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A beginners guide to using Derwent Graphite, Charcoal and Sketching pencils.

A beginners guide to using Derwent Graphite, Charcoal and Sketching pencils.

In this article we look at Derwent fantastic range of graphite pencils, charcoal, and sketching pencils. We will discuss their individual characteristics and suggest ways of using each pencil to their full potential.

Precision Pencils

Derwent Precision pencils are super and ultra fine mechanical pencils designed for precise and detailed work. They come in 0.5 and 0.7 HB and 2B grades. They are especially useful for technical drawings, architectural sketches, and intricate artwork. Exceptionally smooth application and finish, also excellent for illustration and design work. Retractable pocket-safe nib, concealed push button eraser.

Drawing and sketching:
Derwent Precision pencils are ideal for precise lines and detailed drawings. The fine lead allows you to create thin, sharp lines, making it perfect for technical or fine art applications. Use light pressure for lighter lines and heavier pressure for bolder lines. For shading you can use the side of the pencil but they are exceptionally good to use for cross hatching techniques.

Erasing and correcting:
If you make any mistakes or need to make corrections, use a fine eraser or a kneaded eraser to carefully remove unwanted lines or marks. Since the lead is thin, it is relatively easy to erase small areas without smudging the rest of the drawing.(on some models the eraser can be found under the cap)

Refilling lead:
When the lead runs out, simply remove the cap from the top of the pencil and refill it with new lead. Gently push the lead into the reservoir until it is secure.

Graphic Pencils

Derwent Graphic pencils are high-quality graphite pencils that are widely used by artists and designers for various drawing and sketching applications. They come in a range of different hardness grades, from 9B (softest) to 9H (hardest), offering a wide spectrum of tonal values and line qualities. They have a strong wax-based graphite core to create smooth and graduated lines. They offer the largest choice of graphite shades on the market. 100% lightfast!(Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions)

Sketching:
Start by using a lighter grade pencil like 2H or H for initial sketches. These harder pencils create fine lines and are easier to erase or adjust if needed. Don’t press too hard as it can leave an indentation in soft paper.

Shading and tonal values:
The different hardness levels allow you to achieve a wide range of tonal values. Use softer pencils (e.g., 4B to 9B) for darker areas and shading, and harder pencils (e.g., 4H to 9H) for lighter areas. Experiment with layering and blending to achieve smooth gradations.

Detailing:
Derwent Graphic pencils can be sharpened to a fine point, making them excellent for adding small details and precise lines to your artwork.

Blending:
These pencils blend well, allowing you to create smooth transitions between tones. You can use blending tools like tortillons, blending stumps, or even your fingers to achieve the desired effect. To even out the texture of a soft pencil (4B) shade over with a slightly harder pencil (HB).

Layering:
You can layer different pencil grades to build up the tonal range and create a more dynamic and realistic drawing. Start with lighter grades and gradually work your way up to darker ones for a gradual transition.

Cross-hatching:
Cross-hatching is a technique where you create a series of intersecting lines to build up tones and textures. Experiment with different pencil grades and angles to achieve different effects.

Erasing and highlighting:
The lead in these pencils is relatively smooth, making it easy to erase unwanted marks without damaging the paper. Use a kneaded eraser or a soft vinyl eraser for gentle and precise erasing. If you want to create highlights or add fine details to your drawing, you can use a kneaded eraser or a battery-operated eraser to lift off some graphite selectively. The harder pencils like 2H or H can also be useful for creating subtle highlights.

Gradation scales:
Practise creating gradation scales with different hardness levels to understand the tonal range each pencil provides. This will help you better plan your drawings and achieve the desired effects.

Experimenting with paper:
Different papers can produce different results with graphite pencils. Try various types of paper, such as smooth bristol board, drawing paper, or textured paper, to see which one works best for your style and desired effects.

Mark-making:
To create texture in your drawings, aim to use the tip of your pencil and the side of your pencil. Alter the pressure you use from light to firm and even twist your pencil whilst creating organic lines to vary the width.

Remember, as with any art medium, practice is essential to master the use of Derwent Graphic pencils effectively. Experiment with different techniques and grades to discover your unique style and achieve the desired results in your drawings.

Derwent Pencils Swatches

Sketching Pencils

These pencils are a popular choice for both quick sketches and detailed drawings, allowing artists to express their creativity and capture their subjects with ease. Smooth, wax-based core with a wide strip. 100% Lightfast (Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions).

They come in only 3 grades HB, 2B and 4B. 

Larger barrel :
They have a slightly wider barrel so they are easy to handle especially when using for big, gestural strokes or getting down those fleeting moments. 

