Graphitint pencils (by Derwent) are amongst my favourites in my collection as they are so versatile for sketching both in the studio and outside. They are really great pencils for urban sketching and painting due to their colour palette. So when I saw the ColourTint (by Spectrum Noir) pencils I thought these might be a good substitute for lower budgets.
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To start my comparison process, I swatched out all the pencils working dry onto a Craftstyle Products Ltd Drawing Pad. This is important as the paper you chose makes a dramatic difference to any medium you are working in.
At first touch, the Spectrum Noir (ColourTint) pencils feel waxy; some shades also have the scratch that is often be present in lower budget pencils. This can lead to a variation of pigment transference to the paper. With a little patience however, you can build a reasonable blend in pressure. By comparison, the Derwent Graphitint pencils have a soft creamy feel with a high level of pigment and graphite transference. Both brands of pencils do not crumble in use and give an artist an interesting palette to work with.
As you can see from the image above, the colours take on a new vibrancy when blended with water. You will want to do a swatch list to keep with your set as a quick reference. This applies to both brands of pencils, but the ColourTint pencils do swatch out slightly lighter as the graphite content appears to be lower by comparison.
I found the closest matches between the sets to test blending, and this is where you start to see the real difference between the two sets. While the colours I chose match colour, the difference between the pencils show through in the amount of pigmentation; this is especially true when moistened with a clean paintbrush.
ColourTint and Graphitint pencils make a great dry palette of urban sketchers, so it seemed logical to use a building image to practice. The ColourTint went first with sketching; I created a window scene based on an old photo reference. Blend the sketch with a dampened paintbrush to create a painterly feel.
The pencil lines from the ColourTint did not totally erase with water, something the sketcher will need to keep in mind when sketching at speed. For simple sketches before moving on to full artwork, this would not be an issue; the issue arises for sketchbook based artists. You get better results by blending two or three pencils together prior to blending rather than layering.
When drawing I strived to keep the Graphitint drawing as close to the ColourTint version as possible so the painting image would be a true comparison. Given the darker tonality of the Graphitint pencils, I used a lighter touch and put down less pigment than in my first sketch.
The Graphitint pencil strokes erase with water easily; while still keeping the sketchy feel. Also, the pigment stretched further across the page when blending with a wet brush.
Watercolouring with the Pencils
Another way to use these pencils is to draw colour directly from them using a damp brush. To do this make sure you only brush the tip of the lead with your brush. Do not get the wood of your pencils damp and allow them to dry totally before storing in tins or cases.
The ColourTint pencils make a passable alternative to the Graphitint pencils for limited budgets. As there is little difference in price, you may find a better deal for the Derwent pencils; we would recommend going for those instead.