View Full Version : Derwent Black Book

09-01-2010, 05:12 PM
Just when I thought I was already so stocked up with interesting new sketchbooks that I should just fill the ones I have... Derwent invented something far too fascinating to ignore and sent me a review sample. I've reviewed it already at Rob's Art Supply Review, Derwent Black Book (http://robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com/2010/09/derwent-black-book.html) of course.

I love it. The pages are stiff, heavy 200gsm paper, handling light washes and tough handling with oil pastels, colored pencils or white ink. I've already used the front page and the inside back cover so far.

This is the book:

Of course I posed it with its favorite pencils, the soft, opaque Derwent Drawing Pencils that have the strongest, brightest white that I've ever used. Here's the color chart I did with them on the inside back cover - both end papers are the same as the pages, so in essence you have two more surfaces to draw on or do color charts.


You can see the paper's nice and black! The black stripe didn't make a noticeable value step, just more of a texture change.

I've also done an oil pastels sketch from memory on the first actual page:

A Spray of Wildflowers
A4 8 1/4" x 11 3/4"
Pentel oil pastels
Derwent Black Book 200gsm black heavy paper.

09-01-2010, 07:06 PM
This is very interesting. If I run into one of those at the store I'll have to
buy one.

Are the pencils CP? Oil? Pastel? Something else?


09-01-2010, 09:11 PM
:clap: I bought something similar on my recent trip to Sydney! :lol:

I bought a white gel pen to use in mine plus a red metallic pen but haven't got around to trying it yet. I will be very keen to see what you do in yours Robert :thumbsup:

09-01-2010, 10:06 PM
Oooh, a whole sketchbook of black paper. That is so cool. *sigh* Yet another item to add to my wishing I had money for art supplies list.

09-02-2010, 08:37 PM
The pencils are specialty colored pencils from Derwent. Back in the 80s, they only came in six colors: black, white, brown ochre, chocolate, venetian red and terra cotta. They were earth toned sketch pencils to use something like Conte crayons - and absolutely soft, rich, opaque and sweet. The friend who twisted my arm to snatch up a lot of them at an art supply shop's closing sale where they were going for 25 cents each said they were the best colored pencils in the world.

She might still be right, though I'm growing fond of Luminance.

Derwent recently extended the range to 24 a few years ago, within five years anyway because I remember seeing the first ads for them and snapping it up as soon as I saw it. Now there's soft blues, greens, violets, grays and yellows as well as more earth tones and black and white. They are the perfect range for nature sketching, with lots of neutrals and muted soft colors. They also combine well with Coloursoft if you want to mix them with brighter accents.

I use them by themselves very often because they give a unique look to anything I do with them. I've got one of the CP challenge photos out to use them on the black paper with, and they should show up good and bright.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Black Book and plan to use a variety of supplies in it to see how it handles gouache, acrylics, oil pastels (tested), Colourfix primer, colored pencils, sketch and wash in white. I tested that on the back cover though and the white Derwent Inktense pencil washes out much darker than when it was dry. I'd have to lay it on heavy to do that.

09-03-2010, 11:10 AM
Oh cool! It really IS a black sketchbook. That should be really fun to work in.

09-05-2010, 08:56 AM
Hi Robert! Wow I have never thought of using Derwent Sketching pencils on black paper, but this sounds interesting indeed! Thank you for sharing!


09-05-2010, 01:00 PM
Derwent didn't invent the black-page artist sketchbook. I have Strathmore "Black Field Drawing" books with nice black paper - 98 lbs. (160gm) acid free. Really great for all kinds of media. However, I'm afraid they may be discontinued, because I cannot find them anywhere online or off. I am quite happy to hear Derwent is coming out with their black-page "Black Book", so I won't have to make my own! Thanks for letting us know about this, Robert. Thanks also for the tip about the Derwent Drawing pencils - I bought a couple yesterday and like them very much. Big plus - I searched online and found out all the pencils have excellent lghtfastness. Wish all art media did!

Vivien Maloney
09-05-2010, 10:31 PM
This sounds a great buy Robert, another art supply to add to my list. Thanks for posting the pencil swatches, it's interesting to see how they look on the black paper.

09-06-2010, 12:37 AM
Cool work!

The pencils are specialty colored pencils from Derwent. Back in the 80s, they only came in six colors: black, white, brown ochre, chocolate, venetian red and terra cotta.

