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Versatile Derwent Inktense with Robert Dutton

Posted on Thu 14 Jun 2018

I’ve been using Derwent Inktense colours since 2006, especially Inktense Blocks, their versatility in being both paint and drawing medium at the same time is beneficial, both in the studio and for outdoor use. They are perfect for artists who want to travel light, to work quickly without too much studio set up and who don’t want the hassle of acquiring all the kit needed to paint with traditional water media, or acquire an extensive range of drawing media.

Derwent Inktense range

Inktense blocks can be used successfully on their own to achieve effects similar to soft pastels but with a major advantage: they are dustless and, with a little water added can be made to extend the colours. Once dry, coloured washes remain permanent and bright; this is a real advantage that watercolourists will find attractive as under-painted washes do not move and colours mixed are the exact colour of choice, without lightening.

Inktense pencils are from the same pigments as the blocks (with nothing extra added), and perfect for artists requiring greater precision. They are water-soluble and can be sharpened to really long points with a craft knife without breaking.

Available in sets of 12, 24, 36 and the full 72 colours, both pencils and blocks fit snugly in sturdy slotted plastic trays inside robust, lightweight tins. The slotted trays protect each colour from damage or unnecessary wear when travelling or storing, or in use.

Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set

This ingenious compact box is great for outdoor and small studio work. It contains 12 water-soluble Inktense Pans in a lightweight, well-made plastic paint box and Derwent’s popular water reservoir brush. Colours are quickly activated, hold well on a loaded watercolour brush and are easy to mix because of their great pigmentation. I particularly liked the way the colours glazed one over the other easily and wet layers stay put when you work one over the other. As a result, cleaner glazing techniques are achieved throughout the Inktense range.

The paint box fits easily into your pocket or sketching bag. It is a very useful painting companion for quick plein-air studies on all sorts of textures and surfaces of paper. The pure, vibrant, highly pigmented colours are well thought out. The set is also useful when close to hand in the studio – I found it especially useful for preliminary studies.

The small pans are a bit too small for large-scale work, but you can work round this if the colours are pre-mixed in larger palette wells used alongside the box.


An instinctive response

I love the fact that Derwent Inktense Blocks are square and have sharp edges, so I can use them to draw with or wet them to make ink, and paint with them in washes. They feel good in the hand, which inspires quick, responsive and instinctive drawing and painting at the same time – just how I like it. You can apply colour directly to the paper from the tips or on their side to create all sorts of interesting marks and they blend easily, too.

Lots of traditional drawing techniques can be achieved with Inktense Blocks, with the advantage that no fixative is required between layers. Inktense doesn’t smudge readily (if at all), which is a big advantage when travelling or storing your work. Also, you can quickly achieve a more fluid look to your painting by adding water with a brush to your drawn Inktense marks. You cannot wet soft pastel in the same way and hope for the same sparkle or clarity of colour. Vigorous applications saturate the area with rich colour, creating dense, strong flat tones. Working other colours in a similar way, one over the other, increases this effect for seamless blending.

The colours in the Inktense Paint Pans are 100% lightfast. Lightfastness ratings for all colours in the Inktense range are on the relevant colour charts – you can find these at www.derwentart.com.

Once used, you’re hooked! Every time I use Derwent Inktense I discover how creative and useful they are – especially in my mixed-media work. I’m sure you will, too!


Summer’s Glow, River Nidd, Yorkshire, Derwent Inktense Blocks on Canson Moulin du Roy 140lb (300gsm) Not watercolour paper, (38x56cm)

I was able to create every subtle nuance of this scene with ease using a wide variety of techniques akin to watercolour painting with the fabulous Derwent Inktense Blocks.


Inktense preparation

To create your own tints, use a sharp craft knife or scalpel to obtain fine shavings that you mix together.


Inktense mix in palette

For larger pre-mixed washes, increase the water-to-pigment ratio of shaved Inktense Blocks for the desired tint. This is extremely useful for larger scale work


Inktense tray mixing

For water-media techniques on a grand scale, Inktense Blocks can be dissolved in wells of water and very quickly mixed to create large, sumptuous volumes of lovely pre-mixed colour.


Robert Dutton teaches pastel, acrylic, watercolour and mixed-media techniques at his workshops and art holidays. This year Derwent are supporting ‘Paint Andalucia’ in Spain from October 9 to 16, 2018, with their Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set. For more details about Robert’s paintings, workshops and holidays, see www.rdcreative.co.uk


To purchase visit the Derwent website.


This product report is taken from the July 2018 issue of The Artist

Click here to purchase your copy


Versatile Derwent Inktense with Robert Dutton

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