‘A smoothie bowl using Chromaflow’. Milly England tests Derwent Chromaflow Pencils

Bold, vibrant and smooth is the promise from Derwent on their new range of coloured pencils; and with Chromaflow they don’t disappoint. Aimed at hobbyists, you could be forgiven for doubting the pigment concentration of these pencils but they really are a joy to work with – and the colour is incredible.

As someone who likes their work to be as bright as possible, I found that using the Derwent Watercolour Paper with Chromaflow colouring pencils was the perfect combination for expressive, fruity colour. I drew this smoothie bowl using a full set of 72 coloured pencils which provided me not only with a comprehensive range of bright hues, but also a wonderful selection of neutrals, perfect for shading and toning.

Chromaflow smoothie bowl set up
Chromaflow smoothie bowl set up

Priced at £119.99 for the full set of 72, these pencils are excellent value for money in comparison to other ranges on the market. They also come in sets of 12, 24, 36 and 48 and I think any size set would be a great addition to your drawing kit as the colours really are fabulous – I especially loved Iris Purple 1130 and Pompeian Red 0610 – both rich, intense colours with a creamy smooth laydown.

Although Chromaflow are not Derwent’s most premium range, they really do perform as an artist grade pencil. The leads are smooth enough to layer up very vibrant, velvety colour whilst being hard enough to sharpen to a good point, allowing for fine detail work without breakages.

Colour

When working with any new materials I always create a colour chart – it’s a great way of getting used to working with the new pencils as well as checking how the colour indicators on the ends of the pencils match up with what comes out onto paper.

Colour chart
Chromaflow Colour Chart

Often, especially with a coloured pencil, the reality of the colour is not as promised on the tin, however these were even better than I could have hoped for. The hues on the pencils matched the colours on paper perfectly and even when using a light layer of colour, the vibrancy was never lost. This high pigmentation is akin to much more expensive colouring pencils and the result is almost luminous in some of the richer shades.

Shades of pink
Shades of pink

The combination of vibrant pigmentation along with soft leads allowed for a very quick and unlaboured lay down of colour. I was surprised at how speedily I was able to cover the paper and fill in the areas of block colour without having to spend a long time building up layers to get the required brightness for the fresh fruit.

The colour vibrancy of the leads allowed for lovely expressive strokes without worrying about lack of coverage.

Blending

Chromaflow are non water-soluble however Derwent sell Blender Pens which assist in the blending process, much like water would with a water-soluble pencil. The 3.5mm leads of Chromaflow are super soft and lend themselves to blending without any assistance, however I found the pens to be incredibly useful, especially in layering up and blending the pink shades of the smoothie in the smoothie bowl. I was able to blend a wide range of colours including five different shades of pink:

  • Blush Pink 0800
  • Pompeian Red 0610
  • Salmon 0700
  • Hot Pink 0810
  • and Magenta 0900

along with the following neutrals:

  • White 2400
  • Black 2300
  • Carbon Grey 2140
  • Red Storm 2150 – a very beautiful grey with a warm pinkish hue
  • Lavender Ash 2160 – a slightly darker grey with a gorgeously subtle purple hue
Blender pen
Blender pen

The Blender Pen comes in two sizes, a fine point nib and a much thicker nib – the fine point was great for getting into the shadowy details between the fruit, whilst the thicker nib was perfect for the large area of smoothie and also the background shadows beneath the bowl.

I was unsure whether after using the pen I would then be able to layer further colour on top but this was no problem at all so I was able to seamlessly blend all the initial colours, plus in some areas I then added some more defined hatched shading with no issue.

I love to use a variation of texture across a piece of work so that some areas are very smooth – such as the smoothie or the blackberries – and other areas are a little more illustrative and expressive such as the shading on the blueberries and the kiwi.

Burnishing

Chromaflow have a slightly waxy sheen so they burnish beautifully although they are not so waxy that they are difficult to layer and I found that layering up some very fresh greens for the mint leaves, created very rich and lustrous looking finished leaves, with a beautifully burnished finish.

Such as:

  • Basil 1600
  • Green Meadow 1610
  • Pear 1810
  • Tropical Rain 1620
Overhead studio shot
Working in the studio

Paper and sharpening

I would recommend using the Derwent Watercolour Paper, perfect for pencils as the bright white, incredibly smooth surface accentuates the colour vibrancy of the Chromaflow range [Derwent also recommend the Sketching Pads as the perfect partner paper].

Out of habit, I always work with two pieces of tracing paper under my hand so that I can still see what I’m working on whilst ensuring there is no risk of smudging or inadvertently marking my work. Although the Chromaflow leads are soft, allowing for lovely textures and blends, they do not create a lot of dust and are not messy or smudgy to work with.

Shades of blue
Shades of blue

The soft leads require a good quality sharpener – such as the Derwent Super Point Manual Desk Sharpener – in order to get the best use out of the pencils (I firmly believe a decent sharpener is a vital investment when working with coloured pencils). The coloured pencils really handle the pressure of sharpening well, as well as the pressure of working on paper.

Derwent’s excellent reputation is certainly reinforced by the Chromaflow range. The pencils are consistent and reliable with fabulous pigments that can be deposited effortlessly to create striking artworks.

Thank you to Milly England for sharing her thoughts on our Chromaflow range. You can view more of her work on Instagram.

To purchase Chromaflow or any of the products mentioned above, please visit our website.

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