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Think BIG, think XL! Introducing Derwent XL Blocks!

These giants of mark making tools, command centre stage when in the throws of our creative performances. We have been testing the new XL blocks and they are amazing! Derwent have created a fantastic range of XL Blocks to cater for our every whim! Equivalent to eight smaller pencils! A very powerful tool in your arsenal of creative materials! Bolder and bigger strokes and mark-making equals bigger canvases and substrates to work on! Allowing more freedom to move with your drawing and free up your gestural mark making capabilities. All of these amazing XL Blocks can be activated with a wet brush or spritzer to create even more interesting transitions of marks, vibrant colours and tones. They can be broken down into smaller shapes or sizes or ground into a powdered pigment, smudged and blended.

Derwent offers 5 amazing XL sets for us to experience:

Derwent XL Inktense 


Derwent XL Graphitint


Derwent XL Graphite


Derwent XL Charcoal


Derwent XL Tinted Charcoal


Within this article we will look at each XL Block and break down their individual characteristics and functionality so you can choose exactly the right XL to match your project and style.

Derwent's XL Inktense Blocks: Characteristics and Functionality

Derwent Inktense Blocks XL are versatile art tools that combine the characteristics of ink and watercolour. These blocks are known for their intense vibrant colour range and unique water-soluble properties. Derwent XL Inktense Blocks offer a unique combination of intense pigmentation, water-solubility, and permanent results. These characteristics, coupled with their versatility and compatibility with various art techniques, make them a valuable tool for artists across different genres. Whether used for fine art, illustration, mixed media, or textile design, the XL Inktense Blocks provide a versatile and effective medium for creative expression.


  • Intense Pigmentation:
    XL Inktense Blocks are formulated with highly concentrated pigments, resulting in intense and vibrant colours. These pigments remain vibrant even after they dry, making them suitable for artwork that requires vivid colours. They look great on black, white and toned papers and fabrics.
  • Water-Soluble:
    One of the defining features of Inktense Blocks is their water-solubility. When water is applied to the blocks, the pigments dissolve and create a watercolour-like effect. This property allows for smooth blending and layering, similar to traditional watercolours.
  • Permanent Once Dry:
    While the Inktense Blocks can be activated with water like watercolours, they become permanent once dry. This permanence is due to the fact that the pigments are ink-based and form a durable layer on the surface, making them suitable for mixed media and layering techniques.
  • Wide Colour Range:
    Derwent offers a comprehensive range of colours in their XL Inktense Block sets. This colour diversity enables artists to achieve a wide array of effects and shades in their artworks. In their dry form they can be layered on top of each other to create new shades or in their powdered form can be mixed in a palette with water or mixed on the paper before adding water.
  • Versatile Application:
    The blocks can be used in various ways, including sketching, drawing, painting, and even fabric design. They can be applied dry to achieve vibrant, textured marks or used with water to create smooth washes and gradients. These amazing soft XL blocks can be scrapped with a craft knife or grated to create powdered pigment. This powdered pigment can then be smudged out and blended using either your finger or a soft cloth to create large areas of atmospheric perspective. Alternatively the powder can be added to the Derwent spritzer to create a coloured ink like solution which can be sprayed onto your paper.

Functionality and Applications:

  • Fine Art:
    XL Inktense Blocks are widely used in fine art applications, including landscapes, portraits, and abstract compositions. The intense colours and watercolour-like effects can enhance the visual impact of paintings.
  • Illustration and Sketching:
    Artists often use these blocks for illustrating and sketching due to their ease of use and quick colour application. They are suitable for both preliminary sketches and finished illustrations. They are excellent for gestural figure drawing.
  • Mixed Media:
    The blocks can be seamlessly integrated into mixed media artwork, allowing artists to combine various textures and techniques in a single piece.
  • Textile Design:
    Inktense Blocks are compatible with fabric and can be used to create unique textile designs through painting or printing. The permanent nature of the pigments ensures that the designs remain intact after drying.
  • Art Journaling:
    The water-soluble property of the blocks makes them a great choice for art journaling, enabling artists to create expressive and colourful pages.
  • Art Education:
    XL Inktense Blocks are popular in art education settings due to their ease of use, versatility, and vibrant colour range. They are suitable for both beginners and experienced artists of all ages.

