Derwent Pastel Pencils
1-72 count pack
Chalk/oil hybrid core
Optimized Core Size
Can be Difficult to Sharpen
Smaller Sets Lacking some Colors
Derwent Pastel Pencils Review
Derwent offers a relatively popular pastel pencil line that attempts to find a happy medium between the versatility/feel of pastels and the convenience and control of a pencil. We like to think of these pastels as a “pastel hybrid” as they have some traits (both positive and negative) that are typical of traditional pastels while offering up a unique twist. They are available in singles up to 72-count packs, have a round barrel, 4 to 4.5mm lead, and are typically in the intermediate price range.
Visual Appeal – 4/5
One aspect that makes most pastel pencils really stand out from traditional wax and oil pencils is in their color vibrancy. That is also the case here as the Derwent Pastel Pencils do a great job of producing fantastic color in nearly the entire color spectrum. We particularly like the reds and yellows. The brighter colors really produce a lot of color with minimum contact pressure. Being a sort of oil/pastel hybrid, they also blend quite well and also take well to experimentation with water and various solvents.
You can really produce a wide variety of tones, textures, and feels with these pencils under the right care. The 4.0 to 4.5mm core is a happy balance between size and still being small enough to allow for adequate control of detailed areas. One common issue with many pastel pencils is that the cores are simply too thick. This is great for applying color to large areas but for more detailed areas you will become frustrated trying to get a small amount of color out. We do recommend trying to go with the larger set size if your budget allows as we found the small sets to have noticeable gaps in color choices (the blending is good enough here to fill some of the gaps but still).
Usability and Durability – 3.5/5
Our biggest gripe with Derwent Pastel Pencils is just how fragile they are. The chalk/oil-like core is prone to chipping and breaking with relatively small amounts of applied pressure. In addition, sharpening them can be a real challenge as they seem to break very easily. Forming a sharp point can be a test of your patience and you may find yourself eating through an inch of the pencil before getting the tip you are looking for.
Outside of that big negative, everything else is solid with these. The smoothness really depends on the type of paper you use. A smoother paper allows for the chalk-like tendencies of the pencil to stand out and you will find it to be very smooth and almost buttery. If you use a coarser paper, the oil tendencies will jump out and you will have a rougher, more complex application that allows for more personality. This is particularly good for “rough” surfaces such as tree bark, sand, etc. Another common issue with pastels is that they can be a bit “chalky”. This can make for quite a mess when using. While there was some chalk-like residue seen, it wasn’t nearly as bad as a typical piece of chalk. The oil and whatever other materials that Derwent mixes inside definitely are to thank for this.
Packaging and Presentation – 3.5/5
These pencils come in the standard Derwent tin case that nearly all of their other products come in. This is a solid case that looks nice and also protects the pencils. Depending on which size you go with, you may have multiple layers of pencils stacked up inside the case. As is also typical of Derwent, the bins that hold the pencils are a rather thin plastic material that can make it difficult to grab a pencil in the middle without pushing all the rest out of their little cubby. This is a minor complaint but still worth mentioning. The pencils themselves come in a solid red barrel with the bottom of the barrel being dipped in the coinciding color of the internal core. The Derwent Pastel stamp and the specific color code are stamped on the middle of the pencil in silver leaf. All around a solid and attractive look.
Cost – 3.5/5
The asking price of these tends to fall in the intermediate price range. As is typical of most other pencils, you will get a bit of a “bulk discount” if you purchase a larger set. That being said, you can expect to pay in the lower to the upper end of the intermediate price range. Considering the color output and versatility of these pastel pencils, this is a fair asking price.
Overall Ranking – 3.5/5
The Derwent Pastel Pencils are a lovely addition to the ever-increasing lineup of pastel hybrids on the market. By trying to take the best traits of traditional pastels (color intensity, application, blending) and desired traits of conventional pencils (smaller barrel size, less chalky), Derwent aims to make a pencil that can meet the needs of everyone. For the most part, they have succeeded in this. These pencils are great to use on a variety of papers and can also handle water, solvents, and blending of other pencils with ease. Our major gripe is how fragile/soft they can be, particularly when trying to sharpen them to a fine point. If you plan on sharpening these with a mechanical sharpener, make sure that it is one that is designed for fragile colored pencils. Outside of this issue, these are a strong purchase in our book.