Product Review: Inktense Pencils

Product Review: Inktense® Pencils by Derwent®
By Minnelli Lucy France

M. L. France Inktense Fig. 1Are you looking for art materials that may not trigger allergies as severely as paints with fumes, or solvents from oils and acrylics? This summer, I was desperate for just that. To this end, I re-evaluated my various art media and in doing so I ventured upon new discoveries and artistic possibilities. Inktense by Derwent was one of my favorite new discoveries and is now rapidly becoming one of my main media.

> Figure 1: Swallowtail on Gerber, original on (9x12) mixed media paper in Inktense pencils.

Inktense (a portmanteau of the words “ink” and “intense”) is basically ink in the form of pencils. They are not to be confused with watercolor pencils for two reasons. While they are initially water-soluble, they are ink and do not reactivate with water once they are dry, making them permanent.

Product Description
Inktense Pencils Fig. 2Inktense pencils have a similar design to many of Derwent’s colored pencil products such as the pencil width, wood casing, color labeling, and pencil tip coloration. The Inktense brand slogan is “Pencil to Ink in Just One Wash.” The pencils come in a blister of 6, tin of 12, wooden box of 18, tin of 24, tin of 36, wooden box of 48, tin of 72, and wooden box of 72. Derwent also sells Inktense blocks that can be used in conjunction with the pencils or independently.

> Figure 2: Inktense pencils

I found that the standard KUM sharpener or the Ellipse by KUM was great for sharpening these pencils, and they also sharpen very smoothly. The wood casing appears to be good quality. You can visit the Derwent website for a complete color chart by visiting this link: You can also click the link on the left of the chart on the link provided to download their color chart via PDF.

Product Usage Tips & Tricks
Inktense Pencils Fig. 3I tried the tins of 12 and 36 pencils on various types of paper including Fabriano® Artistico hot press watercolor paper, Fabriano Artistico cold press watercolor paper, Arches® hot press watercolor paper, Arches cold press watercolor paper, Canson® Mixed Media paper, Strathmore® mixed media paper, Strathmore Bristol Board, and several sketchbooks. They all worked very nicely; however I truly enjoyed working with these pencils on the L’Aquarelle Heritage by Canson hot press, 140-pound watercolor paper. > Figure 3: Inktense tin of 36


Inktense Review Fig. 4These pencils are very heavily pigmented and can be used for a plethora of applications and techniques. While they have some similarities to India ink, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, watercolor tube paints, and watercolor half-pans, mainly they are very much their own, unique medium. When colored pencils are applied to paper, the artist always works in careful mini-circles, or strokes with a very sharp point, understanding that the lines they make on the paper will remain exactly as they were applied, and despite the fact that solvent or blender pencil may be applied afterward, the lines remain in the exact areas. The same is true for the Inktense. 

> Figure 4: Chesapeake Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus), original on (9x12) mixed media paper in mixed media (20% watercolor and watercolor pencils)


Inktense J. F. Lucy Fig. 5Watercolorists can apply a high number of translucent and diluted layers to very thick or even semi-dry layers for a much heavier pigment load, and the same can be accomplished with Inktense. India ink dries waterproof as does Inktense. Aside from these similarities to the aforementioned media, these pencils can be used heavily in mixed media artwork, because they don’t lift off the paper once they are dry even if rewet. One can then add areas in watercolor or simply work over the layers with other media.

> Figure 5: Blue Walking Iris, original on (9x12) fine watercolor paper in Inktense pencils; black added afterward, digitally

Each 36-pack or higher brings a color liner called the Outliner pencil. The Outliner is particularly useful if one wants to outline an illustration and then work in the color for a bleed proof technique. There are also ways to accomplish this without making use of the liner. One nifty trick I learned is to take a sheet of sanding paper and mix the color on it before applying it to the surface. You may also choose to shade with a very light hand and blend out, or work on a heavier toothed surface, which allows for greater color blending on the actual area being colored. I prefer to dry draw color sections on folded parchment paper, and then take my wet brush and blend the shades I want prior to applying it on the watercolor paper where my illustration is being created.

I use this technique for light washes or during the underpainting phase.

Product Information
Derwent uses the Blue Wool Scale to test their products’ lightfastness, and many of these pencils have a very good or great lightfast rating. According to the Derwent chart, “lightfastness refers to the chemical stability of a pigment under long exposure to light”. The Derwent pencils that are marked with the highest level of lightfastness won’t start to fade for over 100+ years, making them very archival for use in fine art. But, it is always a standard practice to place finished originals under UV glass in a spot away from direct sunlight when hanging fine art. Adding a varnish and working on acid-free archival professional artist grade paper always increases protection. Creating artworks and then scanning them into your computer to prepare them for making fine art prints is also a fantastic way to make use of your artwork.

These pencils are all vegan friendly, and are biodegradable. Derwent Company won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for manufacturing their environmentally friendly art products. If you wish to read further on their awards you can visit this link via their website:

The Bottom line
These pencils are a fantastic choice for those looking for a solvent-free, no-odor method of coloring your artworks without sacrificing lightfastness or archival quality. If you are looking for a vegan art product or an eco-friendly method of painting, Inktense are a great choice! They are easy to travel with, hold a great point, have a high pigment concentration, and blend beautifully. If you live in an area near a Hobby Lobby® retail store, you can use their 40% off coupon (one-per-day-per-customer) downloadable via their website ( and use it to purchase their tin of 12 and try them out to get started.

Minelli Lucy France Fig. 6About the Author
Minnelli Lucy France is a natural science freelance illustrator. She works out of her home art studio based in Florida where she is from. Her work in Natural Science Illustration focuses on marine wildlife, botanical art, botanical scientific illustration which is only in grey or ink, and her insect work is specifically on Anthophila and Lepidoptera. She illustrates traditionally but on occasion digitally. She also cares deeply about biodiversity and conservation. Her website is

Images © Minnelli Lucy France (except the Inktense Pencil Tin - © Derwent)

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