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Derwent Graphitint, Metallic, Inktense Paint Pan Set Review Lightfast Info
Derwent is best known for their pencils, which they have been producing in the UK since the 1800s. They were producing graphite pencils for about 100 years before creating colored pencils in the 1930s. In recent times they have become better known for their water-soluble pencils and "paint pan" sets including Graphitint, Metallic and Inktense. While the paint pan sets look similar to watercolor in format, unlike most watercolor these do not contain gum arabic as the binder. Their proprietary binder is likely made from starches or synthetic resin, which results in a highly absorbent matte paint that is very staining (but not fully waterproof/permanent). The paint pans require above average water usage and scrubbing to re-wet from dry (compared to other types of watercolors including traditional or modern gansai or gouache).
Pros: Convenient pan sets that copy the standard half-pan watercolor travel tin format. This might be ideal for urban sketching in journals where the pages can be nearly immediately closed in regard to dampness, but I did find that some powdery residue can transfer to opposite pages. All of thesepaints dry on the page quite fast (seconds to several minutes depending on water use) which could be helpful for gestural work or artists on a time crunch who appreciate being able to move to the next layer quickly. This actually helps prevent backruns or blooms commonly seen in gum arabic based watercolors, since you can touch recently painted areas which nearly instantly dried without colors bleeding into that space. The semi to mostly opaque layering ability is not the same as in transparent watercolor (where the next layer becomes more intense or deeper valued). Instead the gouache-like paints tend to cover previously painted areas, which could be desirable when working from dark to light. Like gouache, the lighter valued Inktense colors can be applied last, to provide highlights in the final stages of the artwork. While some colors are fully opaque, I did not find that this was preferable to gouache in appearance or price (for instance the Schmincke Akademie Gouache tube set on Jackson's is cheaper and lightfast). The main benefit to Inktense over gouache is that they dry more staining/semi water resistant, so you are less likely to disturb your previously applied dry layers.
Cons: If you are looking for watercolor-like products that will give you the smooth washes you may be used to in pro grade watercolor paints, these are not it. These are a streaky, gouache-like in opacity, staining paint that dry far too fast to blend smoothly. There are many artists who love Derwent products, but I do not believe their art supplies will fit every artist's needs - I am personally not a fan of any of these products. There are too many limitations compared to other mediums for my taste - especially for the home studio. If not traveling, there other mediums like acrylic inks that outperform these for permanent, lightfast, professional quality work. I found that every Derwent paint pan set was chalky in all senses of the word: smeared dusty residue after the paint was dry, left a dull matte opaque effect and remained absorbent. Both the pans and the paint on the page have this chalky effect that sucks up water and starts to clump up like calcium carbonate/marble dust. Applying water to the pans with a wet brush was a constant battle, with more than a few drops of water just instantly sucking into the paint surface causing extra time to load the brush and activate the dry tablets. When reaching back to reload the brush with more color, there was no water remaining on the surface (impressive that this happened within seconds considering I live in humid Florida).
Graphitint: I found myself frustrated with the Graphitint set because I had planned to use it in a sketchbook (since no pigment info was provided, I deemed it unreliable to use for art to sell or hang on the wall long term). Unfortunately the Graphitint has large sandy particles that easily rub off on your hands or nearby pages after dry. This can cause some unsightly dark gray marks from Graphite on nearby journal pages. There was also a massive wet to dry shift, greatly desaturating the colors with the hazy graphite sheen. If you don't mind the effort and smell of using spray sealers/fixative, that could be a way to minimize this problem.
