Susie Hodge tests Derwent’s new Procolour pencils

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Susie Hodge tests Derwent’s new Procolour pencils

‘Firm, velvety-smooth, intensely coloured and reliably lightfast’ is how Susie Hodge describes Derwent’s new Procolour pencils.

Procolour pencils are Derwent's new vivid, highly pigmented and easily blended coloured pencils.

Derwent have been making the finest coloured pencils since 1938, with a heritage dating back to 1832.

Subsequently, the consistencies of all their coloured pencils have improved over the years, the number and intensity of the colours they create have increased, and the portability, ease of handling, lightfastness and immediacy have become ever more liberating for artists.

Firm, velvety-smooth, intensely coloured and reliably lightfast, Procolour pencils combine the strength of the Derwent Artists' range with the smooth, layering abilities of Coloursoft.

Each pencil contains the highest concentrations of pigment for purity and intensity, blended with excellent quality binding ingredients, and so their rich colours can be easily layered, blended or burnished to create subtle variations of tones and hues.

Cherries, Derwent Proclour pencils, (30x36cm)

Colours used: plum, crimson lake, geranium lake, primary red, bright red, blue violet lake, soft violet, heather, burnt carmine, Mars violet, grape, dark indigo, pink madder lake, light moss, olive green, sap green, burnt umber, brown ochre.

Soft layering was used across this entire picture with gentle pressure, no burnishing, just colours overlaid on each other and the white of the paper left for highlights.


'As a lover of Coloursoft and watercolour pencils, I wondered how I would feel about this new addition to Derwent's 'family' – but no concern was needed!' says Susie Hodge.

'From the moment I tried out the first pencil, it felt comfortable in my hand and performed beautifully.

'Colours glided easily over the paper, and varying pressure created different effects. They worked well with expressive or loose work, as well as for finer, more meticulous and detailed image building.

'I mixed new colours by overlaying thin applications of different hues, and created stronger, more opaque marks using firm pressure or layers applied in different directions.

'The glow and opacity of the colours work well whether they are soft and pale or deep and dark.

'The pencils sharpened easily with either a knife or a pencil sharpener, and depending on how each pencil is applied, marks can be soft and indefinite or sharper and more defined.

'Slightly harder than Coloursoft and softer than Inktense or watercolour pencils (watercolour pencils by their nature are necessarily hard), they produce intense, radiant and instant colour, and feel velvety to use.

'By varying the pressure, subtle gradations of tone were obtained quickly, but layering one colour over another or several colours on top of each other were particularly successful for me, and burnishing also achieved good results.'

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Procolour in mixed media

'You can also use Procolour in conjunction with other media, such as over a light wash of watercolour, inks or Inktense, or you can add chalk or oil pastels over the top, layering materials for even greater density and texture.

'Talking of textures, I found that smoother surfaces were more sympathetic for my fairly sharply defined images as the rich colour is 'grabbed' by any tooth and I was after fairly clean contours, but Procolour are also effective on coloured or more textured paper for looser, more expressive work.

'For the images on this page, I used Procolour on smooth white cartridge paper and built up most layers from light to dark, or softened darker or brighter colours and tones by burnishing with a light colour over the top.

'Holding the pencils at an angle produced broad, soft marks, whilst the sharpened tip was capable of fine, precise detail for greater accuracy.

'The more layers you add, the greater the sheen of your drawing as the pigments coat the underlying surface and fill in the natural tooth.'

Iris, Derwent Proclour pencils, (31x31cm)

Colours used: cobalt blue, dark indigo, phthalo blue, spectrum blue, Prussian blue, ultramarine, mid-ultramarine, magenta, plum, spectrum orange, deep cadmium, primrose yellow, deep chrome, light moss, sap green, mineral green, cedar green, yellow ochre, grass green, moss green, olive green, burnt umber.

Complementary contrasts of yellow and violet and orange and blue were used, while the white of the paper creates highlights and suggests light shining through the petal edges.

The Colours - from vibrant and light, to deep and dark

The 72 colours in these new Derwent Procolour pencils include brilliant, jewel-bright primary and secondary colours with cool and warm options and softer, lighter and deeper shades and tints.

There are also more subdued, earthy tones and a good range of neutrals. Greens, browns, reds and yellows are all versatile, with dark, light, vibrant, cool, warm, subtle and strong variants. And because they blend and mix so well through layering and burnishing, you can also create many more colours.

Versatile, practical and ready to use, there are so many effects you can make with these.

Depending on the look you are going for, stippling, hatching and many other methods of mark-making work as well as smooth tonal gradations, while both highly worked or loosely finished images are also effective, as the colours have such instant impact and density.

'Lifting out' using an eraser does not completely remove the colour, but has more of a burnishing effect. So if you enjoy working with this method, use it for creating smooth tonal transitions as an additional method of burnishing rather than specifically for highlights.

Try also blending and layering different colours together. Alternate the order of these for different colours and effects, such as red over yellow and yellow over red, and rather than using black, try blending brown and indigo for a rich dark hue.

For burnishing, rather than simply reaching for the white, try soft violet, salmon or champagne over darker colours to smooth, soften or even out darker or brighter colours beneath.

Use Procolour freely with big arm movements, or closely for a more precise finish.

The great thing is that they can be picked up and put down, used for quick sketches or for more carefully drawn final images, at home or in the great outdoors.

They're a great addition to any artistic repertoire.

Apple and Pear, Derwent Procolour pencils, (26.5x45cm)

Colours used: lime, light moss, sap green, yellow ochre, bronze, brown ochre, burnt carmine, deep cadmium, grass green, ultramarine, dark indigo, burnt yellow ochre, sepia, foliage, champagne.

I used an eraser and lighter colours for burnishing the surface of these objects, smoothing and blending the tones. Different application methods were used to convey the subtle differences of colour and surface texture of these fruits.

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