Pencils: Derwent Procolour Pencils (review)

Every few years it seems Derwent come out with a new line of coloured pencils or drawing blocks of some sort, and one range that came out within the last couple of years was their Procolour line. Being the coloured pencil addict I am, naturally I had to try some.

Up until now, I’ve usually bought the full range of coloured pencils in any given line, since I like to have ALL THE COLOURS. This time I didn’t want to commit to the full range straight away (for reasons I’ll talk about later in the review), so I just got a small tin. I had to buy a separate Chinese White because it didn’t come with the 12-colour set I bought, but all the larger sets come with a white.

Derwent marketed these pencils as a cross between their Artists pencils and their Coloursoft pencils. A lot of coloured pencil artists complain about the Artists pencils being too hard and waxy (though I don’t mind the harder texture, as I said in my linked review), while the Coloursoft pencils often get criticised for being too dry and chalky (which I’d agree with at least to some extent, though I still like using them). Procolour pencils are meant to be midway in firmness between the two, not as hard as the Artists, but not as crumbly as the Coloursofts.

I think the Procolour pencils bridge this middle ground nicely. They layer more easily than the Artists pencils, so you can build up more layers than you can with Derwent’s original hard pencil line. They also don’t seem to leave as much ‘dust’ as the Coloursofts, which is good for me (as I find I often smudge things by accident), but for those who like to use smudging as a technique, might be considered a downside. Procolours are also not particularly opaque; they’re not as transparent as the Artists pencils but they’re also nowhere near as opaque as Prismacolor Premier pencils or even Derwent’s Coloursofts. I did also have problems with internal breakage with a lot of them, especially the Ivory Black and the Grass Green. I have been careful with them since I bought them so it’s possible the tin was dropped while it was still in the art supply store.

At about $2.60 per pencil in open stock, they’re a little more expensive than the Artists pencils but about middle of the range for pencil prices in general. But once the next Derwent range comes out, they’ll probably decrease in price to be more in line with their existing ranges, as seems to be the case usually with Derwent lines.

I remember when the Procolour pencils were first announced, many artists on the art forum I visit were excited and hopeful. Hopeful that Derwent might finally, at long last, be listening to their pleas for a proper lightfast range of pencils. Unfortunately those hopes were in vain, as a lot of the problem colours in the Artists and Coloursoft ranges – particularly blues, reds and violets – are also problem colours in the Procolour line. Depending on your preferred subjects this may not bother you, but floral artists in particular will struggle to find colours they can use in their work that are above 5 on the lightfast scale.

(on a side note, not long after the Procolour pencils released, Derwent announced their Lightfast line, at long last giving artists the lightfast coloured pencils we’ve been asking for. These have only just launched recently but I haven’t been able to afford any yet. This announcement was also why I only bought a small selection of Procolour pencils, as I want to save my money for a bigger set of the Lightfast line)

Here’s a parrot I drew with the Derwent Procolours, based on a photo by Wendy Sinclair.

If you want a reasonably priced pencil that’s not too hard and waxy but also isn’t too soft, Procolour pencils are worth trying. However make sure you check the lightfastness ratings for each colour you want to buy or use, as there are a lot of colours that will fade if they’re used in a drawing that’s going to be displayed.

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