|Derwent's newest Lightfast pencils|
Unless my colored pencil radar has been faulty, the last time a major pencil maker came out with a new product line, it was Derwent’s Procolour last summer. I was therefore a little surprised to hear that, almost exactly a year later, it was the same British manufacturer that released yet another new collection: Derwent Lightfast. (Of course, Derwent probably has more colored pencil lines in production than any other maker, so it shouldn’t have surprised me much.)
This line is clearly targeted to professional colored pencil artists; the primary distinguishing feature is that every pigment in the collection has the highest lightfast rating for art products. “Derwent Lightfast pencils are formulated to be 100% lightfast,” the enclosed brochure says. “The revolutionary core is resistant to prolonged colour change ensuring artwork will not fade for up to 100 years under museum conditions.”
Since none of the notoriously fugitive hues (bright purples, pinks, some reds) are included, the Lightfast range is necessarily narrow – 36 colors. For a change, I resisted my usual impulse to buy every color available. Instead, I followed my own advice about trying a new colored pencil by starting with a basic set of 12.
One reason to be conservative is that Derwent Lightfast pencils are pricey. They are right in line with Caran d’Ache’s Luminance 6901 collection, which is similarly “designed for works intended for exhibition, collection and museum purposes.” The Swiss company’s premier colored pencil is “quite simply the most lightfast colour pencil ever designed.”
Other striking similarities with Luminance are Lightfast’s round, larger-than-average diameter, lightly varnished natural barrel, and glossy, colored end cap (coincidence?). Although it’s always easier to identify a pencil’s color if the entire barrel indicates it, I have to say that the natural wood grain showing through is beautiful, and the finish feels nice in hand.
|A lovely natural finish and colored end caps on both.|
When I opened my metal box of 12, the first thing I noticed was the unusual color range. Nearly every basic set of 12 colored pencils I have ever seen – whether artist quality, student grade or novelty – has contained a variation of a full rainbow (red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue, sky blue, violet, sometimes pink) plus brown, black and white. The Lightfast set includes a much narrower rainbow: scarlet, sun yellow, mallard green, mid-ultramarine, violet; five earthy tones of sandstone, salmon, yellow ochre, natural brown, brown ochre; and black and white. A very practical, functional palette for most landscapes and probably portraits, it made me wish more pencil manufacturers would offer colors like these in their basic 12.
As for how Lightfast feels, this is where it differs from its Swiss competitor Luminance, which is wax-based. Lightfast is oil-based. The only other oil-based pencil I have much experience with is Faber-Castell Polychromos, and the German brand is significantly harder than Lightfast. In fact, I’d say Lightfast is easily as soft as Luminance (which is among the softest I’ve used) but feels (paradoxically) waxier and creamier than Luminance. In the way it applies and layers, I think it comes closest to vintage Prismacolor pencils (before they went bad through outsourced production sometime in the ‘90s).
|8/26/18 Derwent Lightfast pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook|
Perhaps colored pencil artists who pine for the “old” Prismas and pay top dollar on eBay for vintage sets finally have a contemporary production line that feels similar. (Given the price of Lightfast, though, those eBay prices look pretty good.)
These Lightfast pencils are a joy to use. I thought Stillman & Birn Epsilon’s smooth surface would be a good match for Lightfast’s softness, and it is. In my apple sketch, pigments blended well without much effort, and the hues are as rich and vibrant as you’d expect from an artist quality pencil.
|Left: Derwent Drawing Pencil; right: Derwent Lightfast|
The consistency and application are similar to Derwent Drawing Pencils (shown at right). Differences are that Lightfast’s core is smaller (I’ve yet to find another colored pencil with a core as thick as the Drawing Pencil) and produces less dust.
Because of the functional palette in my set of 12, I can further follow my own advice: Instead of buying the largest-available set (tempting as it is), I could probably add just a few more essential hues (a cool yellow, a mid-range blue and maybe a couple more greens) through open stock and be very happy. Unfortunately, according to the brochure, the yellow I own is the only one available, and the only additional blues are blue violet and dark turquoise – no true blue. Hmmm, those are surprising limitations for a professional line, even when lightfastness is considered. Perhaps Derwent plans to release more colors later.
While I’m wildly speculating, indulge me in some more: Now that Derwent has introduced a collection clearly intended as a direct competitor to Caran d’Ache’s premier line of traditional colored pencils, what are the chances that the British company intends to introduce an artist quality water-soluble collection to compete with Caran d’Ache’s Museum Aquarelle pencil? As much as I love the Museum Aquarelle palette range, which is sufficient for most of my needs, it has a few holes that I’d like to plug with an equally soft, highly pigmented brand. A girl can dream. (Stay tuned this time next year to see if I am saying, “Yes! Yes! I was right!”)
Updated 10/11/21: More thoughts on Lightfast.
|Soft, creamy, delicious.|