In 2011, Derwent added Inktense Blocks to their Inktense line of products, the other being the pencils. They are available in 12 or 24 colour tin sets and also as single sticks. You can find them at Blick Art Materials.
The beautiful tin case attracted me to buy them. I saw them on the shelf and they come with detachable lids. When I lifted the lids, saw the colour blocks, I knew I had to try them. The 12 colour set is priced slightly higher than a student grade 12-pan watercolour sets, so that's not too expensive.
The lid comes off very easily so using a rubber band for securing is a must. Inside, the blocks are laid out in foam.
The 12 colours included are:
- Sun Yellow
- Poppy Red
- Deep Indigo
- Sea Blue
- Teal Green
- Apple Green
- Leaf Green
- Baked Earth
- Ink Black
Derwent's colour naming convention is totally different from that of Daler Rowney or Winsor & Newton.
As the Inktense brand suggest, the colours from these blocks are intense. They are made to be used with water. Just a bit of pigment is enough to create saturated colours. They are also quite lightfast (Derwent Inktense Blocks Lightfast chart)
They are literally ink in block form. Be prepared to get your hands dirty while handling them.
Or you get can the optional Derwent Grippers for gripping.
Upon adding water, they are transformed into translucent ink-like paint. Once dry, the colours are waterproof, just like Inktense pencils. Glazing, or layering of watercolour, is great with these. Derwent mentions that they can also be used on fabric!
They can be used in several ways. They are best for creating broad washes of colours by using them on their long side. They can also be used as pans where you can lift colours off them using a wet brush, or mix with water by dipping or scrapping a bit off the sides.
These blocks are not easy to use if you're looking to create detail work. The blocks aren't suitable for getting into small spaces. Say you're drawing a brick wall and want to colour the individual bricks or the space between, it's better to use the blocks like watercolour pans to do that. Well, at least you have the flexibility to do that.
Mixing colours dry on paper is difficult because it's hard to predict how the colours will mix. It's better to mix them in water before applying onto paper. Creating your own colour mixing chart is highly recommended.
Shown above is an accessory called Grate 'n Shake that you can use to grate the blocks into finer pigment. Or you can save money and use the back of your pen-knife to do that.
The Inktense blocks are fun to try out. Whether they are suitable for you will depend on the style of art you create. I like to be able to use drawing materials outdoors as well, so I still prefer the Inktense pencils.
Here's a video that illustrates what the blocks are useful for: