How to… use Derwent Inktense pencils

August 31, 2020

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Derwent Inktense pencilsIn this Techniques blog, and video, I’ll show you how I work with Derwent Inktense pencils and how you can use them for layering and making shadows, to create more depth in your coloring work.

But let me first give you a bit of information about these pencils. Some people consider Inktense pencils ‘watercolor pencils’. I’ll have to set you straight on that one, because they are water-soluble, but they definitely aren’t watercolor pencils!

What’s the difference with watercolor pencils?

With watercolor pencils (and the same goes for watercolor paints) you can color in layers, but you’ll always have to be aware that every layer will dissolve when you add water again. That is totally different with these pencils! Once dried, you can add new layers of Inktense and activate that with water, and your underlying layer will stay put just as it is.

Another huge difference with watercolor pencils is the intensity of the colors. Watercolor is largely transparent and the colors are usually very light, pastel like. Of course there’s also gouache, which is an opaque kind of watercolor. But Inktense is a totally different product, with very intense colors. The core of the Inktense pencils is what the name already reveals: ink! These are intense ink pencils, therefore Inktense. Duh!

Coloring a clock door with Derwent Inktense pencilsUsing Inktense pencils

One of the great characteristics of these pencils, is that they’re suitable for many kinds of techniques. The technique I’ll be showing you in my video is coloring in a coloring book. On paper, provided that the paper is thick enough to handle a small amount of water to activate and dissolve the ink, these pencils perform wonderfully! As you can see in my video, you only need a thin layer to get a color explosion when activated with water.

Always wait with applying the next layer until the ink has dried. But when it is dry you can add more layers on top of it, and create shadows and depth, and a lot more definition in your coloring work.

But paper isn’t the only material on which these pencils perform so well. You definitely should try them on canvas, or fabric. Using them to draw or write on T-shirts, or coloring your white sneakers, or make a painting… it is all possible with the Inktense pencils. And if you’re patient enough to let every layer dry before you apply the next, you’ll be surprised by the wonderful things you can create!

One warning though: always wear old clothes, or an apron, when working with Inktense pencils. Stains will stay forever, they’re impossible to wash out! (Now you understand why you can draw on shirts and shoes with ’em!)

About letting it dry

I can imagine that reading that you’ve got to be patient to let a layer of activated Inktense pencil dry first, before applying the next, raises the question ‘for how long do I need to let it dry?’. Of course it depends on how much water you’ve used, that’s a first.

Keep in mind that to activate the ink, you only need a teeny-tiny bit of water! You can use a water brush, like I did, but you can also use a regular brush and a cup of water. In that case, you dip the brush into the water, then blot the bristles with a dry cloth, or paper towel, to make sure the brush is just damp instead of wet.

If you do it this way, you’ll only need to let your layers dry for a minute, two at the most. And then you can continue with applying new layers and shadows. Easy peasy!

Showing you how I did it

In my review of Masja’s Fairy Tales I’ve used these pencils to colorize a clock. I’ve tried to make it look like a Dutch antique clock, by using lots of shadows and making gradients, to create more depth. While coloring I’ve let the video camera run, resulting in 38 minutes of footage. Unfortunately, somehow this footage got corrupted. So I had it sent to a laboratory where they restored most of it, but not all of it.

They only managed to restore the first thirty minutes, the last eight minutes are lost. I’ve recorded another small video of how I colored in the base of the clock and that’s also added at the end of the video. I think the total of those two parts, will give you a good impression of how you can use Inktense pencils for coloring and using shadows and gradients.

Well, let’s not spend anymore time, just go and watch the video!

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