Sunday, October 30, 2016

Derwent - The Real Test - Work in Progress

Ultimately, the only test that counts is putting pencil to paper and just start drawing.  Here is the start of a barn as I try out the various Derwent lead grades.

Derwent Graphic pencils
11" x 14"
Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Smooth

Derwent - Comparison to Other Brands

This is always a fun test, comparing different brand's 
lead grades.  As graphite artists, there are a ton of 
HB lead Brand Comparison
different brands and finding which one fits your 
specific drawing technique can be challenging.
Over the years, I have tried most brands of graphite pencils.  My favorites are a mixture of brands as well as lead ranges.  

HB Lead Comparison 

The HB lead test definitely produced the most variation!  The brands used were Grafwood Caran d'ache, Palomino, Faber Castell 9000 series, Tombow and the new Derwents.  

The HB Derwent and Grafwood were the most similar in value with a nice silver tone.  However, the Grafwood laid down a bit smoother.  

Faber Castell had the most similar firmness as the Derwent but noticably darker.

The Palomino and Tombow are the darkest and the lead much softer.  The Tombow has more shine than the Palominio.  These make for great sketching pencils!  

4B Lead Comparison

The next Brand comparison was using the 4B lead.  The Brands included were Grafwood, Tombow, Palomino and Derwent.

These were much closer in both firmness as well as values with more subtle differences.

The Derwent, again is the lightest in value of the four with very little 'graininess'.

The Tombow is next in value darkness.

The smoothest, buttery feel goes to Grafwood and Palomino.  Both nice range of light to dark application.  Both have dark value with the Palomino being slightly darker.

9B Lead Comparison

I have only one Brand with a 9B and that is the Grafwood.  Again, the Derwent is slightly less in value that the Grafwood.  The Derwent is consistently firmer, leaving crisp, dark lines.  The Grafwood tip 'weardown' was markedly quicker than the Derwent.

9B Lead Brand Comparison

Derwent - Blending

While I do not use the blending technique 
(except for skies) much in my drawings, 
this test is good to see the "smudgability" 
of layered graphite.  The two blending tools 
used are the tortillon and chamois.  
Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Smooth has 
been consistently been used for all the tests so far.

The graphite has been layered onto the paper using a quick crosshatching.  An underhand pencil grip was used to keep the layers light to remain on the surface.  The text labels were written fairly heavy to test the smudging.

Here are the results:

The 6H is difficult to see and lays down very hard.  When using this lead grade with the intent to blend, multiple light layers would be needed.  

After spending the past few days working with the Derwents, the results do not surprise me.  They lay down very firm, smooth, with little graininess.  With the firm core, smudging is less, but blending is more difficult as well.  Applying lighter layers may provide better results.  Also paper plays a huge factor in how it reacts to graphite.  

Lack of "easy" blending is not a bad thing.  In fact, it is a characteristic that can be very beneficial.  Smudging is always a concern when drawing.  Crisp, clean pencil marks especially when working in smaller areas using dark tones is challenging with softer grades.

But, we still have more to come...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Derwent - Old versus New

One of the Derwent Graphic key features is improved core strength.  This brings up the question of how much has the Derwent graphic pencils changed and is there an improved difference?  

I mentioned in my previous post that I have two older tins of Derwent Graphics and provides a perfect opportunity to compare the old versus new.  My older sets are missing a few pencils, so I will limit my testing to 3 different grades.

The first comparison and the biggest difference is the quality of wood and how they sharpen.  The older sets splinter as they sharpen, leaving the lead exposed and creating inconsistent sharpening.  The new Graphics sharpen clean.

The new Derwent Graphic on the left v. the older brand on the right.
The quality of the wood has improved over the years.

The F lead grade comparison:  There is a marked difference between the older Rexel and the New Derwent.  I had a tough time laying down a smooth gradation from dark to light.  The new Derwent F grade was just slightly smoother than the Acco logo.

Derwent Old to New Brand Comparison - F lead grade
Top - Rexel Logo, Middle - Acco Logo, Bottom - New Britain Logo 

The HB lead grade comparison:  There are impurities in the Rexel that appear as you lay down the graphite.  The new Derwent lays down a nice even shade.

Derwent Old to New Brand Comparison - HB lead grade
Top - Rexel Logo, Middle - Acco Logo, Bottom - New Britain Logo 

The 6B lead grade comparison:  The 6B is where the biggest differences are.  The old Rexel is not new are dark and rich as the new ones.  The Acco applied smoothly, but look at the grain texture! The new Derwent went on smooth, dark with little grain.    
Derwent Old to New Brand Comparison - 6B lead grade
Top - Rexel Logo, Middle - Acco Logo, Bottom - New Britain Logo 
 In summary, the Derwent pencil has markedly improved through the years!  So far, the key features of smooth colour laydown and improved core strength are holding true.

But there is still more testing to done.....

Derwent - 9H to 9B range of leads

Derwent Graphic is an iconic and highly regarded range within the Derwent portfolio.  Graphic has been the trusted choice for graphic works, used by thousands of artists throughout its twenty year history to create a wide variety of artworks.

