Derwent Academy Colored Pencils
12-36 count pack
Limited Color Choices
“Expensive” for Budget Pencils
Derwent Academy Colored Pencils Review
Updated by Brandon F. on January 21, 2020
One of our readers introduced us to the Derwent Academy Series a few months ago. We are used to Derwent’s various products that are designed for hobbyists up to passionate professionals but we didn’t have much experience with many of their more beginner-oriented sets.
The Derwent Academy Series pencils attempt to adhere to the high standards of Derwent’s other lines but alter them in a way that makes them more beginner-friendly. This is accomplished through handpicking certain “beginner-friendly” colors and to also have a core that is both forgiving and easy to work with.
These pencils come in packs of 12 to 36, have a 6.9mm round barrel, and a 2.9mm core. They tend to fall in the upper budget price range.
Visual Appeal – 4/5
As we mentioned above, Derwent has stated that the colors in their Academy Colored Pencil set were chosen specifically for beginners and/or for people who are a bit rusty and want to get back into coloring. The colors you will find are very common colors used in most typical coloring books and simple drawings.
There is a good selection of blues, reds, and yellows. In particular, we really like the Ultramarine Blue, Violet, Cadmium Yellow, and Carmine Red. Noticeably missing is a larger selection of greens, tans, and browns. We assume that is because these more natural colors (typically used in many landscape pieces, face portraits, etc.) are beyond the scope of what most beginners are attempting to draw.
It was also worth noting that, even in the largest set size, you are limited to 36 pencils. So while the 36-piece set helps to fill some color voids, there will be some noticeable gaps in the smaller set sizes. Remember: these pencils aren’t really intended to be your go-to colored pencil set for years to come. They are designed to introduce students or other beginners to art and help build a solid foundation.
In terms of color performance, Derwent Academy Colored Pencils are decent. The wax core produces acceptable color but it won’t be as vivid as many of the more expensive Derwent lines. We also noticed that light strokes don’t put out much color. This can make areas of a piece where you want to apply very limited color a bit more challenging: too gentle and no color seems to come off the pencils and too firm and it becomes too dark way too quickly.
We were pleasantly surprised by the blending ability, however. Typically, these tougher cores don’t like to blend well with each other but Derwent has found a way to make it work. You won’t see the level of blending of many of the premium sets with their creamier cores but this still allows a beginner to experiment with blending without too much struggle.
Another aspect that we liked was how consistent the color comes out. There aren’t a lot of places where the color seems to be noticeably darker or lighter than that its surrounding color. Again, the main focus on here is simplicity and Derwent seems to have that mostly dialed in.
Lightfastness isn’t great but that is the norm for most tougher wax cores.
Usability and Durability – 4/5
The 2.9mm core is a good size that allows for control in detailed areas when you want to be precise but for larger areas of color application, you may wish that it was a bit thicker. The round 6.9mm barrel is also an optimal size for both people with small hands and larger hands alike. Derwent states that the round barrel is shaped this way because it allows for freedom of movement. We personally prefer hexagonal barrels as they are easier to grip but we won’t deny that if you simply want to learn the “feel” of coloring with colored pencils that a round barrel is preferred.
As we mentioned above, blending is quite nice with these. We encourage anybody starting out to try blending different ways: just using pencils, using water/solvent, and also trying to erase. These pencils will communicate with you in all three methods, making them a good beginner-level instruction tool.
The other focus that Derwent seemed to have with these is making them strong. Many beginner-level pencils are put into one of the toughest settings that they are: classroom settings. In these settings, it is common for pencils to be dropped, stepped on, applied way too firmly, and aggressively sharpened with less than stellar pencil sharpeners. This can spell disaster for most colored pencils and result in an extremely short lifespan.
The wax cores used here are quite strong. They should be able to handle pretty firm pressure and they seem to be able to be sharpened with most typical pencil sharpeners without too much hassle. That being said, they still are a bit too fragile for certain classroom settings. For instance, if you have a pre-school, kindergarten, or early elementary school classroom, we recommend going with something even cheaper such as Crayola. But for Jr. High and above? These are absolutely worth considering.
Packaging and Presentation – 4.5/5
For a beginner-oriented line, the Derwent Academy Colored Pencils look fantastic. They come in an attractive tin container that emulates many of the more expensive sets on the market. There is also a light plastic sleeve that comfortable fits all of the pencils. We like these sleeves not only for added protection from the pencil tips running into each other but it also makes them much easier to organize and access during use.
The pencils themselves come in a black barrel with a color-coordinated base. For added effect, the pencils also have a silver line directly above the colored base. And you will find helpful information higher up on the barrel including the name of the color, the brand, and the type of set.
All in all, these are one of the most attractive student-level sets that we have come across.
Cost – 4/5
Derwent has priced its Academy Colored Pencils at a very interesting point. They are definitely more affordable than most of their other sets and should fall into the budget tier. However, they are at the very top of what we consider the budget tier. And seeing how the budget tier is really designed to students and beginners (which these pencils are) it means that these might be a bit “expensive” for some.
However, we will also say that they are a step above what most other student pencils can offer. You will enjoy superior performance, durability, and packaging. And that is a big reason that you may pay a bit more.
But either way, they are still a good bargain considering what you are getting.
Overall Ranking – 4/5
We really enjoyed trying out the Derwent Academy Colored Pencils. These pencils have some of the great qualities that we have come to love from Derwent’s other lines but at a price point that is easier to swallow. They are also quite strong, making them right at home in more demanding beginner or classroom settings.
The color output, while nothing mind-blowing, is decent. And the blending ability is very impressive for a student-level pencil. You may be a bit limited in color choices but that shouldn’t be a major issue for what types of art pieces these pencils are targeted at.
We feel that these are a great set of beginner pencils for adults or for older children (perhaps teenagers and above). For smaller children, we feel that you are better off saving some money and going with a set of Crayolas or Reeves. The price surplus you will pay for the improved performance, nicer packaging, etc. just won’t have as big of an impact on environments with small children.