Derwent Graphic Pencils review

Derwent Graphite Pencil Review

Today I’m taking a look at Britain’s graphite pencil offering, the Derwent Graphic range. I’m testing the H – 9B pack but there are also harder pencils available (all the way to 9H). It’s been at least sixteen years since I last used Derwent’s graphite pencils, because I remember using them a lot at art college and during my early art classes. Will they still impress me all these years later? I’m about to find out in my Derwent graphite pencil review.

What do Derwent’s graphite pencils feel like to draw with?

Being the standard, hexagonal size for pencils, Derwent’s graphite pencils will feel similar in your fingers to other pencils you will have owned. What sets Derwent’s graphite pencils apart is the tactile feedback your hand gets as you draw. Derwent’s graphite pencils feel a little chalky as they are dragged across a smooth piece of paper, yet they glide easily. The amount of resistance the pencils give is really well balanced, which to me means that Derwent has measured that part of the experience to refine it. The pencils neither glide too much nor drag/snag on the page.

What’s impressive about the chalky texture of Derwent’s graphite pencils is that it doesn’t translate into very fragile nibs. For example Arteza’s graphite pencils are chalky but the ends of the nibs break too easily. Derwent’s nibs rarely have this problem for me and seem quite resistant even with the softest pencil (9B). The only downside to Derwent’s chalky texture is that the pencils need to be sharpened a bit more regularly than brands with harder graphite. Overall, Derwent’s graphite feels a little bit softer than Faber Castell’s or Staedtler’s for instance.

Whether you end up preferring Derwent’s graphite texture or that of another brand, it’s undeniable that Derwent has mastered the chalky consistency that they’ve chosen for their graphite pencils.

What do drawings with Derwent pencils look like?

Derwent’s graphic pencils are as good as the artist using them from my experience. I’m always happy with the result from them. Seeing as Derwent is a British brand and I come from the UK, I decided to make the drawing for this review a self portrait.

Portrait using Derwent Graphic pencils.
Self portrait with Derwent Graphic graphite pencils.

I really enjoyed using the Derwent Graphic pencils to draw my self portrait above. It is very easy to control tone with Derwent’s graphite pencils, so if I want a flat area of shade or want to blend different tones together, it’s no problem.

The only one thing I noticed with these Derwent pencils is that it’s a bit easier to smudge them than some of the others I reviewed on this website, so using a separate sheet of paper to lay my hand over already drawn bits is essential with Derwent Graphic pencils.

Swatches of the Derwent Graphic pencils

I have the H – 9B pack of Derwent Graphic pencils, so that’s what you see in the swatches below. The tone achievable with these pencils is very comparable to the equivalent pencils from the Faber Castell 9000 range. So from my point of view, the only real difference between the pencils is the tactile texture of both in use. Derwent’s Graphic pencils also go all the way to 9H hardness if you need it, which isn’t available from Faber’s range.

Derwent Graphic review swatches.

Each pencil feels different to me in the Derwent Graphic range, so I have no complaints at all about the pencil grading system they use.

One thing I advise you as a buyer to do is get instead the 4H – 6B pack of Derwent Graphic pencils. I regret that I don’t have the 2H pencil personally because I enjoy drawing/shading with very light shades of grey sometimes. In my opinion though, Derwent should have a pack of the Derwent Graphic pencils that go from 2H – 8B. For me 9B is unnecessary because 8B is so dark already that it’s difficult to notice the difference between the two, whereas the difference between 2H and H pencils is usually more clear.

Derwent Graphic pencils are professional grade

Derwent Graphite pencil review
Derwent Graphic graphite pencil.

Derwent Graphic pencils are the company’s “professional range” graphite pencils and are therefore made from finer materials. Derwent also has another range of graphite pencils called Derwent Academy, that are still good graphic pencils but the production costs have been reduced to accommodate the budget of beginner artists and students.

Derwent’s Graphic pencils are highly lightfast, which means that the marks they make will last a really long time. Cheaper graphite pencils can start to fade after a few years to a couple of decades and this won’t be so much an issue with the Derwent Graphic range. You still need to buy good acid-free paper to take advantage of that longevity though.