The new Graphic range has a number of key features and benefits:

  • Smooth colour lay down
  • Improved core strength
  • Colour removes easily for detailed work with an eraser
  • Available in 20 consistent degrees from 9B to 9H
  • Highly lightfast
It is now time to start putting the pencil to the paper.  I encourage every artist to experiment with their pencils.  Using graphite pencils is very tactile in nature and your results will vary based on the pressure applied, the pencil grip, angle of the pencil as well as the paper used.  Learning the unique characteristics and qualities of each lead will help you pick the best one to make the right pencil mark.

My initial response after opening the tin was the "wow" factor of having a full-range of lead grades displayed before me.  Most brands limit the range to 4H to 4B. I have to say that I have never used a 9H before!     

The first test is to chart out how each pencil lays down in order of the range 9H to 9B. With each grade, I layers down a small patch dark to light, a line and simple shading using a sharp lead tip.  The section on the right is using a flat chisel point lead.  The paper used is my most commonly used brand, Strathmore 300 series Bristol Board Smooth.  As you can see in the chart,  the leads consistently and progressively go from the lightest (9H) to the darkest (9B).  Some of the grades are very close but as you lay down the graphite, you can feel the subtle difference.  


The next test is to challenge the feature - color removes easily for detailed work with an eraser.  I charted each of the leads again, giving me another opportunity to evenly apply a layer of graphite.  Then I simply ran a sharp edge of a mars plastic eraser through each section.  I repeated the process using a Stadtler kneaded eraser.  I am actually surprised I didn't get more smudging between the leads as I did not lift the eraser as I moved down through each one.  Nice!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Derwent - Invitation to Test

The Derwent team reached out to me a couple of months ago and invited me to be one of fifty artists to test their Graphic pencils.  I am delighted to be a part of this endeavor!

Derwent - The Marketing Package

Marketing package

I have been anxiously waiting to receive the marketing package and it finally arrived earlier this week.  Included was a beautiful, heavy weight canvas bag (love these!!), a set of full range 24 piece 9B to 9H graphite range pencil set in a newly designed aluminum tin, a Graphic sample card with a HB pencil.  Also included were the press release and welcome letter.

NEW Derwent Graphic 24 pencil set - 9B - 9H

Graphic Sample Card - Highlighting the HB Derwent pencil

Derwent - Rebranding for a Fresh New Look

As with most companies, marketing and re-branding of products is essential.  Some are drastically changed to be almost unrecognizable.  And others, like Derwent, keeps their branding consistent with subtle changes.  They know what works, keeps their branding consistent and brings a fresh new look to their Graphic pencil line.

Through the years

To illustrate Derwent's branding changes through the years, I dug through my pencil tool box and found a couple of older graphite tins to compare with the new look.  The artwork on the new tin is by Alexis Marcou commissioned specifically for the 'Graphic' collection. 

Derwent Graphic tins rebranding through the years.  
The changes to the Graphic product is not limited to the tins, but carries through to the pencils as well.  As described in the press-release "The brand refresh includes the 'Made in Britain' marque on the new packaging.  This complements the introduction of a Union flag on all product packaging: showcasing the brand's commitment to British manufacturing."
Pencil design logo changes.

Derwent Announces New Branding and Product Innovations

Derwent ®, the world leading artists’ brand have unveiled new branding to be implemented throughout the year, which will capture retailers’ and consumers attentions when it hits the High Street.

The world leading artists’ brand will be featuring work from international artists on its full range of products in a new look which reflects the attributes of the product and captures the essence of the artist’s work.

Derwent’s new marketing communications will carry the strapline ‘Drawn to Perfection,’ reflecting its commitment to the artist community with the creation of innovative high quality art materials.

The brand refresh includes the ‘Made in Britain’ marque on the new packaging. This complements the introduction of a Union flag on all product packaging; showcasing the brand’s commitment to British manufacturing.

The first range to benefit from the rebrand is Derwent’s Artists Black & White Collection which is a new colour selection launched under Derwent’s rebrand. The new selection of Artists pencils has been created through a workshop studying the requirements of recognised artists to create a supreme line of pencils. The Artists Black and White Collection captures the subtleties needed for a white and black range of pencils, with minor increments of hues and tones across the selection of colours. The packaging will also feature a portrait drawn by professional artist David Sandell.

Derwent’s will also be relaunching their ‘Graphic’ pencil collection later in the year. The Graphic range possesses ‘smooth-to-the-core’ graphite tones with the ability for seamless layering, and improved breaking point and performance. Alexis Marcou, world-renowned for his work with graphite, has been commissioned by Derwent to create artwork for the ‘Graphic’ collection.

Astri Saunders, Marketing Manager at Derwent said: “The new branding reaffirms our longstanding commitment to the artistic community. Through commissioning and collaborating with leading artists on our new packaging, we’ve been able to showcase artworks inspired with Derwent products”.

Quality and craftsmanship are key cornerstones of the Derwent brand. With stringent quality control in the production of all products across a wide array of art categories. The brand is continuously working to develop new innovations across its product ranges.

Astri, added; “The new and improved Graphic collection demonstrates that even with a product that is highly regarded by the creative community, we are continuously developing and focusing on product attributes and if we can bring any improvements to a product as a brand will do so“.

The new Artist Black & White 6 Tin featuring the refreshed branding will be seen on shelves from June 2016 and further information on Derwent’s ranges can be found at