Color Spree

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Derwent Waterbrush

Derwent Sketch Kit gift set included a Derwent waterbrush.

Derwent Fortnight #11: Waterbrush

Derwent has created a waterbrush as good as the original Japanese versions. I first tried a waterbrush when I got one in a Sakura Koi pocket set of watercolors. I loved it for its convenience -- a nylon round watercolor brush with a hollow soft plastic handle. Fill the handle with water and you have convenience.

The brush stays wet. Just touch watercolor pans or tips of watersoluble pencils to pick up color and you can paint. It means not going to the sink to wash out brushes and refill water cups if I'm having a bad day. It means not having to carry a water bottle if I go out and want to sketch in watermedia.

I loved that first one and bought several more in different brands. Unfortunately, some of the brands other than Sakura gave me problems. Water would drip too fast through the brush or not come out without some serious squeezing, the flow would be uneven. One brush lost bristles and went from too little water to too much. They're not always well made.

My original Sakura Koi ones from the small and large pocket sets were perfect, so is the Niji one I tried.

Right up with them is the Derwent waterbrush, with its elegantly shaped reservoir. Derwent redesigned the handle with a graceful curve and a little extra width up near the tip. This does two things. It holds more water and if you set it down on a slanted surface like a drafting table, it won't roll off because the fat bit is flattened. The top snaps neatly onto the back end so it won't get lost, something that I can't always do with some others.

Derwent actually takes top prize for my favorite waterbrush because of that little innovation. None of the rest have the no-roll extra width design. Sakura and Niji come very close with good products that have excellent flow, last a good long time,
and serve the purpose just as well. So there are three brands I'd recommend and Derwent tops the list because of its handle shape.

You can also fill a Derwent waterbrush with solvents such as odorless mineral spirits or Bestine rubber cement thinner. Don't use the same waterbrush for thinners and water, it's like using the same brush for oils and watercolors. Keep one for watermedia and one for thinners. Using a Derwent waterbrush with thinner will let you use your Coloursoft or Artists' or other colored pencils as if they were watersoluble, give you wash effects between layers or to smooth a final layer.

My Derwent Waterbrush came in a Derwent Sketch Kit gift set. I found it on Clearance at Blick, where I think it was one of those nice annual limited-edition gift sets. I bought it to get a dozen spare Graphitint pencils in something like a Global Classic case, and was intrigued by the waterbrush. It included Derwent Watersoluble Sketching Pencils in Light Wash, Medium Wash and Dark Wash as well as three values of Derwent Charcoal Pencils and a dozen Graphitints.

It also has a very nice hardbound sketchbook with perforated pages in case I wanted to rip out a good sketch to give someone.

Derwent Watersoluble Sketching pencils are great. I like watersoluble graphite pencils, they allow me to fill areas in graphite sketches quickly with a wash or to paint a monochrome in pure graphite. Derwent Watersoluble Sketching Pencils come in three degrees of hardness.

Light Wash is HB, your standard pencil hardness. Medium Wash is 4B, a good soft pencil for darkening or doing sketches that scan better. Dark Wash is 8B, almost the softest a graphite pencil can get, wonderful for smudging or washing. With the Derwent Waterbrush, it became easy to paint with graphite just touching the points of these pencils with the wet brush tip.

Here's an example painted mostly in Medium Wash and Dark Wash Derwent Watersoluble Sketching Pencils with the Derwent Waterbrush. I drew no sketch lines anywhere on this, it's strictly a wash sketch done with the brush. Whether you like painting or washing over drawings, the Derwent Waterbrush is one of those small accessories that become essential as soon as you try one.

It is a bit hard to find in the USA, but worth the price if you see a Derwent waterbrush by itself or included in a gift set. For some reason it's slow or impossible to get some Derwent accessories in the USA despite how good they are and how popular they'd be if available. This is something to do with the distribution process.

So if you really want one, hunt for it and possibly be prepared to place an order with a UK online or mail order company. Then again you can always put together a list of all the Derwent items you can't find in the USA and do that all at once in an out of country order. It's worth paying a bit extra in shipping or price for this one because of its quality.

Pine Cone and Pillbox
4" x 6"
Derwent Sketch and Wash graphite watersoluble pencils
Painted with Derwent Waterbrush on Derwent A6 hard cover sketchbook paper.


  1. Nice review!

    The Derwent Waterbrush looks exactly like the Pentel Aquash brushes I have, perhaps they go in the US by that name?

  2. When most people choose to make a larger painting, they spend a lot on the painting tools. Good brushes are expensive, but worth the expense, especially since they can be reused again and again, if properly cared for. Cleaning brushes is a relatively simple task, if done right away.

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  3. just bought my first Waterbrush
    it's a Derwent.
    but on the reservoir it says Pentel :)

  4. Thanks for the review of the waterbrush! Could you please tell us what brands you tested and which was the specific one where the bristles fell off?