Derwent's XL Graphite and Graphitint Blocks: Characteristics and Functionality

Derwent's XL Graphite and Tinted Graphite Blocks are versatile artistic tools that provide unique drawing experiences. These blocks offer a range of characteristics and functionalities that cater to various artistic styles and techniques. Below we explore the key characteristics and functional aspects of using XL Graphite and Tinted Graphite Blocks in creative applications. These Graphite and tinted Graphite blocks provide more of a muted palette and work seamlessly with Graphite and Graphitint pencils.

Functionality and Applications:

  • Realistic Drawing:
    The XL Graphite Blocks are well-suited for realistic drawing, particularly when capturing subjects with a wide range of tonal values and intricate details, such as portraits, still life, and landscapes.
  • Expressive Art:
    The larger size and smooth application of the XL Graphite Blocks make them great for expressive and gestural drawing. Artists can use bold strokes and blends to convey emotions and movement. Use the flat surface, edges and corners for creating unique marks and varying scales of line.
  • Mixed Media:
    Both the XL Graphite and Tinted Graphite Blocks can be seamlessly integrated into mixed media artworks, complementing other drawing and painting mediums.
  • Sketching and Preliminary Work:
    The XL Graphite Blocks are suitable for sketching and initial layout work due to their ease of use and erasability.
  • Monochromatic Art:
    The Tinted Graphite Blocks are particularly useful for creating monochromatic or limited colour palette artworks that emphasise subtle variations in tone.

Characteristics of XL Graphite Blocks:

  • Generous Size:
    XL Graphite Blocks are larger than traditional blocks, providing a comfortable grip and a larger drawing surface. The increased size allows for broad, expressive gestural strokes as well as mark making.
  • Smooth Application:
    The blocks are designed for smooth and effortless application. Their creamy consistency allows artists to achieve a consistent and even layer of graphite on the paper.
  • Blending and Layering:
    XL Graphite Blocks can be easily blended together or layered to create a wide range of tonal values. This feature is especially useful for achieving subtle transitions and gradations in drawings. Use paper stumps, or soft cloths or your fingers to achieve soft, smoky textures.
  • Erasable:
    Despite their intense darkness, XL Graphite Blocks are erasable, allowing artists to make corrections or lighten areas as needed.

Characteristics of XL Graphitint Blocks:

  • Subtle Colour Variation:
    Tinted Graphite Blocks come in various shades that offer subtle colour variations. These shades can add an element of depth and dimension to drawings, enhancing the visual appeal of artworks.
  • Blendable Tints:
    Like the XL Graphite Blocks, the tinted versions are blendable and layerable. This property allows artists to mix and match different shades to achieve unique effects and colour combinations.
  • Texture Enhancement:
    The tinted blocks can be used in conjunction with other graphite tools or on their own to add texture and visual interest to drawings. They are particularly useful for creating textured backgrounds or intricate details.

Derwent XL Graphite and Tinted Graphite Blocks offer artists a versatile and expressive drawing experience. With their unique characteristics such as rich tones, blendability, and erasability, these blocks are valuable tools for a range of artistic applications. Whether used for realistic rendering, expressive sketches, or mixed media projects, these blocks provide artists with the means to achieve captivating and dynamic artworks. Their watersoluble capabilities will open up a universe of possibilities within your creative language!

Derwent's XL Charcoal and Tinted Charcoal Blocks: Characteristics and Functionality

Derwent's XL Charcoal and Tinted XL Charcoal Blocks are versatile artistic tools that offer a unique drawing experience, characterised by rich and expressive marks. Below we explore the key characteristics and functional aspects of using XL Charcoal and Tinted Charcoal Blocks in various creative applications.