Quality graphite core:
The core of Derwent sketching pencils is made of high-quality graphite that provides consistent and smooth lines. It allows for easy blending and shading, making them versatile tools for various drawing techniques.

Easy to sharpen:
Derwent sketching pencils are easy to sharpen to a fine point using a regular pencil sharpener or a blade. The fine point allows for precise details and controlled lines.

Blendable and smudgeable:
The soft graphite in the B-grade pencils makes them blendable and smudgeable, enabling artists to create smooth transitions and subtle gradients in their drawings.

Suitable for different surfaces:
Whether used on smooth paper or textured surfaces, Derwent sketching pencils deliver consistent results. They can be used on various drawing papers, sketchbooks, or even canvas. Great for laying down the foundations of a drawing before being painted. 

Easy erasability:
While the softer B-grade pencils produce rich dark lines, they are still easy to erase and correct if needed, giving artists greater control over their artwork. 

Ellie Jakeman Sketches

Water-soluble Sketching Pencils

 These water-soluble sketching pencils come in 3 degrees of hardness. They have a strong point for detailed work and then use water to create beautiful subtle washes. These pencils blend easily and are suitable for layering and erasing.100% Lightfast (Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions). 

Sketching:
Start with a light hand to create basic shapes and outlines. These pencils come in various grades, so experiment with different ones to find the level of hardness or softness that suits your sketching needs. Vary your pressure and you can achieve varying results of mark making. 

Creating washes:
Once you have your sketch in place, it's time to start activating the water-soluble properties of the pencils. Dip your paintbrush into clean water and then gently brush it over the pencil lines. The water will blend the pigments, creating a beautiful watercolour effect. You can control the intensity of the colour by adjusting the amount of water you apply and by layering the different grades of pencils.

Explore different techniques:
Derwent water-soluble sketching pencils offer various techniques for you to experiment with. You can try dry-on-wet, where you apply water to the paper first and then add the pencil to create soft and flowing lines.  Alternatively, you can use the dry pencil on dry paper and then blend the colours with a damp brush or damp sponge (great technique for creating foliage). Additionally, you can create texture and effects by using different strokes and cross hatching techniques. Scrape graphite from the tip of the pencil into wet areas of the paper to create interesting textures, for stone walls, sand, pebbles and foliage. You can even dip your pencil into water then sketch onto wet paper for really interesting results. 

Erasability:
Derwent watersoluble  sketching pencils can be erased like normal graphite pencils, even when they have been blended with water. They won’t erase back to the white of the paper but will take on a lighter appearance. Use a Derwent USB Rechargeable Eraser for small details and great results..

Derwent Grpahitone and sketching pencils

Graphitone Pencils

Graphitone pencils are unique drawing tools that combine the convenience of a pencil with the versatility of a graphite stick. They are a smooth wax-based water-soluble graphite stick with no wood casing and just pure graphite.These pencils are available invarious grades, ranging from soft to hard, offering a wide tonal range and the ability to create both subtle and bold lines.2B, 4B, 6B, 8Band are 100% Lightfast (Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions).

Expressive sketching:
The solid graphite core allows for quick and expressive sketching, and they can be used for both linework and shading,  apply pressure to the tip of the pencil or use the side to cover more area. Try these brushes on different surfaces, smooth for detailed work  and rough for more organic compositions, both papers will result in  different effects. Use 2b for initial drawings and then use the darker 4B and 8B to create depth and drama.

Blending and smudged techniques:
Graphitone pencils produce rich, intense, and velvety dark lines that can be easilyblended and smudged, making them ideal for creating dramatic effects and smooth transitions. Try using a piece of rag or a blending pencil, paper stump, cotton bud or your finger. These will all produce slightly different results.

Use with an embossing tool:
Impressing strokes or marks with an embossing tool into dry white paper will be revealed as white when the 4B or 8B is stroked across the paper’s surface. Ideal for whiskers, ship’s rigging, wood grain, wire, even spider’s webs! Once sharpened, keep the dust and use it with a rag to cover larger areas of your artwork.

Creating washes: 
They can be used dry to create traditional graphite drawings or can be blended with water to achieve a range of washes and watercolour-like effects. The water-soluble nature of the graphite also allows for interesting layering and mixed media techniques when combined with other water-based mediums such as Graphitint pencils. Use on top of washes whilst wet or layer up over dried washes. Use a scalpel knife to create a powder from a graphitone pencil  and then blend the powder into the paper with a  waterbrush.

Portability:
They are a popular choice among urban sketchers, figure artists, and those who enjoy drawing on location due to their portable and mess-free nature. Whether you're a professional artist or a beginner, Graphitone pencils offer a unique drawing experience, allowing artists to explore new techniques and add exciting textures and depth to their artwork.

