I’ve always been a sucker for new drawing materials, so I was really enthusiastic when Derwent asked me to try out their brand-new range of coloured pencils. The first set I received were prototypes; so new, in fact, that they arrived in plain unvarnished cedar barrels, with the colour names hand written in biro by the technicians in the Derwent lab. The second set – the full range of 72 colours that I used for the drawings below – were finished in the sleek matt grey of the new Procolour range and now sit pride of place on my desk, tips sharpened to gleaming colourful points. This blog post serves as an introduction to help you navigate the new Procolour range from my personal perspective, from one pencil lover to another.
Procolour and the Derwent range
Derwent Procolour are a professional quality coloured pencils; highly pigmented with a unique smooth laydown , the range introduces some new colours alongside some old favourites. So what would Procolour pencils add to your existing set of drawing materials? They are harder and hold a finer point than the highly blendable Coloursoft pencils, and have a smoother laydown than Artists and Studio ranges. Your own personal preferences for the tactile qualities of the materials are important here – buy a few individual Procolour pencils and test them for yourself against other ranges to feel how they compare.
Watch the Derwent video that I helped contribute to:
A fine point
The most helpful quality about the Procolour pencil is its ability to hold a fine point – often when choosing between coloured ranges you have to choose between a sharp, hard pencil that doesn’t blend smoothly, or a soft pencil which layers and blends well but crumbles when over-sharpened. The Procolour holds almost as strong a point as a graphite pencil whilst blending and layering smoothly; the harder formulation also seems to minimise the dust produced when building up large areas of colour, reducing the risk of smudging as you draw.
I’m a keen painter and I like to keep a limited palette to maintain harmony in an image. This means that I want coloured pencils to blend smoothly so that I can achieve as wide a range of mixed colours from my initial palette of pencils. This set of swatches shows gradients between two colours to demonstrate how well the Procolour blends – my favourite is the Lime and Kingfisher blend in the middle of the swatches which mix to create a wonderfully fresh green. When you’re blending two coloured pencils lay a gradient of the lighter colour down first, then an overlapping gradient of the darker colour; then return to the lighter colour again, layering it over the top. Build up several layers for a smooth transition.
When layering colours it is my personal preference to cross hatch to maintain the identity of my marks. Procolour allows around 12-14 layers of colour to be built up over the top of one another, achieving particularly intense colours on the page. This fabric study was a good test – with the colour built up in a dozen or so layers over six hours. As with many coloured pencils the marks can be smoothed out by burnishing or using a solvent based blender pen if you prefer a smoother finish.
If you like working on dark papers, or intend to work light colours back over the top of your darker marks, Procolour pencils are opaque enough to cover black paper well. Here are some tonal studies of a sphere and cube showing greys, white and reds crosshatched over the top of one another to achieve a smooth tonal gradient – try it yourself.
Like most artists, the lightfastness of the materials I use is vitally important as I display my art. Procolour has 90% lightfastness, with nearly three quarters of the 72 pencils in the Procolour range rating very good or excellent (5/6 to 8 using the Blue Wool Scale).
This gives me confidence that the vibrant nature of the pencils will last at least 15 years, with a large amount of the Procolour range lasting over 100 years.
My favourite colours
We all develop our own favourite colours in a range and repeatedly sharpening some pencils to stumps whilst others remain untouched. I’m going to predict that it won’t be long until I’ll need to return to shop for these four again…
- Kingfisher Blue – not my usual pick of a favourite colour, the name is as delightful as the colour itself; a saturated mid-tone green-blue.
- Nutmeg – it’s rare to see such a rich, dark red-brown. It reminds me of dark autumn leaves after rain.
- Geranium Lake – not so pale as other pinks it is still a little way away from being a brash bright red and gives rosy life to flesh tones.
- Storm Grey – I love a good grey and I’ve been using this warm, near-neutral mid-tone for everything – even on its own as a graphite substitute.
Thanks for indulging this post – it was a joy to put together. I’ll be posting up a little step-by-step tutorial on using Procolour soon.
I will also be demonstrating Procolour pencils for Derwent at the Patchings Art Festival next weekend, please see here for further details here.
Jake Spicer is a Brighton-based artist, drawing tutor and author of several popular instructional drawing books, most recently ‘DRAW’ published by Ilex Press. Through his teaching and writing Jake aims to make drawing accessible to everybody, on the understanding that everybody can learn to draw and anybody that can draw can always learn to draw better. Jake is head tutor at Draw where he runs a nine-month Atelier course and teaches life drawing, he is also founder and co-director of the award-winning Drawing Circus and a monthly contributor to Artist & Illustrators magazine.
Alongside painting and printmaking much of Jake’s drawn work focuses on people, from detailed figure drawings to quick, concise portraits. The humble pencil is his first love and he is a fastidious keeper of sketchbooks, recording the places he sees and people he meets in quick sketches. Jake uses Derwent Graphic pencils as his core drawing medium, adding colour to his illustrative work with the Artists range and Graphitint pencils.
More details about Jake:
IG & TW: @BrightonDrawing