Derwent are known for bringing out new and interesting art products on a regular basis, and five or six years ago, they released the Derwent Graphitint pencils. Since the full range consisted of only 24 colours, I figured buying it wouldn’t break the bank, so I picked up a set not long after they came out.
Here are my swatches of the Graphitint pencils.
If you’re looking for bright, bold colours, you won’t find them here. The Graphitint pencils are basically graphite pencils, but instead of just being grey, each pencil has a hint of colour added to it, and when they are used dry, they produce soft, muted tones. When you add water, the colours become more vibrant. Even washed, there are still no bright colours like orange or yellow; the selection focuses more on blues, greens and earths, making these pencils perfect for landscapes, seascapes or natural studies. The violets and bright reds and greens are also well suited for eerie fantasy or science fiction scenes.
In terms of texture, the Graphitint are soft and feel similar to using a 4B greylead pencil. This means they lay down smoothly and can easily be layered and blended. I felt like some of the purples seemed to have a lower concentration of pigment than the other colours, but given their muted nature anyway, it didn’t feel like a huge drawback. Light pencil marks dissolved pretty quickly when painted with a wet brush, though heavier marks sometimes needed a little more scrubbing.
So, Graphitint pencils are nice to draw with, but – and it’s a big ‘but’ – they are also almost completely fugitive. Several years ago, I conducted lightfastness tests on a handful of pencils from each of a number of coloured pencil brands I had at the time. For my Graphitint swatches, I used the bright reddish Autumn Brown (which I suspected would fade anyway) as well as some of the darker blues, greens and browns, which are typically more lightfast. I don’t know where I’ve put the chart (EDIT: managed to find it. It’s in my coloured pencil comparison post), but the Graphitint pencils failed miserably; after only 7 days, the colours had lost half of their saturation, and after a month the colours had completely faded, leaving only the graphite pencil marks and a sad grey smear where the colours had been washed. You might argue that realistically, no one is actually going to display their art in a sunny window for a year – and you’d be right – but these tests are generally a good indicator of how lightfast a product is; a properly lightfast colour should show little to no fading after a year. The problem is, Graphitint aren’t just fugitive in sunlight; I have seen a few blog posts by other artists who used Graphitint in journal sketches which were never exposed to light, and after only two years they were horrified to discover that some of the colours had changed and faded noticeably. It’s bad enough for art to fade when it’s on display, but for a product marketed as an artist grade material to deteriorate so quickly inside a closed journal is unheard of and is really not good enough.
Anyway, here’s an acorn sketch I did using the Graphitint pencils.
Derwent Graphitint pencils are great fun to play with and their muted tones allow you to achieve a variety of beautiful subtle effects, but they are so fugitive that any work you do with these needs to be scanned immediately, and it is not suitable for use in anything you intend to sell. Based on this, I would suggest those who want to try Graphitint only buy a handful of single pencils rather than a whole set, or that if you do buy a set, look out for it on sale rather than paying the full price.