  • Generous Size:
    XL Charcoal Blocks are larger than traditional charcoal pencils, sticks or blocks, providing artists with a comfortable grip and a larger drawing surface. The increased size allows for bold and expressive strokes as well as fine details. Use a soft cloth to cover large areas, use the edge or corner points to create interesting lines and marks.
  • Deep and Rich Tones:
    The charcoal used in these blocks produces deep, rich, and dramatic tones. This quality is particularly effective for creating strong contrasts and dynamic shading in drawings.
  • Texture Enhancement:
    XL Charcoal Blocks can create a range of textures, from smooth gradients to rough, textured marks. These blocks can be manipulated to achieve different effects, adding visual interest to drawings. Spray water onto the drawn surface, then use XL charcoal, or spray water onto the surface after drawing to create interesting textures.
  • Smudging and Blending:
    Charcoal is known for its smudge-ability and blendability. XL Charcoal Blocks can be easily smudged with fingers, blending sticks, fingers or blending tools, allowing artists to achieve smooth transitions and atmospheric effects.
  • Erasing and Highlighting:
    While charcoal is known for its dark marks, XL Charcoal Blocks can be partially erased or lifted to create highlights or adjust values. This flexibility allows for dynamic control over the drawing's tonal range.
  • Subtle Colour Variation:
    Tinted Charcoal Blocks come in various shades, adding subtle colour variations to the traditional charcoal medium. These shades can enhance the depth and complexity of drawings.
  • Blendable Tints:
    Like the XL Charcoal Blocks, the tinted versions are blendable, allowing artists to create a range of colour transitions and effects by blending different shades together.
  • Texture Enhancement:
    Tinted Charcoal Blocks can be used to add texture and visual interest to drawings, similar to their untinted counterparts. The combination of colour and texture can produce captivating effects.

Functionality and Applications:

  • Expressive Drawing:
    The XL Charcoal Blocks are excellent tools for expressive drawing due to their size, dark tones, and smudge ability. Artists can create dynamic and dramatic artworks with a sense of spontaneity.
  • Figure and Portrait Drawing:
    The rich tones of the XL Charcoal Blocks make them suitable for figure and portrait drawing, allowing artists to capture depth and dimension in the subjects.
  • Landscape and Still Life:
    Both XL Charcoal and Tinted Charcoal Blocks are versatile for creating atmospheric effects in landscape and still life artworks. The smudging and blending properties are effective for depicting textures like foliage and fabrics.
  • Mixed Media:
    These blocks can be easily incorporated into mixed media pieces, blending seamlessly with other drawing and painting mediums. Totally water-soluble, to allow you to create depth and bring a richness of dark tones to your composition. Try working on canvas, Bristol Board or other textures with a rough tooth to really carve out those marks and creative textures.
  • Sketching and Studies:
    The XL Charcoal Blocks are useful for quick sketches and studies, helping artists explore compositions and tonal values.

Derwent's XL Charcoal and Tinted Charcoal Blocks offer artists a distinctive drawing experience, characterised by rich tones, texture, and expressive marks. With their versatile characteristics, these blocks are well-suited for a variety of artistic applications, from expressive figure drawing to atmospheric landscape renderings. The combination of size, blendability, and colour options allows artists to explore new dimensions in their creative expression.

Perfect Derwent products to use with your XL blocks:

  • Derwent Inktense Paper Pad 300gsm/140Ibs
  • Derwent Spritzer
  • Derwent Battery Eraser
  • Derwent USB Rechargeable Eraser
  • Derwent Specialist Artist Erasers
  • Derwent Paper Stumps
  • Derwent Waterbrush 

To conclude, we hope you have found this article informative and helpful. There is soo much choice with Derwent XL blocks we hope you find the right one that suits your needs. The beauty of these products is that they all complement each other in so many ways, they are easy to use and can be applied to so many different surfaces. Wishing you a great creative adventure!