Erasability:
Graphitone water-soluble pencils can be erased like normal graphite pencils, even when they have been blended with water. They won’t erase back to the white of the paper but will take on a lighter appearance. Use a Derwent USB Rechargeable Eraser For small details and great results. 

Graphitint Pencils

Derwent Graphitint pencils are water-soluble graphite pencils with a hint of colour. They offer a unique blend of graphite and 24 muted colour tones, making them a great choice for creating soft, watercolour-like effects. Especially suitable for working ‘en plein air’ with a  Derwent Smooth Watercolour Paper Pads and a  Derwent Waterbrush. They have a smooth, wax-based, (contains graphite), water-soluble graphite core, and are 100% Lightfast (Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions). 

Sketching:
Decide on the subject you want to draw and lightly sketch it with the Derwent Graphitint pencils. These pencils come in 24 different colours, each with a hint of graphite. Start by using a light hand to create the basic shapes and outlines. You can use a single colour or mix multiple colours for added interest. Making a colour chart before embarking on a project will allow you to see the colours both dry and wet and offer inspiration to the subjects you choose. Draw and leave some areas dry, overlaying colours and blending by smudging or adding water for more vibrant colour finish.

Creating washes and using a waterbrush:
This is such a great tool for wetting your Graphitint drawings to release the colour or for using to wet the paper first. You can also use it for just wetting the nib of these versatile pencils, especially when you want to create a darker line. Spraying water on your drawing with  Derwent Spritzer will also create some interesting textured effects.

Watercolour paper:
Use Graphitint pencils on rough and smooth surfaces. The rough surface will give you a grainier result, which you smooth out with water, whilst the smooth paper will be great for illustrations and small details. Remember the more the pigment is layed down, the darker the colours will be.

Portability:
They are a popular choice among urban sketchers, figure artists, and those who enjoy drawing on location due to their portable and mess-free nature. Whether you're a professional artist or a beginner, Graphitint pencils offer a unique drawing experience, allowing artists to explore new techniques and add exciting textures and depth to their artwork.

Erasability:
Graphitint water-soluble pencils can be erased like normal graphite pencils, even when they have been blended with water. They won’t erase back to the white of the paper but will take on a lighter appearance. Use a Derwent  USB Rechargeable Eraser For small details and great results.

Creating texture:
Scrape your graphitint pencil  from the tip of the pencil into wet areas of the paper to create interesting textures, for stone walls, sand, pebbles and foliage. You can even dip your pencil into water then sketch onto wet paper for really interesting results. You can also alter the pressure you use for creative mark-making. 

Mixed media:
These beautiful subtle muted toned pencils can be combined with the Graphitint XL blocks and with the Graphitint paints. Opening up a whole new world of mark making. 

Derwent XL Graphite Blocks

 Staying with graphite, Derwent have now introduced an incredible graphite XL block range, measuring 60 x 20 x 20mm each. In this set there are 6 colours in the range: 2 natural graphite, 2 warm tones and 2 cool colours. These highly versatile chunky blocks can be used for large scale work, especially for expressive and gestural drawings on paper or canvas. An amazing  product that can be used  for Extra Large mark-making textures or they can be broken down, crushed and grated into a powdered form to use with a rag cloth and spread onto the substrate to create a smoke atmospheric perspective.Each pastel-like block contains a high volume of formula, equivalent to eight pencils. 

Huge areas can be covered easily in a short period of time using these chunky graphite blocks. Use the edge and corners of the blocks to create a thinner line or use the full length and width for larger mark making strips or use in a circular motion for covering large areas. They have a soft and pastel-like feel and can be blended and smudged and are naturally water-soluble. Easily erasable, using a kneadable eraser or electric eraser. Create textured areas on your work by using theDerwent Spritzer or a damp sponge. Try the graphite block on various surfaces like smooth and rough watercolour paper, pastel paper or canvas. These graphite blocks can be used with;  XL Derwent Inktense blocks, XL Graphitint blocks, Graphite and Graphitint pencils for different effects. Make sure you fix your work after completion to ensure longevity. 

Charcoal Pencils

Using Derwent charcoal pencils is a great way to create expressive and dramatic drawings. These excellent pencils have the texture of willow charcoal with the control and precision of a pencil. With 3 degrees of value Dark, Light and Medium, you can create depth, dimension and lots of atmospheric perspective. These charcoal pencils create lots of charcoal dust exactly the same as the traditional charcoal, which is perfect for moving and blending or wetting to use like inky paint.  These pencils are great for travelling and working on site as they don’t break as easily as traditional charcoal bars.  Use a blending tool such as  Derwent Paper Stumps, or  a rag or the tip of your finger to create smooth transitions of tone or soften edges.  