Those are the exact (and only) colours I have in these pencils. I need to get them out again :)

09-06-2010, 10:24 PM
Re-reading my earlier post, I realize it sounds a bit rude. My apologies for that - I really didn't mean it that way. Looking forward to what you do next, Robert, and thank you for sharing!

09-07-2010, 04:43 PM
Heidi, thank you! No, Derwent didn't invent the idea of black sketchbooks in general. They just came out with a very nice one that has heavy, super heavy 110 or 120lb paper, it's 200gsm. So it stands up to a lot of abuse and it will also hold plenty of layers if you're very light and gentle in applying them. It's quite smooth so it does allow detailed works as well as loose ones, unlike some other black papers I've tried that have so much texture I wouldn't want to try using a white pen on them.

I tried something a bit different on it today. This time it's with Derwent Metallic colored pencils on the black book - and while the effect seems a bit dark and muted in life, toss it on the scanner and it really pops.

Night on the Jeweled Reef
8 1/4" x 11 3/4" (A4 size)
Derwent Metallic colour pencils
Derwent Black Book 200gsm heavy black paper.
From imagination and the memory of way too many coral reef documentaries, no reference used at the time of drawing it.

09-07-2010, 05:41 PM
you are getting the colours really clear and bright and not at all murky.

09-07-2010, 07:02 PM
Very nice, interesting and unique look to your work in the black book, Robert!

09-07-2010, 07:33 PM
Interesting effects on the black paper. Now you need to do a sketch of Elvis. :D


09-07-2010, 08:17 PM
Neat use of the metallic pencils.

09-08-2010, 06:19 PM
Hi Robert,
All the pages in the black book are great! I especially love the one of the reef! Those metallics are superb on that black paper. I'll be glad when these are available at Blick. I've got to have one!

09-08-2010, 11:08 PM
Wow, the reef pic is great! I've just been doodling with experiments in my black book - I am not sure I am liking it just yet! The paper in mine doesn't have much tooth to it so it is a little frustrating with the colour pencils but metallic pencils and pens look quite good :D

09-09-2010, 12:08 PM
aaah! That is awesome! I know you love pastels and Drawing's creamy texture would benefit greatly from your technique. The black motif is great for those. Love the reef!

09-09-2010, 10:27 PM
Thank you all!

David, LOL!!! I'm not going to do Elvis. Not... my... thing... even if the black velvet Elvis paintings are iconic. I can stretch my imagination to doing a bullfight scene, but not Elvis.

Jackie, try a white value drawing or value painting in it before applying colored pencils. White gouache is thin enough it should preserve the tooth of the paper. That may help. It also may depend on which pencils you use. I found it worked nicely with the Derwent Drawing Pencils and the Metallic ones, but have my doubts about Derwent Artist Pencils. I might try it with those just to test that notion though.

Viv, the colors are a lot brighter in the scan than in person. In person the reef piece looks dark and mysterious. I kept all my mixtures analogous so that they'd retain their intensity, since the metallic pencils are somewhat muted in relation to similar hues in non-metallic colored pencils. I loved the brightness the scan gave it, like every area was highlighted metal instead of shadowed.

Next up in this book, I might try gouache or acrylics on it. Or go to a different brand of colored pencils.

09-11-2010, 01:00 AM
Great info and artwork Robert! You inspire my once again and I have some black paper and colors out to experiment. Till I find the sketchbook I will cut up some full size Artagain and others for a homemade sketchbook. Prismacolors are great on black as well as oil pastel.

09-11-2010, 04:52 PM
Candace, yes! Artagain is good black paper and a homemade sketchbook can have more variety in its pages. I've been considering doing that with a wide variety of specialty papers and colors of them, just using a three ring binder and a hole punch to put them all together. Glad I could inspire you!

09-14-2010, 10:58 PM
Another page in the Black Book!

Scavenger Hunt 192, Items #10 - 14
8 1/4" x 11 3/4" (A4 size)
Derwent Drawing Pencils and Derwent Coloursoft colour pencils
Derwent Black Book wirebound black paper art journal.

I'm not making this one my October journal... think it'd be too crazy working only on black for a month. Besides, it's already been started.

09-14-2010, 11:07 PM
I didn't realize colorsoft would work so well on black paper. I had decided to put them to one side as being too soft. I find that a single stroke and the point is gone no matter how lightly I make a mark. At least with prismas I could get several pencil strokes before losing the point. Wonderful sketches.