Graphitint not available in your area or just rather DIY? If you're looking for a graphite powder or watercolor to mix with your paints, be aware that there are multiple types of graphite mineral sources in nature as well as filtered purity levels. Some graphite products have been processed to provide a higher carbon content resulting in matte black instead of shiny gray. You can find other brands of Graphite as watercolor or powders to DIY replicate these colors, but each brand will vary in regards to providing a darker matte vs lustrous gray color. Jackson's has affordable dry pigment powder in Graphite glittery SILVER or fine matte BLACK options. Schmincke and Daniel Smith have darker matte watercolors, DS will polish to a slight sheen, but Schmincke's does not. The Graphitint paint eagerly buffs to a metallic sheen:
I found that using a metal ball stylus tool was a good way to create highlights on Graphitint artwork:
Lustrous water-soluble graphite sticks, pencils and ArtGraf shiny gray water-soluble tablets can also be polished this way. Easily replicate Graphitint by mixing graphite with watercolor (or Inktense if you own/prefer). All of which will allow you to create unlimited custom mixtures with your other paints. DIY will likely be more economical and lightfast (giving you the freedom to choose more reliable colorful pigments). If you don't like graphite luster/sheen, I'd recommend sticking with PBk11 (Mars Black/Magnetite/Aquarius/Lunar black) for granulating matte mixtures. PBk11 watercolors are available in highly textural coarse particle size, or super fine low granulation (see pigment database pages to compare). Using PBk11 allows you to replicate the effect seen in Van Gogh/Rembrandt Dusk series or Paul Rubens Shi Yun (matte, black speckles in the colors). While I do enjoy Kuretake's paints, similarly to Graphitint, Gansai Tambi Graphite colors are also likely to contain fugitive pigments. You can see both sets + DIY mixtures in the following video:
- VIDEO IS IN PROGRESS for Graphitint vs Kuretake Gansai vs DIY Graphite watercolor mixtures -
Lightfast ratings for their products can not be found on the packaging, but rather hidden in PDF downloads on their website. Unfortunately, Derwent does not provide pigment ingredient codes for their products - so there is only so much you can trust their self-assigned ratings without knowing the pigment. This also gives them the freedom to change pigments used in future releases without artists knowing (so take these LF tests with a grain of salt, since other companies like Kuretake Gansai became more fugitive over the years of changing ingredients). For one part of the mixture Derwent clearly uses graphite (PBk10 which is LFI/BW8) in all of their Graphitint products. Since this pigment code is known, the following swatch cards have been added to the pigment database for comparison to other paints made with PBk10.
Swatch cards for Graphitint paint pan set:
This is the lightfastness chart for Graphitint:
Graphitint paint pan set independent lightfast test results:
There is overall very little fading in the Graphitint set by 1 year, mostly due to the fact that the primary ingredient in each color is LFI Graphite. This masks some color changes for several months, since each color is quite muted making it difficult to spot the changes. Within 3-6 months of vertical window light (avg 3-5 hours of sun per day) Russet and Port begin to hue shift, with Indigo starting to fade after 6 months.
------- Metallic paint pan set review in progress --------
Be warned that the metallic watercolor set is barely pearlescent, with only the gold showing a mica shimmer, the rest are dull and flat. Not all colors show up well on black paper or other dark surfaces. These overall reminded me of the poor quality kids bargain watercolor sets (the kind with Tums-style chalk tablets or bargain sets with weak pearlescents.
Metallic paint pan set lightfast test results:
------- Inktense pencils and paint pan set review pending. -------
The Inktense line isgiven that name because they are supposedly vibrant and intense like liquid inks - however most watercolors easily surpass them in this regard. There are many intense high chroma pigments, not all watercolors are dull muted or earthy tones. They have also mentioned waterproof layering as their main benefit of using Inktense vs normal watercolors. There are staining pigments in either type of paint, granulating colors will always easily lift, while many fine particle pigments like quins and phthalos will always stain. There's also paper sizing (the gelatin or starch coating surface treatment) on some paper types that will make any type of paint easier or harder to lift. That being said - on all papers Inktense are not waterproof, I was able to lift away and bleed out color with water even days after the paint dried on absorbent papers that are good for layering such as Arches. If you require completely waterproof layers I recommend acrylic or shellac inks, such as bombay india ink.
Derwent has provided the following blue wool scale ratings for the Inktense paint pan set:
-Inktense lightfast testing in progress including the 12 pan set palette #01 and the full line in pencil format-
*Inktense video NOTE - I get a lot of negative feedback about this particular video, so please be forewarned: At the time of this review there were still Derwent ad images, seller website descriptions and popular YouTube videos calling the Inktense paint pan set a "watercolor set". INKTENSE IS NOT A SUITABLE WATERCOLOR REPLACEMENT. Beyond the functionality differences, the color selection is extremely limited and will cause all of your mixtures to be more chalky and muted compared to having a transparent watercolor primary mixing trio (with a true magenta like PR122). There were multiple reviews around 2018-2019 claiming this to be the "best watercolor" set ever made, including a very popular video by Kasey Golden:
Apologies to Kasey for using this example, but it may help you better understand my point of view when watching the following video. Kasey's video reached hundreds of thousands of viewers and implied that Inktense was better than traditional watercolor sets. This claim coupled with a lack of comparison to other supplies felt misleading. There is no animosity involved, just a desire to help beginner artists make the best informed decisions possible. Thus my video response is essentially a matter-of-fact comparison to watercolor and a blunt evaluation of this product. Derwent has taken care to add product info to distinguish differences in recent years, however not all of the claims are true (such as being permanent/waterproof and won't rub off when dry).
If you are a loyal Derwent fan, be warned that 1) this may be offensive since I do not enjoy Inktense and 2) this video is a few years old now referencing outdated info when this was initially sold on many seller sites as a "watercolor travel pan set". Between that and the popular misconception at the time, I felt that clarification was needed to help distinguish the differences + test manufacturer claims:
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