very little colour produce a lot of extended colour wash.

The left grid  is the above dry squares wetted; the corresponding squares in the right grid show how much colour was lifted from the left and transferred over.
Close up of the left grid
Close up of the transferred colour grid on the right

Water application

The next test was to see how much water was needed to pull out colour. From left to right I would gradually increase the amount of water to my brush.

Dry state

It didn’t seem to matter a great deal about how much water I applied to my brush, the colour pulled out across all panels was consistent. The only real difference was the residual marks left behind once it dried, particularly on the water heavy panels.

AFter water was brushed on


This exercise is self-explanatory, but for a semi-opaque medium it was important to know not only how well layers of colours worked together but how easy it would be to apply each new layer.

The hardest one to manage was the wet to wet example. The two colours were applied dry at the same time but wetted together so the colours came out so generously it was hard to control.

Two colours blended at the same time .

The wet-dry-wet examples were much more effective. Inktense pencils aren’t as labour intensive as watercolour pencils when it comes to adding additional layers – though on a rougher and much larger surface it might be a different story.

Wet-Dry-Wet: Two layers of the one colour


Wet-Dry-Wet: Two layers using two different colours
Wet-Dry-Wet: Three layers using three different colours

The colours remained really vibrant and another lovely aspect to these pencils is that on the example that has four colours, you can still see all colours quite well. Watercolours, for instance, have a tendency to go a bit dull and muddied.

Wet-Dry-Wet: Four layers using four different colours

Removing Pigment

As they are ink based, not watercolour, I couldn’t remove any colour to create the cool inverted effects I have achieved with other mediums. 

Comparison with Watercolour Pencils

Not being a regular user of anything I wanted to see what some basic differences were between the two. Firstly I tried to find matching colours in both my Derwent Inktense and Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils.


A general observation was that the Durers seem more subdued and cooler in tone than the Inktense which are warmer and brighter. I am surprised by the differences between the Hooker’s Green and Mauve.colour_comparison_circles_wet

The little paint dashes next to the spheres are how much excess colour came out. Something of note is that the Durers lose some of the pencil work after being wetted compared to the Inktense.


My subject matter (before I ate it)

With each apple drawing I used a different brush and also out of curiosity I set up another drawing using my Albrecht Durers. With the latter, I knew they worked well with lots of colour applied, so this test was to only see how well they went with minimum colour.

Little colour applied

Inktense version dry state – Water was applied with a long hair brush, size 12.

Albrecht Durer example

The result was pretty bad, in fact worse than expected. I tried to match colour for colour and applied the same amount in a similar style and position. They were all drawn on the same piece of paper and at the same time but its like a ghost of an apple. 

Albrecht Durer pencil version

Even the paper was effected by the layers of water which somehow was fine with all the Inktense versions. One thing the Durer pencils did do well was breakdown my linework, which none of the Inktnese versions really did. This wasn’t particularly an issue for me just something I noticed.

Inktense example

Inktense version

So in comparison this one looks pretty damn good. The colours have kept their vibrancy and the end effect is like a light colour wash. The yellow was the lightest in tone and the first to go down but it still comes through which is really impressive.


Medium amount of colour applied

Water was applied with a long hair brush, size 8

There is a nice balance between the broader areas of colour wash and pencil work. I am surprised still that the pencil work hasn’t broken down but the colour still spreads, I thought it would dissipate the more water I added.

Finished drawing


Heavy amount of colour applied

Water was applied with a long hair size, brush 4

This is more of a drawer’s finish due to the prominence of the pencil strokes, which I personally like. The layers of colour are wonderful and the yellows and bright green are still coming through even under all the concentrated areas of red. In some areas it was hard to apply additional layers of colour but not as much in comparison to other colour pencil mediums.

Finished drawing


Shaded colour

Water was applied with a short hair brush, size 4

This was a nice little surprise. I like the hazy, burnished feel and some of the shading left behind gives it texture adding contrast and dimension.

Finished drawing


At this stage I’m a little excited about this project. Although I’ve used them before its been as a straight drawing utensil with a bit of wash, so applying different techniques to them could be quite fun.

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