Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Derwent Aquatone

Derwent Fortnight #10: AquaTone

Available in open stock, sets of 6, 12 and 24 colors, Derwent has created a soft woodless watersoluble colored pencil. The colors are very strong and bright. Pencils are unusually long compared to the Cretacolor AquaMonolith and used dry, they have a soft creamy blendable texture in a category with Coloursoft and Prismacolor. My photo shows the entire 24 color range and a color chart I made with them, showing both wet and dry shaded applications.

They may have a short range of only 24 colors, but those colors are well chosen for mixing and the sheer quantity of pigment you get with AquaTone makes them a great bargain, especially when you want to do large works and need to cover big areas. I've noticed that all three of the woodless colored pencils I have tend to wear down slower than wood-cased pencils. It's not that they need sharpening less often, it's that they don't need as much sharpening to restore the point.

Also in some ways they do need sharpening less often. When I want to fill a broad area, I'll turn the point on a shallow angle so the side of the entire point touches the paper. Wearing it down that way gives a chisel edge to the tip that's useful for doing fine lines and details. When I do that, I don't even need to sharpen them at all.

Because these are watersoluble, even the shavings are useful as watercolor. Collect them in different palette wells, add a drop or two of water to liquefy them and you have good clean watercolor hues. That versatility makes the AquaTone pencils a good choice for a field kit. The big woodless angled points also make it a little easier to pick up a lot of color with a wet brush or waterbrush for direct painting.

Each of the pencils comes in a wrapper matching its color. You can peel back the wrapper a little at a time as it gets shorter or let the pencil sharpener shave bits of it off when you reach it. If you remove it entirely, breaking the pencil into smaller pieces allows handling them like pastel sticks -- using the width of a piece to create a big bold stroke on rough paper.

Washed, the colors are nearly as strong as Inktense. They are completely rewettable. If I get an area too dark, it's easy to wait till it dries, touch with a wet brush and pat with a soft cloth or tissue to lift color almost all the way back to white. They're great in combination, glazing over Inktense is very effective when you want loose soft-edged wet in wet effects combined with hard details that don't soften or wash away.

They are a little expensive per pencil compared to other Derwent products and artist grade colored pencils, but still very economical because each pencil has five or six times the usable pigment of wood-cased watersolubles.

Most of the colors are lightfast with a Blue Wool rating of 6, 7 or 8. More importantly, the full spectrum is represented in lightfast colors, with some nearly lightfast useful hues in between. Magenta and Crimson Lake rate at only 5 for lightfastness, but a touch of Dark Violet with Deep Vermilion may serve when a cold red is needed.

Whether you like these as colored pencils may depend on your hand and preferred softness. They're also an incredibly convenient form of watercolor, just as handy as pan watercolors for carrying along when going out.

They dissolve to good strong transparent watercolor, as shown in my example painting. I kept a few linear elements especially in the stems, but went over my drawing washing it and then added dark violet shadows by pulling a wet brush along the point of the dark violet pencil.

You can find the lightfastness chart and examples of art done with Derwent AquaTone pencils at Derwent's home page. Like most of Derwent's pencils, I love these and use them often. Incidentally, a 24 color tin fits neatly into the big pocket of a Sketch Folio portfolio available at ASW, which is often where this set lives.

Yellow Iris
4" x 6"
Derwent AquaTone watersoluble woodless pencils
Lanaquarelle hot press 140lb watercolor paper
Photo reference by Helen on posted for March 12-14, 2010 Weekend Drawing Event.


  1. is that drawing is by the use of those pen? it..

  2. Wonderful watercolor! I am planning on buying a set myself !
    Well done! Greetings from Guadalajara in Mexico.