The Derwent Graphic Carry Tin

Derwent Graphic pencils come in a flat tin like most other graphite pencils. Unlike some other brands though, there are no hinges on Derwent’s tin. For a studio or fixed desk, not having a hinge could be an advantage because it can take up less space while you’re working. Travelling with the Derwent carry tin is a bit more complicated though, because if you don’t tape the tin closed with masking tape, it opens up inside bags and the pencils fall out. I speak from experience. 😉 Needless to say I prefer pencil tins that are more portable than this, because ultimately that’s what I use tins for besides storage.

Derwent Graphic vs Faber Castell 9000 graphite pencils

This section of my review is mostly for British artists, because they will be the ones that most often see the brands Derwent and Faber Castell side by side in art shops. Such British artists may wonder to themselves which brand is better and what my opinion is, seeing as I’ve used both brands a lot throughout my life. My Faber Castell 9000 review is here by the way.

Firstly, know that there is no sure winner in this comparison. Both Derwent and Faber Castell make excellent graphite pencils. If you can find only one of the brands but not another, just buy the one you can find because ultimately, they’re both capable of producing professional level work.

When comparing my swatch tests of Faber Castell and Derwent’s graphite pencils, I see very little difference in terms of tone and finish. Between other brands, the difference between pencil grades varies a bit but between these two brands it’s pretty close. The image below shows both swatches side by side, I’ve covered two of the swatches because the range I have for each brand is one pencil different. The sizes of the swatches are different but the results are pretty close. The Derwent pencils are a tiny bit darker in the photos but to the naked eye I can’t tell the difference.

Derwent vs Faber Castell graphite pencils (swatches).
Swatches of equivalent Derwent and Faber Castell pencils.

The differences between Derwent and Faber Castell’s pencils

The equivalent graphite pencils look similar between Derwent and FC. The main difference for me is the tactile texture of each brand’s graphite. Faber Castell’s pencils feel slightly harder and glide across the page like polished stone effortlessly. Derwent’s graphite pencils are a little more chalky as they are dragged across the page, so I can feel the texture of the paper more with them. A good pencil is a good pencil, so we’re really talking about subtitles here.

If I were to compare both brand’s graphite to something wet, Derwent’s graphite feels like it is moist but still with the ability to feel some resistance and Faber Castell’s graphite feels very wet and glides across the page with less resistance. When I’m talking about resistance, there is no change in how easy it is to move each pencil, I’m only talking about the texture of the paper meeting the graphite.

The more obvious difference is with the tin and the range of pencils. Derwent’s tin doesn’t have a hinge like FC’s and Derwent has a larger range of graphite pencils (going all the way to 9H in hardness). Derwent also has a cheaper “Academy” range of pencils besides the Graphic range that I’m reviewing here, whereas FC doesn’t.

Which brand do I prefer for graphite pencils between Derwent and Faber Castell?

Which brand I prefer shouldn’t really matter to my readers so much, because both brands are just as good as each other. Each artist will have a different preference if asked to choose between these brands. I do have a favourite and it’s based partly on where I live and partly on how I draw.

In these graphite pencil reviews, I draw quite realistically to show off what each brand can do. I’m an animator however and usually the way I draw is very different. I usually draw very rapidly, in a cartoon style. I also live in France (despite being British) and I enjoy taking pencils with me to museums etc. Faber Castell pencils are far easier for me to find in France and the fact that they glide across paper without any resistance lends itself to my usual drawing style particularly well.

If you are living in Britain, I recommend that you buy Derwent’s pencils. Supporting brands from the country you live in is important and the carbon footprint will be lower too. If I lived in the UK, I’d probably use Derwent’s pencils more often, because despite the fact that I use FC pencils more often, Derwent’s pencils are still great.

Concluding my Derwent Graphic review

Pros

  • Excellent quality.
  • 9H – 9B range (24 pencils – huge).
  • Nice chalky texture will help you feel the surface of the paper more.
  • Highly lightfast.
  • Made in Britain (especially a plus if you live there).
  • Cheaper “Derwent Academy” range available.

Cons

  • The tin isn’t very portable and requires taping to stop it opening up in bags.

