After my not so positive review of the Derwent Coloursoft colored pencils I recieved an email from Derwent asking if I would be interested in testing some of their products as they work to improve them. I was quite shocked and impressed  to see a company who cared that much about making quality products that artist’s want to use. The person I spoke to said that she saw in my comments on youtube that I had wanted to try the Inktense line, and they would like to send me a full set of blocks and pencils to use.  I may have fallen off my pilates ball (which is my chair for those who don’t know) in excitement!

I knew that I liked Inktense from my one time using them in the past. My first Smart Art Box had a set of 12 Inktense blocks. If you watch that video you will see that I really did like these pencils, even before Derwent sent me my set. This review would be the same even if purchased them myself (which I had honestly planned on doing).



This is a very unique medium. Two things you should know: 

  • This is NOT watercolor! I see so many artists misunderstand what this medium is. It is water soluble ink. This is very VERY different than watercolor. Once you put a layer down and add water, it is permanent (do not confuse permanence with lightfast, which I will cover later). You can layer on top without smudging or lifting previous layers.
  • This is NOT what I would consider “colored pencil”.  While yes, they are available in pencil form, it is really a dry ink. Traditional colored pencils are wax or oil based. These are not. You can however use your wax or oil based pencils over these. Just don’t do it the other way around. You don’t want to apply a water based medium over oil or wax based.

My first project with the Smart Art Box demo was more of a quick doodle of sorts. I was experimenting with them and having fun but not seriously trying to do my best. For my flamingo project, I wanted to create something that I would hang on my own wall. I love flamingos, I love bees, I love damask print…why not combine them all since I’m keeping this one?!

These work great both applying the medium directly to the paper dry then adding water over it from there, or using a paint brush and water to make your own paint mixture (which I will show in the video). I had SO much more control than I had expected. They were so perfect for fine detail with a smaller paint brush. My favorite brushes I tried with these were round taklon brushes and filbert taklon brushes. I picked up several to test, but these were my go to brushes throughout the piece.

I felt like this was a mixture of everything I love about acrylic paint, and everything I love about colored pencil, all rolled into one medium. 

flamingo-inktense-wmThat is a pretty bold statement from me given my love of both acrylics and colored pencil. The amount of detail I could get was just unlimited. Like colored pencil, I did have to do a bit of planning before I ever added color to the paper. Most of these colors are pretty translucent, especially if you’re adding a lot of water. You can take a dark dark brown color and thin it with enough water to make it a pale tan color. I’ve seen artists complain that they are to bright and unnatural looking. If you plan well, I really don’t think that is the case because of how much you can thin them with water. You can also mix colors to make your own tones. Is green too bright? Mix in a little red to neutralize it! Color mixing was REALLY easy with these. Especially with the blocks.

Should you buy the blocks or the pencils? 

These both compliment each other SO well. I expected to find myself favoring the pencils, but I used the blocks with the paint brush a tad more. I think the blocks are quite versatile given the way you can use them by mixing your own paint mix and applying it to the paper with a paint brush. This way you can get both detail and cover large areas with the brush. That doesn’t make the pencils obsolete in any way though, I really liked using the pencils for some of the shading then adding water over them to blend out, so it depends on what you’re looking for. My pencils came in a wood case that is SO nice.



This is the only real negative I found with this medium. Many of the blocks and pencils rate quite poorly on the lightfast scale. This means that they will fade quickly when exposed to light. Many of them are lightfast, but that is only tested for the dry form. Once you add water, that is going to change how lightfast it actually is. Derwent is working on a way to properly test the pencils once water has been added, but this is a fairly new medium. It’s only been out since 2006, so they’re still working on perfecting them.  While normally I won’t use products that aren’t lightfast, this is one time I’m making an exception, again because it is such a new medium. Until I come up with a solid way to protect my work from fading I won’t be selling the originals, but I can make prints from work created with them. For now that is going to be enough for me. That should give you an idea of how much I really enjoyed working with them!

I asked Derwent about UV sprays they might recommend to be used with this product. They said that they’ve not tested any themselves, but that they will look into it. Honestly, if they could come up with a spray specifically for these pencils to use on finished work that would protect them from fading, that would totally be enough for me. In the meantime I’ve purchased some UV varnish to test out myself. I will be testing how the least lightfast colors hold up when placed behind UV protecting glass and with being sprayed with a UV protecting varnish. I will let you guys know how that goes in a future video.


The hour and twenty-minute version of this tutorial is available for supporters on Patreon to watch now!!  If you’re unfamiliar with Patreon, you get access to my 1-2 hour long tutorials every single week for as little as $4/month!