Derwent Water-Soluble Sketching Pencils

Everyone learns to draw with graphite pencils. You know, your basic HB pencil when you were in school, and you used to scribble doodles in the margins of all your books? Well, as you progressed in your art, you discovered all kinds of fancy things, like watercolor and acrylics and oil paints. But sometimes, you want to go back to the simplicity of the basic pencil, and still be able to create some nice painterly effects.

You could turn to watercolor pencils … Derwent, Faber Castell and Caran d’Ache all have their watercolor pencil lines and they are fantastic. And pricey! If you’re going for color, you’ll want as many colors as you can get your greedy little paws on … and that will set you back a good $100 at least. And try carrying those large sets on a field trip … they are too bulky and unwieldy (although very pretty).

This is where the Derwent Water-Soluble Sketching Pencils shine (literally … they have a graphite core!). The set of 6 featured here is small enough to be easily portable, and the metal tin holds them securely.

Use these as regular pencils, and you’ll be happy with the quality and the control you get. These are slightly harder than the Tombow Mono pencils, but that is a plus, as you get to use them for fine detail if you want. And if you really prefer the blended, watercolor look – just add water with a brush and blend out the marks you’ve made on the paper.

Note that once you’ve activated them with water, they will not erase cleanly. This is usually not a big concern for me because by the time I add water, I usually have my base drawing completed and am looking to add that wash of liquid graphite.

There are 2 each of 3 pencils in this set: 2 HB (light wash), 2 4B (medium wash) and 2 8B (dark wash) pencils. That  makes a versatile set of grays to give your drawings and line-and-wash sketches that extra range of depth from these deeper tones included here.

The metal tin also includes a sharpener. Take that sharpener out and replace it with a two-hole sharpener, as the included sharpener is far too small for the extra-thick core in these pencils and simply will not work. You can use the sharpener with your regular school-grade HB pencils that have the normal-sized cores.

You may also want to invest in a kneaded eraser for better pickup of your pencil marks. A kneaded eraser lasts a good long time: just knead and reuse!

If you’re going out for a plein-aire sketching expedition with these pencils, remember to grab one of the Derwent Waterbrush sets as well … no need to carry a bottle of water, just fill and go!

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