Review: Derwent Graphitone (Watersoluble Graphite Pencils)

My introduction to watersoluble graphite was through Derwent Graphitone. These are actually whole sticks of graphite with no wood in pencil form. They come in 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B.

They are very affordable. When you consider how much graphite there is, it's really a great deal!

When you use up the graphite, you can just peel away the sticker wrapping around it. The sticker wrapping really helps to keep the messiness under control.

When they get blunt, you can sharpen them with a normal pencil sharpener or a penknife.

You can use it like a normal pencil, draw on a paper and then dissolve it with water.

What I normally do is to dissolve the graphite into a palette with the help of a waterbrush. I do it this way so that I can create a flat and even wash. So you can create a large amount of wash beforehand and use it later on. It takes some time to create that amount because you have to dissolve the graphite on the pencil into the palette.

Here's the difference between the washes from Graphitone and ArtGraf. It's easier to get an even wash compare to ArtGraf because the later is more concentrated and difficult to control.

When the pencils are wet, they can get a bit messy and I suggest you dry them properly first before keeping them back in the pencil case. That's assuming you bring them outdoors. If you're working indoors, you can just put them upright in a pencil holder.

To make them more portable, I actually cut off bits from the back and squeeze them into half pans. You can squeeze 4 pieces into a pan. That way, you can transport them easily in a watercolour box.

This was drawn on hotpress paper. It's best to use these pencils on smoother paper. If you use them on rough paper, you get to see a lot of the white of the paper, unless that's the look you want. For the darker shade, I dipped the Graphitone into water and draw the lines. The water gets used up quickly since the tip can't hold any water.

I usually use Graphitone for my pen and ink sketches. This sketch was applied with Graphitone after the line art was created. I added another layer of graphite for the darker areas. For the blacks, I used Daler Rowney Kandahar Drawing Ink. I prefer to use Kandahar because it's not 100% black and I still get to see the lines beneath.

You can get splatter marks very easily with Graphitone. You just have to wet the tip, and use a brush to brush off the graphite and onto the paper. It's really easy to create textures that way.

On the right side is the 8B wash. It covers the lines beneath. So I don't usually use the graphite in maximum concentration.

Another reason is, it takes a lot of time to mix up a wash to that concentration using Graphitone. It's much faster to use ink. The end result looks quite similar anyway.

By the way, the tone from my scans are warmer. The photos show a more accurate representation of the actual tone of the Graphitone. It's towards the neutral and cool tone.

When dried, the graphite is waterproof and almost permanent. If you use force to rub against it, your finger will still pick up some graphite. So I do recommend spraying fixative over the surface to protect it.


Graphitone is great fun to use and very convenient to bring around.

They are also quite affordable so I do highly recommend them.

They are sold in single sticks and also in sets. If you want to save money, I suggest getting either 2B and 6B, or 4B and 8B. The difference between each grade is not very significant so it does not make sense to get all four pencils. I would go with the 2B and 6B.


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)



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