Liz Seward is delighted with the range of 72 Inktense colours.

The Inktense range of water-soluble pencils, blocks and accessories has been one of the great successes of the Derwent product range in recent years. Many water-based media artists have found them indispensable.

I have used the blocks for some time in conjunction with acrylic for mixed-media paintings on paper, as they are ink in a solid form.

Lately I have been using them on their own or combining them with the Inktense pencils, as I have found that together they are all I need for many pieces, particularly if I am working away from the studio, where carrying large amounts of equipment is difficult.

Where to buy Derwent Inktense

Derwent Inktense Blocks and pencils can be purchased from Jackson's Art Supplies by clicking here and from art shops and other online retailers.

Content continues after advertisements

The colours

My old box of 24 Inktense Blocks had done sterling service and was very dilapidated, so I was both relieved and exhilarated to be introduced to the expanded range of colours.

Amongst the colours are some wonderful blues, ranging from aquamarine through to the quieter violet blues and darker neutrals.

Derwent have always had a comprehensive range of greens in their sets and these are no exception.

There is a green here for every occasion and eye, plus the option of mixing a green in a palette using yellows and blues, in the same way as watercolour (palettes can always be cleaned in a dishwasher afterwards).

Bright, sizzling oranges and reds and some luscious dusky pinks, mauves, and magentas will delight the flower painters, and spring a few surprises in a landscape or a still life.

If you love working with pure colour you will be delighted with these and welcome the range with open arms.


Using the blocks

Ways of using Derwent Inktense Blocks

The blocks can be used in a number of ways, as shown in my illustration above.

1. Making ink

To make ink, just add water. For this, Derwent have developed the Shake’n’Grate, a plastic container with a built-in grater in the lid – just add water to the shavings in the pot.

The consistency can be changed by adding more shavings. The ink is useful for large washes and glazes and can also be used in a spray bottle, such as the Derwent Spritzer, which is available singly or in packs of three.

2. Using flat

Use the flat side of the block directly on the paper in a similar way to pastels, then wet with water to produce a paint-like effect over a large area that can be worked into with detail later.

3. Colour lifting

Colour can be lifted directly from the block with a brush just like a pan of watercolour. You can leave them in the tin to do this, or hold in the hand using the rubber gripper accessory, which avoids grubby hands and transferring colour from block to block.

4. Edges and points

All these activities will result in the blocks developing sharp edges and angled points, which can be used for line drawings.

5. Splattering

You can splatter colour – rub a wet coarse brush over the blocks and splatter on to wet or dry paper to produce textural effects similar to those made with toothbrushes and thumbs, but kinder to skin and fingernails.

6. Different surfaces

Paper, silk, card, other absorbent surfaces and some primed surfaces will receive the ink from these blocks.

7. Glazing and layering

Once the washes have dried they are unmoveable, which makes them perfect for glazing and layering.

Test one - Flooded Lane, Eversleigh

Flooded Lane, Eversleigh, Inktense Blocks on Langton HP Paper, (28x47cm)

After negotiating these huge puddles, I arrived at a friend’s studio to try out the Derwent Inktense Blocks.
I recorded the scene using approximately 25 of the blocks in the same way as I did for Wine and Crab Apples (see below).
I chose a different palette of colours though, to suit the autumnal tints.

Test two - Wine and Crab Apples

Wine and Crab Apples, Derwent Inktense Blocks on Langton Prestige HP paper, (42x35.5cm)

Using a large flat brush I laid an under-painting of bright orange, turquoise blue and mauve made into fairly liquid ink.
I then developed the painting by taking the colour directly off the block with a smaller flat brush.
I prefer to use colour as pure as I can with minimal mixing, so I chose about 20 of the 72 colours.
With the extended range my choice will be different for every painting, depending on the subject.
For the finishing details I used the sharper edges of the used blocks, and the white Inktense Block (which is opaque) for the highlights.

Try using Inktense Blocks to paint a red panda with Angela Gaughan by


Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.

Content continues after advertisement