Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils
12, 24, and 36 Pack Sets
Incredibly Deep Color
Limited Color Choices
Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils Review
Updated by Brandon F. on May 9, 2023
We have all heard of Derwent, but most people have probably not tried out their lineup of lightfast pencils. These pencils utilize a revolutionary oil core that is designed to push the limits of lightfastness. Derwent states that your artwork will not fade for up to 100 years in optimal conditions! These pencils come in 12, 24, and 36 packs are in the premium price range.
Visual Appeal – 4.5/5
Those who are familiar with Derwent colored pencils likely know that they have traditionally stuck to wax-based cores. However, the common complaints about Derwent’s wax-based pencils are 1. Their sometimes questionable blending and 2. Their lack of lightfast ratings. To combat this, Derwent came out with their first every oil-based colored pencils, the Lightfast Series.
The first thing that you will notice when you put down some color from one of these pencils is just how intense and deep the color is. These are among some of the impressive pencils that we have tested in terms of raw color output, and certainly at the top of Derwent’s current lineup. Being such a deep color, you also have a lot of flexibility in just how deep (or not deep) you want to go.
Lightly stroking the pencil results in a lovely subdued color tone that will be beneficial in those areas of your artwork that you don’t want to “pop” as much.
You will also find that the combination of dark colors layered above by lighter colors creates a very powerful effect that honestly resembles an oil paint or pastel more than a traditional colored pencil. This type of effect can be great for glimmering water, wet hair, and twinkling stars. Your options are endless here!
The one area that may be lacking is the color choices. The largest set of Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils is only 36 pieces. Because of this, you will find some noticeable color gaps throughout the sets. This is even more prevalent in the 12 and 24-pack sets. The smaller sets focus on earthy colors such as browns, tans, and blues.
The larger set still builds on this (huge selection of greens) but also expands to include more in the way of pinks, purples, and light colors. We certainly would have liked to see more in the way of yellows, blues, and reds. But either way, if your budget allows, we highly recommend going with the 36-pack set due to its increase in color choices.
It was surprisingly difficult to pick some of our favorite colors since essentially all the colors in this set are fantastic. That being said, we found ourselves constantly going back to Sienna, Forest, Violet, and (surprisingly), Midnight Black. Rarely does a simple black color top our list of colors, but this black is much deeper than we are used to seeing. If you are somebody that enjoys landscapes and portraits, then the available colors will suit you quite well.
And this review wouldn’t be complete without at least briefly discussing the lightfast rating. With Lightfast in the name, it is evident that Derwent took this very seriously and wanted to push the limits of what a colored pencil is capable of. All pencils in this set comply with ASTM D6901 and the Blue Wool Scale ISO 105.
Without going into detail, ASTM D6901 is a specification that establishes industry-standard performance and composition requirements for artist colored pencils. And the ISO 105 Blue Wool Scale is a method used for testing the lightfast ratings of applied color. Very few colored pencils can say that they meet the industry requirements for these specs. And it shows that Derwent Lightfast Pencils are almost in a league of their own. You can expect this color to last for extremely long periods: up to 100 years in museum conditions.
Usability and Durability – 5/5
Another great benefit of oil-based cores is that they are a lot of fun to use. These pencils, in particular, are extremely creamy in their application. You will find that the strokes of the pencil are buttery smooth. As we mentioned in the previous section, you have a lot of control over how intense you want your color to be. Some oil-colored pencils are great at producing deep color but may struggle in spots where you don’t want a lot of colors: that isn’t the case here.
Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils are also a nice size. The core comes in at around 4mm and the round barrel is measured at approximately 8mm. A 4mm core is sort of a “happy medium” between sizes: it is small enough to allow for good control in areas that you want to be very detailed while still being large enough to allow you to spread out a lot of color in other parts of your work. We love this level of versatility in a single set.
When you do sharpen the tip to a point, it seems to hold that point for an acceptable period. Your application pressure will heavily dictate how long the point stays sharp. But for the most part, you should be able to do quite a few strokes before having to re-sharpen. And we also found that you can put down some decent force without the worry of the tip prematurely breaking. This helps to maximize the life of these pencils: less sharpening means that you get the most out of each one. And seeing how these pencils are pretty expensive, that is certainly helpful!
Now on to the blending: it is fantastic! When you have color gaps in a set such as this one (due to its small size), having the ability to blend is even more essential as this helps to fill in those gaps. We found that blending Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils was incredibly simple and, more importantly, fun! Being an oil-based core, you won’t need to add water or any sort of solvent to tap into the blending capabilities.
Specifically, we encourage you to try experimenting with mixing whites and blacks with other colors to see how effective it is at brightening or darkening the colors.
Beyond blending, these colors also stack quite well. This is another benefit of oil pencils over wax: their ability to be stacked up into many layers without a huge mess. You also won’t have to deal with wax bloom, which is a common issue with many wax cores.
Packaging and Presentation – 4.5/5
Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils come in a standard tin box that follows the typical Derwent design. The pencils are situated in a thin plastic inner container that helps to both identify and further protect them. Seeing how these pencils are in a smaller set, you won’t find multiple layers of trays as you may find in other colored pencil series that come in larger sets.
The pencils themselves are quite attractive. A vast majority of the barrel is natural wood-colored with just a light varnish applied. The base of the pencil has the trademarked Derwent diagonal stripe that coincides with the series. In this case, you will find a dark navy blue stripe which Derwent has decided will coincide with the Lightfast Series.
Below this, you will find a colored base that is intended to match the color of the pencil. We found that the color at the base was extremely similar to the actual color of the pencil. This helps to easily identify which pencil is best suited for your particular application.
In the middle of the barrel is a “Derwent Lightfast” stamp along with a “Made in Britain” disclaimer. And towards the bottom is a stamp that states the color of the pencil following by “LF1”. LF1 essentially means 100% lightfast: this is sort of a no-brainer since this entire set is 100% lightfast. We assume it is just Derwent proudly bragging about their accomplishment (which is perfectly justified!).
Value – 4/5
If it isn’t yet obvious, you get a lot of performance with each Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencil. The decision to go with a high-quality oil core results in a truly fantastic artist-grade pencil. However, this does come at a cost and a pretty high one at that. These pencils are situated comfortably in the premium price tier. And this puts them at a noticeably higher price point than many of the other Derwent Colored Pencils that you might be used to seeing.
But while they may be a bit more expensive, comparing these Derwent pencils to many of the lesser Derwent pencils does them a disservice. These are among some of the best oil pencils on the market right now and, while expensive, we feel that the price is more than justifiable.
Overall Ranking – 4.5/5
We came away extremely impressed by the Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils. Derwent’s first attempt at a mainstream oil-based pencil has been a huge success. The 4mm oil core is very well made and produces fantastic, rich color while still being easily controllable. And it is designed to last: you will be able to apply nice application force and sharpen it to a tip without constantly breaking the pencil.
Furthermore, the blending is on point. Not only is the blending simply fun to experience, but it also helps to fill in the color gaps that any smaller set will typically have (which is one of the few minor complaints that we have with this set).
The packaging and overall presentation of the pencils are typical of an artist-grade pencil of this caliber. These are great looking pencils and have all of the pertinent information stamped on that you would need while using.
But while this pencil hits the mark in every aspect, it does come with a caveat: its high asking price. At the current price point, Derwent Lightfast Colored Pencils are targeting the traditional heavy hitters of the artist-grade pencil world (Faber-Castell, Holbein, etc.). So while this price point may turn some people off, that is simply the price of admission if you want to experience a truly special set of colored pencils. And this set is certainly that.