Disclaimer: Please be advised that this blog is not affiliated with any art supply manufacturers/providers and that anything stated in this blog post is solely the opinion of the blogger.
EDIT: This review was for the old version of Derwent Graphic pencils. They have since been reformulated and repackaged. As such this review is out of date. I will be doing a review of the revised version of Derwent Graphic pencils soon.
Being an artist whom works regularly in graphite I try to experiment with as many different brands of pencil as possible. Caran D’ache Grafwood pencils are my current tools of choice, however my interest was peaked when a fellow artist was having a discussion on Facebook about how happy she was with using Derwent Graphic pencils for her portraits. Curious, I decided to hop down to my local stationery shop to buy them and try them out.
I bought the tin of 12 pencils ranging in shades from 9B to H, but you can also get a set of 6B to 4H depending on your needs, and both sets of twelve are currently priced at £5.99 each, working out at just 50p for each pencil.
My first impressions of the pencils were that they felt rather cheap to hold as the paint on the wood casings are unvarnished, which is a little uncomfortable to grip. Each pencil has a 6-sided barrel which stops it from rolling about on your table, helpful if you like to draw on a slightly sloped surface.
Straight out of the tin, the pencils appeared to be very poorly sharpened, as the wood casing was almost all the way up one side of the lead point in most of the harder leads, and most of the leads were fairly blunt. Because of this, I immediately found myself having to sharpen them before using them.
The pencil leads appeared to be very brittle, and I struggled to get a sharp point without the lead breaking, even when using Derwent’s own battery-powered sharpener. I had to sharpen the B and 9B pencils down by almost a 3rd of their original length before I finally got a sharp point without the lead breaking and had similar problems with the other very soft leads (5B-8B). I found that there were also issues with the wood when sharpening. The wood casing frequently splinters and does not get cut off very cleanly even when using a battery-powered sharpener.
Shade test of the Derwent Graphic set:
Comparison to Caran D’ache Grafwood:
When actually testing the pencils I unfortuantely ran into more issues. The pencil leads of the Derwent Graphic pencils feel very gritty, and even the softer leads do not feel very smooth laying down. It was difficult to achieve strokes as smooth and dark as the CD Grafwood pencils, even when pressing as hard as I could. There was very little difference in the darkness values of the 7B, 8B and 9B Derwent Graphic pencils. The leads of the pencils were also very crumbly and I found that the ends kept snapping when pressing a little harder with the pencils. One redeeming quality is that when using a blending stick, the Derwent Graphic pencils blend very nicely, even smoother than my Caran D’ache Grafwood pencils, in fact.
A number of graphite artists love Derwent Graphic pencils and proclaim them to be the best choice of graphite pencil. I disagree. From my experience with them, they certainly don’t live up to the critical acclaim that I’ve seen from other reviewers. It may just be that I was unlucky and bought a set from a bad batch, however upon asking around on various art forums I found that other people have encountered similar problems with this product, namely the lead quality and breakage issues, and even misaligned lead in the barrels in some cases. The Derwent Graphic’s best quality is its price point, and I can see them being an ideal choice for beginner artists and students. Personally I do not believe that they are of professional quality.
All in all, I give these pencils…