There you go folks, now you know all about Derwent Graphic pencils and how they compare to other brands. These graphite pencils are excellent and if I lived in Britain I’d likely be using them a lot more than I do now. The Derwent Graphic range is 24 pencils strong and the fact that they are highly lightfast and feel so nice to draw with is a big bonus. I recommend the Derwent Graphic pencils to any artist, even students or beginners.

I have the H – 9B soft set of Derwent Graphic pencils. To be honest, I think I would have preferred the 4H – 6B pack, just because I like having those lighter tone hard pencils. The 6B pencil is already so dark that it doesn’t matter to me whether I have darker pencils. What I recommend doing is buying the 4H – 6B pack and then just buy either the 8B or 9B pencil separately to use for darker stuff, because that will give you a really good range of tone in your artwork. Pencils harder than 4H are a curiosity to me but they’re mostly for technical style drawings, so if you’re not doing technical drawing, you probably won’t use them very often.

I’m very happy with the self portrait I did using the Derwent Graphic pencils, how good it turned out speaks for the results achievable with these pencils!

Where can you buy Derwent Graphic pencils?

If you’d like to buy a set of Derwent Graphic pencils, they come in several different sets. I’ll give you a list of those sets and where you can buy them here. I’m affiliated to these shops and trust them, so what that means is if you click on the links, the shop sees that I sent someone and that helps me out! It doesn’t cost you anything to use my links but it helps me save up for a coffee… and I like coffee.

Which set do I need?

For fine artists, either the Soft H to 9B set or the Medium 4H to 6B set.
For technical artists, the Hard 9H to B set.

If you’re a fine artist and you’re finding it difficult to choose between the soft and medium set, just get the medium set and buy either a 8B or 9B pencil to go with it (that’s what I’d do). If you don’t want to choose, you can also just get the full 24 pencil pack… that’s a bit overkill for most folks in my opinion though.

At the time of writing, Amazon only stocks the Soft Pencil set and the full 24 pencil set. So if you want other pencils you’ll have to buy them from there individually.

Derwent Graphic: Soft pencil set H to 9B

This is the 12 set of softer pencils that I used for this review. People who like using soft pencils and enjoy dark tones will prefer this set. I personally would have liked to have a 2H pencil as well for a slightly lighter tone, so I recommend getting one of those separately if you go for this pack.

Jackson’s Art – UK / Europe

Dick Blick’s Art Supplies – USA

Rougier et Ple – France / Europe

Derwent Graphic: Medium pencil set 4H to 6B

Derwent’s medium set of graphite pencils goes from 4H to 6B and is labeled “Designer”. I believe I would have preferred this set to the softer set I had, because I enjoy using hard pencils to get lighter tones. If you get the 4H – 6B back, I recommend you buy either the 8B or 9B pencil individually so that you can go super dark too. Ignore the designer label, because this set can be used by fine artists too. It depends what tones matter more to you, dark or bright.

Jackson’s Art – UK / Europe

Dick Blick’s Art Supplies – USA

Rougier et Ple – France / Europe

Derwent Graphic: Hard pencil set 9H – B

If you are more into technical drawing, then you’ll probably prefer Derwent’s harder pencil set. Most artists will be happy with the Soft or Medium sets I already listed above, so I only recommend people go for this hard pencil set if they know they actually need it for technical drawing. If I had this set, I would be frustrated because I need softer/darker pencils than B. For a technical artist though, these hard pencils will be useful.

Jackson’s Art – UK / Europe

Dick Blick’s Art Supplies – USA

Rougier et Ple – France / Europe

The entire Derwent Graphic pencil range (24 pencils) 9H to 9B

For those who are very multifaceted, those buying a gift or people who just want it all, Derwent also has a 24 pencil set available which covers their entire Derwent Graphic range. The 24 pencil set has all the hard pencils (9H – H), the F (fine pencil), the halfway pencil (HB) and all the soft pencils (B – 9B). If you’re buying pencils for someone as a gift and don’t really know what pencil range they use, it could be a good idea to get this. Even if the person you’re buying for doesn’t use the entire range often, they’ll be happy to experiment with the pencil grades they haven’t used before.

Jackson’s Art – UK / Europe / Worldwide Shipping

Rougier et Ple – France / Europe

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

16 + nineteen =

Scroll to Top