Derwent Inktense Colored pencils

The coloring of Russia’s St. Basil’s Cathedral in Lizzie Mary Cullen’s coloring book: Magical City is my first color art using exclusively Derwent Inktense pencils. I really like the intense bright colors of the result, it is also a lot of fun to play with these pencils. There’s an element of surprise that gets me excited along the way.

What is Derwent Inktense pencil?

Derwent Inktense pencil is water-soluble ink that comes in the form of colored pencil. You can also purchase them in “block form”. Basically, it is like watercolor pencils in that you color the area like normal color pencils, then wash over with water. This brings out the strong intense tones.  Unlike watercolor which can be washed again, lifted and move around, Inktense is ink. It is permanent and can not be lifted. It can be used on other media besides paper eg fabric. Once dry, you can add other layers on top or around it. Here I show the 72 color set but they are available in 6, 12, 24, 48 color sets. You can also buy individual ones in good art supply stores. I picked up 2 individuals to try before taking the plunge to buy the  bigger set.

Before you start

The first thing I suggest you do before you start coloring with these pencils is a color chart. I normally am not an advocate of color charts for regular colored pencils. However, doing up an Inktense color chart is a must for these reasons:

  • The color on the pencil itself is no where near the actual color. The only accurate ones might be black and white. Hence you can’t pick just by looking at the tip of the pencil.
  • Once wet the color is dramatically different than when it’s dry. See how the colors really transform when you add water to the dry colors in the picture below?

Here’s the color chart I did of the 72 colors.

How to color with Inktense pencils

What you need:

  • Watercolor brushes – I use water brushes as shown below but regular watercolor brushes work just fine. These water brushes are the best inventions ever! You fill the barrel with water and you can squeeze to release water onto the brush. I find that one squeeze last me a long time for use with the Inktense pencils. You do not need to continuously squeeze the water barrel, only when you feel the brush is getting dry. The yellow one is extra fine brush and the blue one is slightly bigger. For the coloring of the Magical City, I mostly use the yellow brush.

  • a small cup of clean water – for cleaning your brushes before you move onto the next color
  • a couple pieces of paper towel – for removing excess water or when I feel the color is too strong

There are 2 ways to apply Inktense color and I use both methods depending on the effect I want to accomplish.

  1. apply dry color to the area, then gloss over with wet brush.
  2. use the wet brush to pick up color directly from the pencils by brushing a few times (I do it around 3-5 times), then use the brush to apply the color on the area.

I often start with #1 then when the area is dry I use #2 to apply highlight to the area. For example, if I want a darker shadow (see the base of the dome in my coloring of the cathedral), I use method #2 to add a bit of dark grey to create dimension.


I didn’t fall in love with these pencils right away. These pencils take some getting used to and there are a few things I learned that I would like to share with you.

  1. The color is very intense, so a little goes a long way. Remember you can always add more layers if you feel it’s too light.
  2. You don’t have to cover the entire area with the colored pencil, Remember the water brush will spread the color. See my color chart, I only apply color to 1/3 of the box and the rest is a gradient effect from the water brush.
  3. Do not use excessive amount of water especially if the area you want to cover is small. Unless you are drawing/painting on watercolor paper, the normal coloring book paper does not like water very much. It will buckle, it will wrinkle up or worse yet it might pill. The color might get through to the back and destroy the drawing if it is printed on both sides. Always test your paper and get a feel of how much water it can tolerate. The Magical City coloring book is pretty tolerant. Sure it wrinkle a bit but nothing that can’t be fixed by putting my book at the bottom of my stack of coloring books for several hours.
  4. Your brush should feel damp but not dripping wet. There should be no puddles. If you see puddle forming, dapple your brush on the paper towel immediately. You should be glossing your colored area with water not drenching it in water. Try not to rub back and forth too much.
  5. It is waterproof – once it dries, no amount of water is going to lift it off the paper. The advantage of this is you can layer other colors on top without messing up the color underneath and you don’t have to worry about colors bleeding onto one another. If you actually wants a watercolor effect of multiple colors interacting with each other, then you put all the colors you want on the area in the pattern you like, before you add water.
  6. Work relatively fast when brushing with water – you really don’t want to stop until you are done because if you stop half way and it dries, then you have a hard line which is probably not what you want. If you don’t like the effect, it’s best to wait till it dries and overlay other color on it rather than keep trying to fix it while it’s wet.
  7. If you are thinking that you can use it dry or wet and hence eliminate the need to buy a regular set of colored pencil, I think you’ll be disappointed. When applied dry, it doesn’t have the same smooth buttery feel as normal colored pencils, and the colors are quite dull. It only shines when wet.

There you have it! Everything I know about Derwent Inktense pencils. I am sure with practice, I will discover more what works and what doesn’t. There are some really good youtube videos that demonstrate coloring with Inktense pencil. Hence, I don’t think I need to make another video. I wish someone has told me about these little fine points though.

I truly love the intense vivid color of the Derwent Inktense pencils. If you haven’t had a chance to try these pencils, I hope my tips inspire you to give it a try.

Happy Coloring!

8 comments on “Derwent Inktense Colored pencils

  1. I’ve had these pencils for years and have learned to love them. You explained them perfectly. They are a classic example of less is more.

    Thank you Betty, I love your work!

  2. So much valuable info in one place. Thank you Betty!

  3. Need a example please

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