Color Spree

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Derwent Black Book

Derwent's Black Book is a new and exciting sketchbook just introduced by one of my favorite art supply manufacturers. Known for innovation, Derwent had already created the most opaque white pencil it's ever been my pleasure to use in the white Derwent Drawing Pencil, and the light colors in the Drawing range are just as powerful on black or dark colors. What better to use them on than a spiral bound, hard cover black sketchbook with heavy black paper?

The pages are thick and strong, resembling card stock. The surface is smooth but surprisingly toothy, allowing fine detail with white pencils, inks or even gouache. I'd say given how heavy the sheets are that gouache or white Chinese inks would be just as good as dry mediums on this strong surface paper. The sample I received is A4 - a perfect size to fit on a scanner bed without slopping over the way 9" x 12" sketchbooks do.

The end papers are the same as the pages, giving you two more sheets for sketching, drawing or doing color charts. Below is my color chart for Derwent Drawing Pencils on the Black Book's matte black inside cover. The number at the bottom is probably a lot number or inspection number, it didn't seem to relate to anything else about it.

The only other black page sketchbooks I've run into was a Canson mi-Tientes one that has a heavy woven-look texture and of course is bound with that texture on top. The backside of Mi-Tientes is smoother but still much more rough than the Derwent Black Book pages. I could easily do very detailed drawing in white or light on black using gel pens or dip pens with opaque white or mixed light ink. While most colored inks are transparent, blending some white with them will render them opaque just like using white gouache or body color with transparent watercolors.

Another medium that may work beautifully with the Black Book is oil pastel. A quick spray of local wildflowers crossed by a fern shows how strong and bright oil pastel looks on this apparently too-smooth paper. I got good coverage with only moderate pressure.

Derwent Metallic pencils will also work beautifully on the 200gsm black paper and give a brilliant shine to it.

For any opaque drawing medium on black or dark paper, I usually do a value sketch with white pencil. Derwent Drawing Pencil in white is my favorite for this. On the oil pastels sample, I used the white oil pastel under the stems but not under the fern leaf to show the difference. It will not only make light colors pop brighter, but like doing a black or dark color value drawing on white, it helps organize my values and lay out the drawing better.

Light washes and watercolor pencils can be used on this 200gsm paper, but I wouldn't advise heavy washes over the whole thing all at once. Gouache could be a beautiful medium on it if you're not soaking the paper through painting large areas all at once.

Here's how oil pastel sketching looks on this strong, heavy black paper. Slide in a sheet of computer paper, tracing paper or glassine to protect the back of the previous page with oil pastels or other mediums that may smudge the facing page.

These black sketchbooks aren't currently available online in the USA as far as I know, though some UK online supply companies have them. Ask your local art store to stock it or email your favorite online art supply company suggesting they add this new sketchbook to their lineup of Derwent products. It's well worth the money and looks as if it'll be very popular, especially with how many iridescent, metallic and opaque dry mediums are out there crying for a good black surface!


  1. You've sold me just with that colour chart! Wow!

  2. Where in the world can you buy one of the black books? I have looked for months now!