When sharpening, use the  Derwent Pastel & Charcoal Pencil Sharpener to extend the longevity of the pencil, this prevents the end being crushed by blunt sharpeners. These charcoal pencils havegreat erasability potential, use Derwents Technique and Artist erasers, or for more precise erased marks you could use the  Derwent Battery Eraser.

Derwent Charcoal

Compressed Charcoal set with pencils and blocks

 Perfect for life studies and expressive pieces; this charcoal collection has been specially selected to include a comprehensive range of charcoal media. 

Contents: 

1 x  Derwent Charcoal Pencil for dark intense lines

2 x  Tinted  Charcoal Pencils to add a bit of natural colour and highlights

3 x  Compressed  Charcoal Blocks for larger drawings

2 x  Strips of Natural Vine Charcoal for organic mark making

1 x  Natural Chunky Willow Charcoal to make broad expressive lines

1 x  Paper Stump  for effective blending 

Derwent Charcoal Pencils

Derwent Tinted XL Charcoal Blocks

From powerful lines, to subtle gradients, and bold mark making, Derwent XL Professional Charcoal blocks combine the natural qualities of charcoal with the strength and body of a chunky block. Chalky texture, powder based and 20x60mm.

Soft meets strong; agile meets bold; the perfect blend of rich tones and organic marks. There are 6 earthy colours in the range: 1 natural black, Ochre, Sanguine, Violet, Sepia and white. Colours can be blended with, rags, paper stumps or with your hand. 

Naturally water-soluble you can use them on a damp surface and release lots of colours really quickly or build up layers of different colours as you mark-make.  

Great palette for moody landscapes or seascapes and for working en plein air. Similar to the Graphite XL blocks, all edges of the block can be used to create gestural marks, and cover  large areas of the substrate. Easy to erase and works well on pastel paper, rough watercolour paper and canvas.

Make sure you fix your work after completion to ensure longevity.

Tinted Charcoal Pencils

Derwent's Tinted Charcoal pencils offer artists the best of both worlds – the expressive power of charcoal and the subtle beauty of colour. With their smooth and blendable characteristics, artists can create stunning and dynamic artwork with ease. The colour selection and mess-free application make them a valuable addition to any artist's drawing toolkit. Choose from 24 colours in the range which are100% Lightfast (Lightfast, colours remain the same for 100 years under museum conditions).

Tinted Charcoal Pencils

Tinted Charcoal Pigments:
Derwent's tinted charcoal pencils combine the rich, expressive qualities of traditional charcoal with subtle colour tones. They are made with a mix of charcoal particles and colour pigments, allowing artists to add a touch of colour to their charcoal drawings.

Smooth and Blendable:
The Tinted Charcoal pencils produce smooth and creamy lines that blend easily on paper, making them ideal for shading, blending, and creating soft, atmospheric effects. The blendability allows for seamless transitions between different tones and colours. Use on different surfaces such as watercolour paper, smooth and rough, try on coloured or toned pastel paper to create an interesting background. Blend with a paper stump, or with a soft cloth or your finger.

Colour Selection:
Derwent offers a range of 24 colours in their Tinted Charcoal line, providing artists with options to explore and experiment with a variety of hues. These colours can be used individually or mixed to create custom shades, adding depth and dimension to drawings. Use the white pencil for highlights and to lighten colours. Layer colours to create unique colour stories.

Mess-Free Application:
Unlike traditional charcoal sticks, Derwent's Tinted Charcoal pencils come in a convenient pencil form, making them cleaner and easier to handle. They eliminate the mess associated with loose charcoal, providing a more controlled and precise drawing experience. Use a pastel pencil sharpener to avoid crushing your nib whilst sharpening and remember to keep the pencil straight.

Eraser and water-soluble:
Colour erases cleanly with a plastic or electric eraser. To deepen the colour or to create interesting areas of texture add water. Naturally water-soluble for interesting wash effects. Perfect for landscape or seascape drawings.

Mixed media:
 These amazing charcoal tinted pencils will work in conjunction with the Derwent XL Charcoal Blocks and the  Derwent Tinted Charcoal Paint Pan Set.


Lots of great essential accessories for your pencils:

Derwent Charcoal and Pencils Accessorise

Derwent Pastel and Charcoal Eraser

Small Pencil Sets

Ellie Jakeman
Ellie Jakeman

I have had a strong interest in the visual and creative arts since a very early age. After completing an Art and Design Degree and Post graduate studies I have taught Art and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Textile design , Fine Art print and Illustration for over 20 years. Before teaching I was a freelance artist and illustrator and decided 4 years ago I would return to freelance and commissioned work. I have created many domestic and commercial murals for hospitals and hospices. I work part time for ARTdiscount as a content creator and product tester.


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