Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Tools > Inktense > Derwent Inktense Blocks – Review

Derwent Inktense Blocks – Review

Today I’m excited to tell you about a new medium I decided to try.  Made by Derwent, Inktense Blocks are water soluble ink which can be used both dry or activated with water.  Inktense comes in two forms, Blocks and Pencils.

Back in October, I decided to participate in Inktober.  I even decided to purchase some new ink.  While at our local Blick Art store I not only picked up a bottle of India Ink I decided to also purchase 2 Inktense blocks and 2 Inktense pencils in antique white and black.  Using them I quickly fell in love with them.  

After watching several Inktense videos on YouTube, I decided to take the leap and buy a set of blocks.  I knew the blocks had higher lightfast ratings than the pencils, plus I like being able to create washes and paint with the blocks.  Originally I had planned to buy the set of 12 which cost $20.39 on Blick’s website.  Much to my surprise I came across an Amazon listing which was selling the set of 24 blocks for $22!  I could not pass that up!  A bonus for me was that although the photo on the Amazon seller’s page was the old tin, when mine arrived it was the new tin with artwork created by one of my favorite artists, Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art!  

While Inktense blocks and pencils come in sets up to 72 colors, you can use a smaller set (12 or 24) and mix any color you may need.  

Here’s a look at the blocks that come in the set of 24.  They are as follows:  Sherbet Lemon, Sun Yellow, Tangerine, Poppy Red, Chilli Red, Shiraz, Fuchsia, Violet, Iris Blue, Bright Blue, Deep Indigo, Sea Blue, Teal Green, Ionian Green, Apple Green, Field Green, Leaf Green, Mustard, Baked Earth, Willow, Bark, Charcoal Grey, Ink Black, and Antique White.

Above are my swatch chart and some test paintings.  We’re Harry Potter fans in our family so I decided to paint a few “fantastic beasts” while testing out the blocks.  I had a lot of fun painting those creatures!

Then it was time to take them for a spin on a wildlife piece.  I came across quite a few adorable reference photos of Red Pandas and decided on a cutie with his tongue sticking out.

I started out by sketching the red panda on 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Press Watercolor Paper ( 140lb – 300 gsm).  Next, I used Blick Liquid Frisket to protect the edges of the red panda.  I began working in layers blocking in the background.  I started out light and deepened the colors over several washes, drying each layer completely before adding the next.  A nice thing about Inktense is that you can use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process.  When I had the background the way I wanted it, I then removed the liquid frisket and began working on the red panda.  In the final photo above you can see the white on the black fur.  This is an are which will be glazed over to tone it down.  There is still a lot to do, but I am enjoying every bit of the process!  I have completely fallen in love with Inktense!

Here’s a close up of the eyes:

You can see from the photo of the blocks, Derwent included small mixing areas in the packaging.  I prefer to use some plastic pallets which are used for watercolors.  These blocks are easily mixed and the vibrancy can be changed by adding more or less water.   I used larger round imitation hogs hair brushes on the background.  Working on the Red Panda I chose to use smaller detail brushes.  Here are the golden taklon brushes I purchased to use:

I have found that I am able to get much smaller detail using these brushes and the blocks than I could with the pencils.  Also, the Antique White block is much more opaque than the pencils.  The black is the opposite!  You will get a much darker black with the pencil than with the blocks.

Now about lightfastness.

One block in my set has a very low lightfast rating.  It’s the Shiraz.  I am staying away from that color for the moment.  The other blocks are rated highly lightfast!  However…  believe it or not, the lightfast ratings are for the dry Inktense only.  Derwent had not done lightfast testing on the Inktense once it was activated with water.  That has caused many artists to use caution with this product.  Lightfast colors are important when it comes to selling your artwork.

On the upside, recently Derwent has been working to rectify this situation.  They’ve completed testing on the Inktense pencils (many proving to be lightfast once activated with water) and they are also testing the blocks.  I am keeping my fingers crossed the blocks will retain their highly lightfast ratings once activated with water.  If they don’t then my Inktense works will have to be for artwork which will be only made into prints.

My conclusion:

I am in love with Inktense!  I love the vivid colors.  I love that you can glaze over previous layers without lifting the layers underneath.  I love painting with them.  The two pencils have come in handy however, the blocks are definitely my main choice.

If you’re looking for a fun medium to work in, maybe give Derwent Inktense a try!

Until Next Time,
Keep Creating!


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