Thursday, February 23, 2023

Review: Derwent Metallic Colored Pencils (20th Anniversary Limited Edition)



Did I really say out loud that I don’t care for metallic colored pencils? I can’t imagine, then, how this Derwent 20th Anniversary Limited Edition set fell into my shopping cart, but stranger things have happened.

Other than Lightfast and the limited-palette Drawing Pencils, Derwent products do not impress me, and I’m not a general fan of the company (as I am of Caran d’Ache, for example), so I had no compelling reason to buy this commemorative set rather than a standard edition set. But since the per-pencil price is about the same, it didn’t take long to talk myself into it. (This set can be purchased on Amazon and elsewhere, but I enjoy shopping at Cult Pens, which has excellent customer service and carries some items not available in the US, like the Tombow Urban Sketching Set I reviewed recently.) The pencils are still made in Great Britain.

If you already have Derwent’s metallic pencils in smaller sets or open stock, you’ll find that the colors in the anniversary set are not new or exclusive. However, Derwent has put them together in a nice gift box that isn’t over-the-top too fancy and pricey for everyday use (like so many wood case sets we’ve all seen). In fact, I like this simple clamshell box with a magnetic closure much better than the tins with detached lids that Derwent pencils usually come in (the lids never seem to close without struggle).

A practical clamshell box with magnetic closure

A foam tray stores the pencils neatly and safely. Mine came from the UK without any of the pencils getting loose, which has not been the case with some tins with plastic trays.

The foam tray keeps the pencils in place.

The hexagonal barrel has a metallic coppery paint with Derwent’s diagonal end cap indicating the color. The color name and number appear on one facet.

Metallic coppery paint on a hexagonal barrel

Derwent's trademark diagonal end cap

Making color swatches indicated that they are softer than I expected, but not in a “creamy” way. They feel more powdery and dry, and they do produce a bit of dust (not nearly as much as the Cretacolor Mega Color metallics, though). As I’ve come to learn from the few metallic pencils I’ve tried, even when other colors are soft (like Prismacolors), metallic hues tend to be harder and drier, which must have something to do with the sparkly ingredients.

Scanned image (all the sparkle goes flat)

Photographed image shows the sparkle a bit better.

The most challenging part about reviewing metallic colored pencils is trying to show how shiny they are. Scanning takes all the sparkle out of my images, so I have also included photographs with my desk light shining directly on the page, which then also makes bad reflections on the black Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook. It may not show in these images, but they seem plenty sparkly to me.

Instead of looking for something shiny to draw, I first used an Earthsworld photo and sketched the portrait in the black Nova sketchbook. (Whoa, it was challenging to draw all the lighter parts of the face and leave the features the black of the page! It’s always a good brain workout to do this kind of negative sketch occasionally.)

2/15/23 Derwent metallic pencils in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook (scanned image)

Photographed image

Then, temporarily overcoming my snobbishness that metallic pencils are a cheap shortcut to rendering metallic surfaces, I couldn’t resist drawing something shiny – a Graf von Faber-Castell ink bottle with a chrome-like cap. Honestly, I think an ordinary white pencil could have done the job better (and I did use a white Prismacolor on the brightest spots where the cap reflected the white paper under the bottle).

2/16/23 Derwent metallic pencils and white Prismacolor in Nova sketchbook (scanned image)

Photographed image

I’m not jumping up and down with excitement, but I’m not disappointed, either. Though their application may be limited, metallic pencils are fun to use, especially on black paper. I’m looking forward to using these on nocturnes next holiday season.


  1. I needed this review! You have made me feel justified in my antipathy toward metallic pencils, so I wanted to see how you reviewed these. My biggest pencil set (the Kalour 240) has more than a dozen metallics (and about as many neons), none of which I have swatched out. Now I have a reason to test sketch them. And another ink bottle to add to my growing collection of inks that I bought just for the bottle!
    Anne HwH

    1. Congrats to me -- I wasn't even trying to enable ink purchasing! ;-) Let me know what you think of the metallic Kalours -- I saw that Kalour has a set of 50 all metallics, but I'm skeptical.


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