Saturday 25 April 2015

Product Review: Derwent Graphik Line Painters


Have we all had an epic weekend so far? Hopefully we're all looking forward to either a fun night out or an equally enjoyable relaxing night in. For today's post I have a product review for you. It's been a while - I've been neglectful! The product under scrutiny is the Derwent Graphik Line Painter range of watercolour medium pens -

This range is a fairly new release from one of my favourite manufacturers so it was fairy inevitable that I'd buy some. The pens ship in sets of five pens tucked into a fancy wallet.

I got quite excited and bid on four sets on ebay - and won two of them, which was cool. 

 I only bid low and teeny amounts - money's not exactly an abundant commodity - so I was very lucky to pick these up for less than a quarter of the suggested retail price. They seem to sell between £12.95 and £15.95 per set here in the UK, which is pricey, but I think they've used the gimmicky nature of the design to pile on the £££s.

Before I do the pros and cons, you might find it useful to watch the promo video on Youtube -
 ...and here's a link to the Derwent site and the relevant product information :

So.... Firstly, although these are called 'paint pens' they contain a water soluble acrylic type ink, VERY similar to the Magic Color acrylic inks.

They're fairly quick drying, and once they're completely dry, they won't dissolve if you then add water or another wet medium, so you can layer them easily and with a good result, given that the ink is quite sticky and thick and holds its colour well.

The pigment also stays true when diluted - however it does dry slightly darker than the initial brighter application  in common with many other acrylic or watercolour products. When water is added, the ink changes from opaque to translucent to virtually transparent depending on how much it's diluted. The colours stay true even when applied in layers (as long as you allow the ink to dry between colour applications) and when used as a blendable wet medium, the colours also mix as well as any other acrylic ink.

Like I said, these are marketed in a very gimmicky way....they're cool 'trick' pens. They're designed to produce a good number of impressive effects - and they do. HOWEVER - for the first time EVER, I'm not 100% happy with a Derwent product! Sorry, Derwent! These pens collect a number of excellent ideas, attractive to really any artist, but I feel like, somewhere along the line, quality has almost taken a back seat in order to push the product out before the niggly problems have been effectively ironed out. And I'm not even being picky here... it's just practicality.

Firstly, in order to get the ink to pool around the nib in order to achieve the blobby and spattery effects it's essential to press down on the nib and hold it until the ink collects. This DOES work, BUT it seems that some pens need to be angled very slightly to achieve the desired pooling and the nibs, though sturdy, WILL bend as a result. Once bent, they can't be fixed and it affects the ink flow and control and puts paid to using them as advertised. This doesn't happen to EVERY pen, but two out of ten of mine have done this and I know I'm a careful person with things like this. Not awesome.

Nextlyness, once the ink is flowing well, some pens seem to lose the facility to moderate the flow which means that those pens can no longer be used for fine lines or small designs as the ink will basically just 'blob' randomly onto the page. That really shouldn't happen. Four out of my ten pens have been like this right from the first use and two others are following suit. That's not good odds.

Lastly, there's not a massive amount of ink in the pen and SO far there's no indication of whether they can be refilled. This would not be an issue if the pens were cheaper BUT the price to content ratio seems disproportionate in my opinion. I can pick up a bottle of Magic Color ink for between £3 and £4....and there's a LOT of ink in those things. They go a looooong way. If Derwent brought out similarly priced refill bottles then THAT would make the pens a better investment, so long as they sort out the nib glitches and flow control.

To sum up, I do like these pens AND the ink. The colours are vibrant and they do produce cool effects. BUT - they're VERY expensive for a flawed product, and the number of glitches make the price even more unrealistic. I picked my sets up cheaply - and if I had a few pennies spare and won a cheap auction I'd probably take a punt and pick them up again, just for fun, but as an investment at full price they're simply not worth it as the design stands.

I have loved using inks for years and the idea of having them in convenient pen form is still tempting, but in all honesty there's nothing I can do with these pens that I can't do equally well - or better - using my bottled inks, brushes and nib pens.....more reliable and more cost effective. Actually - probably more versatile if I think about it.

I like to end a review on a positive note, so what I WILL say is that this particular ink formula is super when creating attractive layered backgrounds. There's a distinct difference in the dried surface of undiluted ink and the diluted. One is slightly shiny and looks almost dimensional and the watery effect produces a more matte finish. The combinatiom does give the illusion of depth and is a definite plus! The fact that the ink dries permanently means that it accepts the application of other layers exceptionally well, and the bright colours can be a boon when working with translucent media.

I had a play - I couldn't do a review without having a play now, could I? Huh? VOILA!

The background is entirely done using the Graphik pens - with a few black indian ink splatters. The birds are drawn with my Deleter nib pen -

and Jacksons indian ink -

The birds are coloured with my Caran D'Ache Neocolor II crayons -

It was fun just to play with the colours. I did a couple of these sketchy colourful testers in my sketchbook and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the pens being a little unreliable. The translucent effect of both the inks and the Neocolor IIs is more apparent in the next one -

 I did make use of my Uni Ball gel pen here but again the background is all Graphik pen and the bird is Neocolor IIs. Watering both mediums down allowed the text to peek through, which I like lots!

This is my third and final play with these colourful things of loveliness -

Same combination again, but I used my white Magic Color acrylic ink to add the highlights and featheryness. ( I do apologise for the iffy balance on some of the scans - tech issues persist!)

