While browsing eBay a while ago, I came across someone selling a box of Derwent Signature pencils. Though I’d been using Derwent products for a long time, I had never heard of the Signature range, so I did some investigating and discovered that they had originally been created for artists who wanted a much more lightfast coloured pencil, but that they had only been in production for a few years before being discontinued. The box on eBay was only $20 and I was curious to see why they had been discontinued, so I made the purchase.
Signature Pencils were originally available in a range of 60 colours (or 40 if you wanted the watersoluble ones), but my box only had 10 colours. I figured this should still be enough to let me try them out. Unlike most of Derwent’s other products, which come in metal tins or wooden boxes, the Signature pencils came in a sturdy cardboard box with a fancy ‘torn paper’ style label. The pencils themselves had plain wooden barrels except for on the ends where a painted tip with a bronze band denoted the colour of the pencil. Overall, they looked quite nice.
As I started to make my colour chart, it quickly became obvious to me just why Derwent had discontinued the Signature range. Their Artists pencils are quite hard and waxy, but they at least generally feel smooth while you are drawing with them, and are pleasant to work with. Signature pencils, on the other hand, felt scratchy. It also felt like there was no middle ground in regard to how heavily I wanted to put colour down; using soft to medium pressure both resulted in the same scumbly texture (and the paper I was using was reasonably smooth), but in order to put down a decent amount of colour, I had to press heavily, meaning that the surface was then too smooth to put other colours over it. This is an issue I have never faced with other coloured pencils I have used, even in Derwent’s other ranges.
Here is a (not very good, I know) sketch of some fruit I did with the Derwent Signatures. I did have some trouble getting the shading right because of the limited range of colours, but I have used other brands in limited ranges and found that they were at least smooth enough that I could still layer and blend until I got the colour I wanted. If you want an art supply that replicates the feeling of listening to someone scraping their nails down a chalk board, these are the pencils for you. Otherwise, if you do happen to come across a box of these in the wild, don’t waste your money on them. If lightfastness is a concern for you, you are better off just using either the Caran d’Ache Luminance (highly lightfast but also extremely expensive) or just using one of the other artist grade brands and ensuring that you check the lightfastness rating of every colour you intend to use.