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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150 Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, Soft Core

I’m back with another great deal on Prismacolors today: it’s the big honking set of 150 Prismacolor Premier Color Soft Core Pencils! This is pretty much the holy grail set for Prismacolor colored pencil afficionados: soft, creamy, rich pigments lay down smooth as butter on your surface of choice. The wax-based soft core makes blending and layering super easy, and you can use odorless mineral spirits (my favorites are the Mona Lisa and Gamsol) for fantastic blending abilities, turning your drawings into paintings.


Right now, this set is deeply discounted at Amazon, so snap it up … you won’t regret it!

Prismacolor has been the go-to brand for colored pencil artists in North America for several decades now, and for good reason. Let’s start with the fact that, like any good artist quality colored pencils, these pencils are extremely lightfast. And then there is the question of blending: while you can achieve great results with a smaller set due to the easy blendability, the range of colors in this set means that you will spend more time creating the art you love and less time blending colors to get the exact shade you want.

Note that this set does not include a colorless blender, but whether you need that depends on your art technique: as I alluded to above, I much prefer blending with OMS (Mona Lisa is what I have right now, but Gamsol is pretty much identical). If you do want/need a colorless blender, they are very cheap on Amazon as well. Check out the double-2-pack of Prismacolor Blender Pencils (yes, that’s four pencils, rather than just 2).

While working with the Premeirs, keep in mind that erasing is not going to be easy due to the rich pigmentation in these pencils. The best way to work is to start with the lighter colors and build up the intensity and depth of color as you go.

Pro tip #1: Storage: You can keep these in the gorgeous metal tin they come in (6 removable plastic trays), or, better yet, invest in some of the pastel storage boxes I reviewed in an earlier post. Those boxes allow you to have all the colors in plain sight, which makes it much easier when you are working on a more intricate piece of art.

Pro tip #2: Sharpening: Due to the soft cores (and occasionally not-quite-centered cores), you want to sharpen these pencils manually. Either use a hand-held sharpener like the Mobius & Ruppert Brass Round Double Hole Sharpener [use the larger hole] and rotate the sharpener while holding the pencil steady with your other hand, or, my favourite technique, use a craft knife to take off the wood casing around the core, then just gently rub the core on a sandpaper block to bring it to a nice point.

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.

My latest art hobbyhorse: Watercolor Pencils

Art is likely to be a major theme on this blog, because art is a huge part of my life.

There’s almost nothing, no stress, no worry, that cannot be soothed by creating something. The zen-like flow state I go into when I’m working on is very similar to meditation, and I always emerge refreshed and renewed.

Sometimes creating art takes just a few minutes, as in this pigment marker sketch above, and sometimes it takes weeks, as when I work on a large project using colored pencils (my favourites are the German FaberCastell PolyChromos pencils and the Luminance line from Swiss manufacturer Caran d’Ache – you just can’t go wrong with either of these sets).

When I want something quicker, I turn to watercolor pencils. I have been loving the Museum Aquarelle line from Caran d’Ache for the brilliant colours. If you’re looking for a more traditional watercolor look to your art, check out the Derwent Watercolour pencils … they’re an absolute dream to work with!

The Museum Aquarelles are brilliantly pigmented, and the resulting work is not very much like a watercolour because of that spectacular colour. Like all Caran d’Ache products, these pencils have a fantastic creamy core and excellent lightfast ratings, so you can use this set to create works you can sell with absolute confidence.

The Derwent Watercolour pencils, as I said, have a more traditional watercolor look and feel, which, as you’d immediately expect, means more pastel shades and a general softer, more flowing result on your finished work.

Both brands are wonderful, each in its own way, and I’ve been loving using both to create art.

What do YOU do when you’re stressed? Working out and “arting” are two of my favourite stress relief options!

Disclosure: This blog often reviews/recommends products from one or more 3rd-party e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, AliExpress, etc. Please assume that any link you click on will probably result in a small commission paid to me: this commission does not increase the cost of your purchase. Please see the Affiliate Disclosure page for additional details.