I love art supplies in nice, wooden boxes. Usually I don’t buy them because they’re a lot more expensive than the same set in a metal tin, but occasionally you find someone on eBay selling a used boxed set for the same or lower price than buying a new tin in store. I got my set of 120 Derwent Artists pencils this way, and though those are lovely, their hard texture means I don’t use them that often. Several years ago, Derwent introduced their Coloursoft range, which was supposed to have a softer lead than the Artists line. I was lucky enough to score a wooden box set of these on eBay as well.
Here are the charts for the full range of Coloursoft pencils.
The colour selection in the Coloursoft line is well-balanced, like the Artists line; not only are there lots of bright, intense hues, there are plenty of pale and muted colours. It seems that Derwent introduced these wax-based pencils to be a competitor to the creamy-soft Prismacolor Premier pencils. In terms of softness, they are very similar, though the Coloursoft line feels slightly drier than the Prismacolors. This means they are easy to build up multiple layers with, and they lift easily with a kneaded eraser. They also allow some subtle blending with a tortillon or by smudging with a finger. The pigment is very concentrated so Coloursoft are among the most opaque coloured pencils, though they are still translucent enough to allow previous layers to show. However one thing I found was that they seemed to produce a lot of dust. It’s not a big deal to blow it away or brush it off the paper (using a soft brush, not your hand, or you’ll smudge it), but none of my other coloured pencils leave dust like that, even when applied heavily.
Like the Artists pencils, Coloursoft have a thick round barrel and the leads are quite durable, unlike Prismacolors which break constantly. Unfortunately, like the Prismacolor, Coloursoft has a large number of fugitive colours in its line, with many reds, blues and violets falling below 6 on Derwent’s lightfastness ratings on their site. Luckily most of the yellows, greens, earths and greys are very lightfast, so depending on your subject, you may not have any issues; if you’re drawing something that will be sold or displayed, make sure you check the reds and violets etc for their ratings before buying, and if necessary, pick out some individual pencils from other brands. I’ll put my charts up in my window for 6 months so I can report back with my own findings.
Coloursoft pencils are in the middle price range, slightly more expensive than the Derwent Artists pencils and Coloursoft pencils, but cheaper than Caran d’Ache’s pencil lines. I think that the much lower occurrence of lead breakage means the Coloursofts are worth the extra money, though I know some people will still buy the Prismacolor Premiers for favourite unique colours or that slightly creamier texture.
Here’s the coloured pencil realism drawing I did with the Derwent Coloursoft pencils, based on a photo uploaded to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by mmdm.
Derwent Coloursoft pencils are a joy to draw and colour with. Even if you don’t buy a full set, it’s definitely worth getting a few to supplement your existing pencil collection, especially if you’re looking for a soft, blendable pencil. As with most art supplies, it’s important to check the lightfastness rating for each individual colour but there are still plenty of colours to choose from that aren’t fugitive.