09-15-2010, 08:25 PM
oooh, somehow I missed this one! The coloursofts certainly look quite vibrant (I found my prismas and derwent artists looked dull) and I hate to say it, but I might just be on the look out for the Derwent drawing pencils next time in the vicinity of an art store....... :eek:

Are you finding on the black paper you have to be really careful with the "crumbs" that come off your pencils when drawing - I try to "blow" them away otherwise they smear and smudge (or use an old brush to flick them off)?

09-15-2010, 08:26 PM
PS I cannot imagine using my black book as my sketchbook challenge - I think I would give up way before finishing it. Mine won't be getting a regular workout I don't think!!

09-16-2010, 10:42 PM
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear!! More temptations!!! May have to get one of these books in the future! I do like working on black but agree, it can soak up those colors. However, like you mentioned, the scanner really brings out the colors and makes the picture pop! I noticed this with my clover I did... quite dull.... till I scanned it! That was using Derwent Studio's too, worked great!

Jackie - I also noticed the dust from the pencils, unfortunately not until after I had scanned it! Next time I'll make sure its all removed before scanning.
On a mad note - i'm so annoyed.... my scanner doesn't seem to be working any more & can no longer scan my sketches. I have a new combo printer/scanner also which I got for printing & its great at printing but it is terrible at scanning, terrible colors. My old one was fantastic for getting the color spot on. Grrrrr.... will have to get this resolved!
Looking forward to seeing more in your "black book" Robert!

09-16-2010, 11:32 PM
Debby -- Coloursoft and Derwent Drawing Pencils are the most opaque colored pencils I've had. Prismacolor are that soft but they're more translucent. The more opaque they are, the brighter on black and dark colors. So give them a try on black. I tend to use a more hard pencil for details sometimes - Faber-Castell Polychromos makes a good detail pencil with them, so do Derwent Artist ones which sometimes match in color like Prismacolor and Verithins.

But I'm also used to a lot of shading techniques that involve a blunt point, soft pencil and very even layers, which I can get by wearing the pencil down to a chisel tip. Then if I want a hard line, the edge of the chisel becomes very sharp.

All of the artist grade colored pencils handle differently and I like them all - for different effects. Coloursoft rule on black paper, so do Derwent Drawing Pencils which are just as soft. You may have your favorite hardness somewhere in the firm or the medium range. Try the Faber-Castell Polychromos for your comfort level, that's harder than Prismacolor but still soft enough for blending.

Jackie, what I do about crumbs and smudges on either black or white paper is to get at them with a kneaded eraser. Sometimes if it's just crumbs I turn the art over and tap the back hard over a wastebasket. Snapping the back of the paper removes loose dust from pastels and it'll remove crumbs from CP art the same way, without smearing it. But I also get lots of smudges from color getting on my sweaty hands, so I have to use the kneaded eraser to pull those off and lift them.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be ready to use a black book every day for a month until I've filled one every month for quite some time. A multicolor one maybe, especially if I put it together in a ring binder, but I want some sketches on light paper too. It'd be easy with a brown one though like the Earthbound ones - going both ways on it would be much easier.

Rachel, if you try Coloursoft on black it's vibrant even in person. It's the metallics that jump when they get scanned. These are that bright even offline. Loads of fun. I'm going to be trying some gouache in this sketchbook too.

I hope you can get your good new scanner adjusted to give better colors, or at least figure out how to adjust color on the scans. It's too bad your old one kicked out, that's so frustrating. I like my current one, bought it to replace one that kicked out and it's a lot better.

One tip for drawing on black with any colored pencils - do the white value drawing under all the other colors. I did that on all the Coloursoft ones and if I'd done it under the metallic it would've been brighter in person. I'm going to experiment with a white gouache underpainting on this sketchbook and then put colored pencils over it. Also with other pencils on it.

09-17-2010, 11:43 PM
Yes, I discovered that. The F-C Polychromos I tried convinced me that I had the wrong pencils for the way I work. I was trying to use Prismas and Colorsoft. I like the Polychromos much better. However, I only have 24 of them for now. Eventually, I will get a full set.

09-18-2010, 02:19 AM
They are great. I got the full set last year and love them. What I should do is try those on the black book, see how they stand up for opacity. That and write up the Coloursoft on the black book. Meant to, just got sick and haven't done it yet.

09-30-2011, 05:52 AM
i have the metalic pencils and no black book.The black pages i have do not give a shine with the pencils

09-30-2011, 07:53 AM
very nice drawings on the black paper. . . the fossil is beautifully done but the ruler is my favorite for some reason.