I think that the effects the pens produce are excellent - as long as the pens work properly - but I stick to my statement that these are a great product IF you can pick them up at a BARGAIN price and IF you can work WITH the flaws. Keep an eye out on ebay or Amazon and hopefully the art fairies will work their magic.

I hope that was helpful? I've added links to the pics where relevant so that you can possibly source some of the listed products. If you have any questions just leave them in the comment section and I'll reply asap - or just stop by to say 'hi!'  Thank you for visiting and being awesomely YOU! Sending love and hugs from Shroo :) xxx


  1. Really, really good and balanced review. Is it bad that I would've been seduced by the fancy wallet? Oh gawd, I'm a marketers dream!

    LOVE the effects you achieved with them!

    1. Are you KIDDING me??? It's the wallet that sold them to me! AND - (should have put this in the text there) the fastener's so tight that it tears the plastic when you try to open the wallet quickly. I am impatient. I now have one holey wallet (Batman). Dammit

    2. Bloody typical! That's what it is.... mind you - it'll teach me to be a bit more patient! xxx

  2. You seem to have highlighted exactly the same problems I experienced when using my newly acquired acrylic paint pens. I bought 5 separate pens to try them out, I bought red, yellow, blue, black and white. Mine are called DECO painter matt. The instructions on the side of the pen are brief and so tiny I had to use a magnifying glass to read them. It says, in microscopically small print; Matt, water based for almost all surfaces like terracotta, wood, cardboard, plaster (it doesn't say canvas but that's what I've used them on). Shake well before use and press down on tip several times to activate, store in horizontal position. They cost me £3.00 each which I thought was extortionate, especially as you said, I don't think they can be refilled. I found they were difficult to 'activate’, like you I noticed that if you pressed too hard the tip was likely to bend but I overcame this problem by dipping the tip into water a couple of times and waiting for the paint to flow and mix with the water. They dry out very, very quickly if not stored properly and, despite what the instructions say, I find the best way to store them is in a jar with nib pointing downwards, this makes them easier to use the next time. Anyhow..........I'm not over happy with these and not really willing to pay that much again, therefore when they run out, I think I'll give the ones you use a go. The only reason I bought these was because they were the only ones available at the local craft shop that was the only place offering anything like them at all. Next time I think I'll do as you do and go online to see if I can find a better deal. Having said all that....... once you get them to work properly, and providing the nib doesn't bend, they leave a bright distinct line that doesn't fade and does act, as far as permanence, finish etc goes, just like acrylic paint, which is what I wanted. Thanks for the info Rachael, funny but this is exactly the sort of product I’ve been looking out for, if you have an online supplier you use please let me know who it is:-)

    1. That's really helpful - especially as that was a brand I'd been eyeing for a while. I do think that these pens can be effective, but if they're going to cost us a spleen every time we buy a couple it'd be NICE if manufacturers actually tested them and ironed out the glitches BEFORE releasing them.

      I have a number of suppliers - you can find a list of the most frequented and reliable ones in the left-hand margin here. Jacksons and Great Art always have good offers on. They're both pretty awesome and you get great service - especially from Jacksons, who go the extra mile if you need help or advice. They're pricier than Great Art overall, but again, watch out for offers. Sign up to their mail list and you'll get a list of offers in your inbox as well as competitions and applications for gallery exhibitions. They have a good blog, and they're on most social media. Great Art carry MASSIVE stocks of pretty much anything. Their site is a bit of a pain in the ass to navigate at times but prices on canvases et al can rarely be beaten. Again - sign up and request a catalogue (with which to torture yourself!!)

      I never buy ANYTHING without scouting ebay. I'll take the extra time and wait out auctions especially if it's for a new product to test. Honestly it entirely depends on the product as to where and how I buy it. For example, my Tachikawa and Deleter pens I can only find (reliably) from Dinkybox. Paints and such are usually cheaper on ebay, but colours are often limited so if it's something specific then I pay through the nose, as it were, from an online direct site. It's the same juggle as with anything I guess. Shout if you want links to ebay shops and I'll mail them to you ok?

      Thanks again for the feedback - I really value your input. xxxx

    2. thanks, I'll start checking out the sites tomorrow :-)

  3. I would suggest contacting the manufacture about the flaws-many times when I have done this-they apologize and send me new product or a big coupon to buy it-worth a try-and they don't always know you are unhappy unless you write them-emails work too if they have one on their site

    1. You've been reading my mind again! Derwent do have an email contact so yeah, just for the purpose of feedback I'll email them politely. Hopefully if enough people give them some feedback they'll get the problems sorted. Thank you lovely! xxx

  4. Your bird drawings are lovely, and the pens look good, but I will stick to ink bottles and ink pen, I think they are too expensive for me. Thanks for testing! Hugs, Valerie

    1. Thank you! Yes - I'd stick with bottled inks if I were you..they're way more versatile and there's nothing these pens can do that can't be achieved with bottled inks! Glad this was helpful - hugs from me xxxx

  5. Thanks for the review. They do look an interesting product, but I think I'll take your advice and resist temptation unless I see them cheap somewhere

  6. Thanks for that, I'm glad I only baught one pen as I allways have issues with blobbing or clogging. I'll keep a piece of scrap and tissue at hand, cause thats my silver and gold pens do that yearly with christmas art. Love the purity of the whit but I wish I read this earlier :P