Derwent’s Lightfast reviewed by Linda Birch

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Derwent’s Lightfast reviewed by Linda Birch

Pick up Lightfast and you’ll never hide your coloured-pencil artwork between the pages of your sketchbook again, says Linda Birch.

'British fine art brand, Derwent makes world-renowned fine art materials with a heritage dating back to 1832,' says Linda Birch. 'I was excited to hear that it has just launched an innovative and welcome addition to its comprehensive range of pencils, pens and artists’ tools and materials, with new 100-per-cent lightfast coloured pencils.

'Following rigorous testing in Arizona, USA – known for its strong light and heat – Derwent has launched its new range of 36 Lightfast oil-based pencils (with more colours promised).

'The initial colour selection is well thought out and offers a good range of ‘everyday’ colours along with some exciting additions with which to experiment – something we all want to do when a new set of coloured pencils arrives!'

Lightfast tests

In order to pass the stringent ASTM D6901 test, the internationally accepted test for Artists’ quality media, all 36 colours were given the highest lightfast rating and are 100-per-cent lightfast, which means the artwork will not fade for up to 100 years under museum conditions.

In this respect they are more than well equipped to stand up to UVA radiation and to maintain their vibrant colours, ensuring you can display your artwork for many years to come. This colour range is also designed to work in all climates.

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'As you would expect from Derwent, these oil-based, vegan-friendly coloured pencils are beautiful to work with.

'They are extremely smooth, and easy to mix and overlay.

'They dissolve well in white spirit and are soft enough not to leave a mark or line behind.

'I chose to use a variety of smooth surfaces to work on in this report, both white and tinted, in order to demonstrate the scope of these pencils. I was not disappointed with the results and, besides, I know these artworks will retain their colour for years to come.

'I confess I am a bit of an addict when it comes to coloured pencils. As a child I cherished them for their colour and ease of use, and even the smell of the wood casing!

'My earliest memories are of a birthday gift of a pack of Lakeland coloured pencils, also made by Derwent so it is with great pleasure that I can report on its newest range'.


Derwent Lightfast pencils can be used in a variety of ways, by building up colour using layers, and by overlaying different colours in order to mix them.

It is also possible to dissolve Lightfast when laid on paper by applying white spirit with a brush, which melts the pigment to create an effect similar to watercolour.

Once dry, which it does quickly, more dry pencil can be overlaid adding more colour as well as texture, and a denser richer effect.

Keep a point

Sharp pencils are crucial to working successfully so arm yourself with a good sharpener, the desk and electric varieties are good.

If you prefer, use a sharp craft knife.

The other useful tool is an electric eraser. Although it sounds like it is yet one more piece of gadgetry, an electric eraser is capable of lifting out tiny delicate areas of colour without damaging the other colours or the paper.

If you do not have one, try carving a small piece from a plastic eraser to erase fine detail. The eraser’s job is to lift out colour to create highlights or lighter tones, and not only to take out mistakes.

Mark making

Lightfast pencils can be used to make a series of lines close together, known as hatching, in order to create tone or colour.

More lines added on top at another angle create a denser colour, while increased pressure creates a stronger colour.

Lightfast can also be laid at a flattish angle (hence the need for a long well-sharpened end) to create areas of dry, soft, even colour.

Adding white spirit or turps will melt the Derwent Lightfast into a wash. This can be left, appearing similar to a watercolour, or worked over with dry colour when dry.

As with watercolour, it is best to work from light colours to dark tones.

How to keep your artwork lightfast

Although Lightfast pencils are 100-per-cent lightfast, other factors can affect the permanence of your work.

To make artwork that truly lasts:

  • Always choose high-quality pH neutral heavyweight paper.
  • Create strong, even layers and be careful not to damage the surface.
  • Do not hang your work in direct sunlight.
  • Always mount your work behind glass that has an ultra violet absorbing coating.
  • Remember that if you mix Lightfast with other products, your finished artwork may not be permanent.

Test one: Autumn Waterfall

Colours used:

  • Warm grey
  • White
  • Mid ultramarine
  • Natural brown
  • Chocolate
  • Seaweed
  • Mallard green
  • Salmon
  • Mist
  • Black

As with the other images, this was worked from light colours and tone through to the darkest hues.

The waterfall was indicated with mid ultramarine and white, while the surrounding rocks and land were indicated by hatched lines of natural brown and chocolate. The path was salmon with a little natural brown and warm grey.

At this stage I added white spirit with a soft watercolour brush to melt the colours and fuse the tones together, which helped establish the background.

When the spirit had dried the trees were added using natural brown, chocolate and black.

A figure in natural brown and black was added to give scale.

Finally, a little mallard green and seaweed were added to the nearer water and among parts of the trees.

Autumn Waterfall, Derwent Lightfast on cream mountcard, (18x13cm)

Top tip

Use spirit to melt the Lightfast washes for a similar effect to watercolour.

Overlay the dry washes with dry pencil.

Test two: Bluebell

Colours used:

  • Warm grey
  • Heather
  • Violet
  • Mid ultramarine
  • Seaweed
  • Racing green

This was worked from light through to dark using warm grey to mark out the image.

Heather and mid ultramarine were used to build up the bells and violet to add richer colour and define the purple stripes.

I added a little violet into the stem colour, and used seaweed followed by a little racing green for the stem.

Bluebell, Derwent Lightfast on cartridge paper, (15x10cm)

Top tip

For this, apply dry Lightfast in shades of violet and blue.

Test three: Pony

Colours used:

  • Warm grey
  • White
  • Mist
  • Venetian red
  • Ruby earth
  • Natural brown
  • Black

Here I wanted to test Lightfast on a strong dark surface.

The head of a pony began as a drawing in warm grey.

I then built up the warm colours with natural brown, Venetian red and a little ruby earth, being particularly careful in following the pattern of the hair.

The blaze was white with mist and a little warm grey.

I was able to lift out the darks in the ears and the nostrils, but also to leave the strong black base colour to represent the darks.

On black paper the pencils felt smooth and frictionless to apply.

The colours built up from mid tones to light with ease.

These colours looked rich on the dark ground with the highlights glowing.

I was also able to adjust detail after applying colours as they lifted out easily with an eraser with no smudging.

Pony, Derwent Lightfast on black mountcard, (28x20.5cm)

Top tip

Try using dry Lightfast pencils over a black surface for a dramatic effect.




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