DISCLAIMER: The following review involves my personal opinions and is in no way meant to promote or defame any of the products I mention. I am in no way affiliated with the brand(s) and am not being paid to promote any goods. The copyrights on the products remain with the brand(s) and this review is merely a culmination of my personal experiences with the material.
“A bad craftsman blames his tools.” That being said, it is also important to keep in mind that a good set of tools can enhance your work immensely, allowing you to express yourself more fully. Having worked with a variety of art materials over almost two years, I’ve come across certain products I love, and certain others….let’s just say I’m not a fan of. Thus will follow a series of reviews involving products I’ve genuinely used, and opinions on which, I’d like to share with my lovely readers.
This post involves a product I’ve used most often- the Derwent 24 Graphic tin.
Here’s what the tin looks like:
As you can see from the second picture, I do use a lot of this stuff! These also come in sets of 12 and 6, and separate packs of Soft, Medium and Hard.
The pack contains 24 pencils in 20 different tones. It contains one each of 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, H, F, B, 3B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B and 9B, and two each of 2H, HB, 2B and 4B (the latter being most commonly used tones).
Below is a swatch of each tone, so you can see how they look when used.
As is visible, there is a good range of tones, right from the harder (lighter) shades to the more softer (darker) ones. The very hard ones, 9H-6H, seem a bit scratchy to use at first, but they do get smoother as you apply more friction. On the other hand, the very soft ones, 6B-9B, can be extremely crumbly if too much pressure is applied. This is great when you need to blend them out- the graphite dust allows for a stronger tone- but it also means that the darker tones need to be sharpened more often. The rest of the pencils, however, are really good in terms of consistency and durability.
How well do they blend?
Ease of blending is a very important criterion for me to judge a set of pencils on. The swatch shows how similar consecutive tones are, and that means they’ll blend well into the next darker or lighter shade. However, I never have the patience to use all the shades on a single drawing. No-one does! So we resort to the addictive substances of the art world- blending stumps. (Or tortillions. Whatever floats your boat!).
Here’s a picture of some of my most commonly used tones and how they blend:
As you can see, the 5H/2H and HB/2B transitions are smooth. The 2H/HB one, however, needs a bit more work. This is where you see the difference between harder and softer graphite.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that, though most tones blend seamlessly into each other, a huge chunk of the graphite gets lifted off the paper, and I need to add at least three layers of graphite to achieve a solid tone! I can’t quite figure out why this is- I’ve tried using different types of paper and different blending tools, but the condition prevails. This isn’t a major issue, though- the option to build up colour in exactly the areas you need to is quite a gift sometimes; the repetitive action can get frustrating at other times is all.
How well does it erase off?
Another very important criterion is erasability. I prefer pencils that erase well, leaving no stains on the paper, so that mistakes don’t leave evidence and ruin the entire artwork! So here’s a picture of how well these babies vanish.
Obviously, the darker the tone, more difficult it gets to erase completely, but I’m rather impressed at how well the 4B erased off. True, it took a couple of tries, but that is to be expected, given how thick a layer of graphite I applied.
On a side note, it can be quite helpful to keep a piece of textured paper handy when erasing large quantities, since erasers tend to get useless after a while and the accumulated graphite needs to be scraped off, so to speak.
Anyway, my point is, the Graphic pencils are very good in terms of erasability. I used a hard eraser here, of course, but they lift off just as easily with kneaded erasers- rather useful when you’re bored and want to create polka dots!
Prices and Comparisons!
Admittedly, my tin was a gift from a family friend (handy, having contacts who love your work!) but prices online range from £24.99 to £29.64, from what I’ve seen. Yes, they are a bit expensive, but they are also durable and last a very long time. I’ve been using this set for over a year and a half, and I can easily use it for a few years more. A good investment, if you ask me.
If you’d rather spend lesser on pencils, though, here are a few comparisons:
The alternatives I used were lead sticks on my clutch pencils.
Faber Castell do lead refills between £2.50 to £4.22, and I can’t quite figure what brand of 2B lead I use, but it cost me less than £0.50! I’ve put a picture below so you can see. I just picked them up at the local art store because I used so much 2B, I grew tired of sharpening!
At times, I prefer the clutch pencils purely due to their precision, but in terms of finish, they’re quite the same.
Next, I compared 8B pencils by Derwent and Staedtler (Mars Lumograph).
The Staedtler one is obviously much darker. It works well as an alternative to a black colour pencil, but I’m not a fan of it. True, it gives a very opaque, even glossy, finish, but it doesn’t blend half as well, and using it on paper gives me that creepy nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling. Annoying, to say the very least! It works quite well if sharpened to a fine point, though. Anyway, the Staedlter one costs a little over £0.60, so if you’re looking to save and don’t mind a sketchy feel and constant sharpening, I’d say go for it!
So, to sum up, here are a few ratings from 0 to 10, 10 being the best at a particular aspect:
Price: 5.0/10.0 Expensive, but possibly worth it, given the good quality and durability.
Range of tones: 9.0/10.0 An impressive range. Very handy when it comes to high contrast pieces.
Finish: 8.5/10.0 They work well on most kinds of paper and adjust to the grain of the paper impressively.
Blending: 7.0/10.0 Could blend a little better between shades that are farther away, and could stick to the paper a bit better!
Erasability: 8.0/10.0 Very dark tones leave stains, of course, but most erase off very clean.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10.0
A worthwhile investment, if you’re looking to draw a lot and for a long time, and if you’re as picky about quality as I am!
Finally, some pieces where I’ve used these:
(I used the Staedtler 8B to do the background of the first one, so you can see just how dark it looks!)
So there’s my first review! I’ve tried to be as thorough as I could, but do feel free to point out anything I may have missed out on. Also, have you used these, and if so, how well do they work for you?
I hope this review was helpful, and if you do try these out, let me know how it went for you!
Thanks for reading, and have an amazing week!