Derwent Graphitints Redux

July 31, 2013

Left: My Derwent Graphitint lightfastness test charts. The control is on the left and the exposed chart is on the right. Yep, those were the same colors!

I think at least every two weeks someone asks me about Derwent Graphitint pencils. I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit this product.

The sad news is that they fade incredibly fast (not as quickly as Derwent InkTense Pencils, but almost). You don’t even have to have them in the light and they fade (they are a dye-based product which is fugitive).

Since people keep asking me about these and it’s summer and people are always experimenting with new art materials in the summer when they feel it’s easier to get out and sketch, I thought I would print this chart again—a cautionary tale. 

Of course if you love the way the pencils work and what you can do with them use them—just scan your work so you have something to remember your work by when it fades.

You can read the post “Derwent Graphitints Fading!” here.

It was actually the first blog post I made. “Begin as you intend to continue” is this bossy pants’ motto.

    • Caroline
    • July 31, 2013

    I know you have bought this up before; it was just after I had treated myself to Graphitints and Inktense ( aarggghhhh!), so I’ve just checked my drawings and sketches from 2 years ago again; they are still fresh and bright! I had also bought a cheap Aussie version of the Graphitints, and there was no noticeable colour fading there, but the colours were never as bright as the Derwents in the first place.
    I did lightfastness tests 18 months ago, 2 months in direct summer sun all day, which is enough to fade most things. The Derwents passed with flying colours, along with their cheaper Australia brand but made in China cousins.
    I can’t explain the anomaly. Perhaps ourpencils here are made in another factory; most Derwent products arriving in Australia come from China. The only Derwents I haven’t tested are the UK made Aquatones but having seen the colourful results that other people have had using them, and the problems I have in getting any sort of colour, let alone strong colour, onto the page, would suggest that factory/country of origin could make a significant difference.
    On the basis of what ain’t broke don’t need fixing, I am happily still using my Derwents and bought the Inktense blocks for use on fabrics. I know a sketcher in Thailand who is also using various kinds of Derwent watercolour pencils, and her earlier work is just as bright and colourful as the day she made her sketches.
    Food for thought.

  1. Reply

    Hey Roz! I did a search for lightfastness on the Inktense pencils on your blog. Did you ever find that lightfastness test chart? I may have to do one of my own just to see what happens….inquiring minds want to know… ; )

  2. Reply

    just to add to the conversation: I also did tests …for inktense and graphitints. They both failed and it hurt to see earlier images that were multimedia drawings ( using these pencils with other more lightfast ones to build a complete picture )looking all weird because parts of them were fading or changing hue. I use them now to do thumbnails for design work, but not in finished pieces or my journal. Predictability is a good thing in the long run…

    • karen
    • July 31, 2013

    bossy pants are a good fit on you, Roz. Love the motto.

  3. Reply

    Caroline, lots of things can influence the fading of these dyes, such as the water you use to wash them out (alkaline, etc.); the paper; other materials you use with them; and the amount of light you expose them to. I gather from your note that you are in Australia so there should be plenty of sun for your experiment. I don’t know why yours didn’t fade.

    I will say that the dyes are going to fade eventually. And you aren’t going to be happy.

    A big clue to lower grade art materials is the failure of the manufacturer to list any lightfastness grades or to state that a product is for illustration.

    I don’t know how they are labeling the product now as I haven’t purchased any lately, but both graphitints and inktense were so labeled when they came out. That’s the “code” for shot them fast before they fade.

    I don’t know how Derwent does they factory differences. I wouldn’t think they would be too different because like Coca Cola, they want people anywhere in the world to get a product with repeatable results.

    As for other people using Aquatones and getting more intense results it may be many things besides different properties delivered because of manufacturing. I would think it more likely that you are using them differently from other folks and/or they are shooting and scanning their work to show their final image to better advantage. A lot can be done with computer enhancement.

    It isn’t possible to look at work that has been exposed (a complete picture) and decide if it is fading or not, because there is no control. You have to create a work that is fairly uniform on both sides and cover one heavily so that it isn’t exposed and then judge.

    Once we make an image and see it, that memory stays with us even as the image fades in reality. We don’t perceive the initial fading until the fading progresses so far that the final elements of color drop out and it becomes obvious.

    The other factor that may ensure another artist’s work stays more vibrant is that she/he may have fixed it in some way. That might give some protection because it will protect the piece from light and from air.

    There are just so many variables to all of this.

    But the science is that these dyes will fade. I would strongly recommend that if you continue to use these types of products you scan your work the day you finish it. Make sure to scan with a gray card so you can do color correction or have someone else do it on a color corrected monitor set up. Make duplicates to store in different locations, in case your house or office burns down. And consider those your “originals.”

    I use a lot of things that aren’t “permanent” but then I use my computer to intervene and make the “storage” copy, and the prints and so on (I use an archival printer).

    I use non-permanent things because I enjoy how they work, but I cover myself in the way described.

    Good luck with your art adventures.

    And I don’t use them in work that I’m going to see the originals of because I can’t answer the questions about longevity that the buyer is going to ask.

  4. Reply

    Jill, I was hoping I would find the InkTense sheets when I found the folder with all the other tests. The original test sheets for InkTense weren’t in there. The scan doesn’t seem to have made the migration to the new computer. I don’t have any InkTense anymore so I can’t do another test.

    I can say that it was the worst result I’ve ever seen, things just faded away.

    If you do one of your own please send a link or a jpg so I can see what you get.

  5. Reply

    Ellen it is always sad to see partial fading as you describe, esp. when you really like a piece. Looking at some of the old masters paintings you can see similar effects. Something must have kept the Russians from getting good pigments during part of the 19th and 20th Centuries because I’ve been to a lot of shows at the MORA and you can see the fading of certain pigments over time and how the whole painting changes.

    Turner’s paint supplier used to beg him not to use the pigments he wanted for some of his more fiery pieces. The red pigments he used in some of them were said to be so fugitive they would have started to visibly fade in a very short time.

    But he too wanted to use what he wanted to use. It’s sad we don’t get to see more clearly what he had in mind.

    I think predictability in art materials is a good thing too. We spend so much time on or work it’s nice to have it last for a little while.

    Though I do like to have fun with some pretty poor materials once in a while!

  6. Reply

    Thank you Karen. I think both the bossy pants and the motto fit pretty well. Comfortable! At least for me, maybe not those around me.

  7. Reply

    Will do! Thanks again… : )

  8. Reply

    I have to speak up to thank you for this post. I have an almost new set of Inktense pencils and loved the color. Fortunately, I’d only used them a couple of times. You saved me from future disappointment! I’m sorry, though, I can’t toss them. I’ll use them for practicing blind or gesture sketches (nothing special or permanent, I promise) and I intend to experiment with monochromatic line & wash and watch the effects of fading in the coming months. Thanks again for this & all the good info you share!

  9. Reply

    Janet, tossing such expensive materials would be difficult. I actually gave mine away to a child who like to scribble. (There are other children artists I would never have given them too.)

    Using them for practice is a great compromise. You can use them to warm up before longer studies.

    I hope you have fun with them.

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