Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Derwent Coloursoft colored pencils
Derwent Fortnight #4: Coloursoft Pencils
Okay, I have to admit I am a colored pencils junkie. I can never get enough colors or enough pencils. Each of the good artist grade brands has its own character, softness, opacity, blendability, texture, handles different in a wash, sharpens different. For a long time I treated Prismacolor as the very softest, also the ones most likely to break inside their wood casings but so sweet, smudgy and blendable.
Derwent's colored pencils were the other end of the artist range -- the most hard except for Prismacolor Verithin. Lovely in their own way and I'll get to that in another review, but they demanded a completely different style. Then the clever folks in Cumberland decided to get me by the wallet twice and created Coloursoft a few years ago. These are still pretty new.
They are fantastic. They are the most opaque and the softest of my colored pencils by a hair, very slightly softer than Prismacolors. Waxy, smooth and creamy, they go on fast and blend well, almost like paint once I get going in a multi-layered creation. They still aren't totally opaque, being wax pencils they're translucent. Earlier layers do shine through them. But they have the most opacity -- and that is a joy when working on tinted grounds or layering or changing the hue of an area.
I can go lighter if I just want to glaze a hint of a color over its underlayer. But when burnishing with blue over and over again won't change that bit of red -- it takes having a more opaque pencil. When I want a one-stroke accent, I'll reach for a Coloursoft and trust it'll go on thick and jump out in the color I just used.
Did I mention blending? Derwent makes two colorless blender. The hard one is a Burnisher and presumably done with the binder for their Artist and Studio lines. The soft one is a Blender with the same texture as a Coloursoft pencil. It's a joy because you can use it on other colored pencils and by mixing in the soft Blender, get them to move around like the Coloursofts.
If you want soft gradients, heavy coverage fast, quick sketching with strong lines and all the other benefits of a soft opaque pencil, Coloursoft is for you.
These are big fat round pencils. They have less internal breakage than Prismacolor, and I suspect that's because they're oversize -- a little more wood to cushion the core, a wide core less likely to crack all the way through. Use the wide hole of a two-hole sharpener or a General's All-Art sharpener to sharpen them, or try the Derwent Helix sharpener that has multi-width capacity. Many grinder type sharpeners, electric or crank, have multi-hole capacity.
They come in a good 72 color range, big enough for anyone who isn't an addict that combines large sets in the desperate need for 525 colors of pencils. Sets are in good sturdy tins with lids that stay on when snapped on. The styrene tray and pencils fit tight within the tin, so turning the tin on its side will not make all the pencils roll to the bottom and knock against each other risking internal cracking.
On price, these pencils are quite reasonable. Depending on sale prices, they sometimes wash up as the price leader for big range artist grade colored pencils although they're fighting that out with Blick Artists house brand and Prismacolor. They are cheaper in sets than open stock, but open stock is available from most suppliers. Their softness and opacity makes them very popular and I've noticed them take off till they're available almost everywhere.
Once again, Derwent's color choices in a small set turned out to be perfect for color mixing. I did the painting below with the 12 color set pictured above, although I also own the full range. I wanted to see if I could honestly recommend someone to try these with a small set or whether (as with many other brands) I'd suggest getting at least 24 to have a set big enough to mix any hue easily.
Derwent's products, you can use small sets. "Purple" is a perfect mixing magenta. Blue is a very well-balanced blue and Indigo has a green cast, so you have warm and cool blue and red, plus a good green, violet and orange, a good brown, warm and cool greens, black and white. With those you can mix whatever you like.
If you live in the UK or other countries where Prismacolor pencils are hard to get, try a pack of Coloursoft pencils. Many of the effects by realism masters such as Arlene Steinberg rely on Prismacolor softness, and you can get that same rich soft blendability with Coloursoft. When you've used a harder colored pencil for layers and can't add any more, try using Coloursoft for accents. They go on over other colored pencils beautifully.
Any paper with some tooth is great for them, including ordinary sketchbooks and Bristol pads, even smooth Bristol. Stonehenge paper is a joy with them. I tried PastelMat for this project partly to see if they'd perform well on it -- and I am very happy to say they did!
6" x 8"
Derwent Coloursoft colored pencils
Light grey ClaireFontaine PastelMat coated pastel card