Derwent, Pencils, Tips & Techniques, Watercolour

Dare to Be Bold with NEW Derwent XL Blocks

Take your artwork to bigger, bolder places with NEW Derwent XL Blocks. Packed full of the equivalent of 8 pencils-worth of colour, these versatile blocks will revolutionise your drawing and painting techniques. Break free from the limitations of pastels and pencils and embrace a world of bold strokes and loose mark making. Join us as we explore the range and embark upon an exciting adventure of colour!

Tins of Derwent XL Blocks on a background of painted swatches

With Derwent’s new range of XL Blocks you’ll be able to create like never before. Bringing together some of Derwent’s best-selling ranges, this exciting new format lets you experience your favourite colours in bigger, bolder strokes. These new blocks cover some of Derwent’s most innovative formulations – including Inktense and Graphitint – and present great opportunities for artists working large scale or those keen to loosen up their drawing technique. Carry on reading to find out what we thought of these exciting new products and join us as we go XL!

Discover the Power of Derwent XL Blocks

Derwent XL Blocks will redefine the way you express yourself. These super-sized drawing tools are fantastic for creating large scale drawings and paintings, and their size encourages you to work with more loose, expressive mark-making techniques. Each stick contains a high volume of formula, the equivalent of 8 pencils worth of colour. So they offer great value and are incredibly long-lasting.

Their density and size also give these blocks much more strength and body than smaller Derwent blocks and pastels. You’ll be able to create with gusto without worrying about the block crumbling or splitting in your hands. They’re also very responsive to changes in pressure, enabling you to create everything from the biggest, boldest strokes to the frailest, most agile marks. All the blocks are either naturally water-soluble or have water-soluble formulas, letting you experiment with any number of techniques.

Derwent XL Blocks are currently available in Inktense, Graphitint, Graphite, Charcoal and Tinted Charcoal. Each range encompasses 6 enticing colours, excluding the XL blocks that extend to 12 colours. Sticks are available individually, but there are also complete sets available for each of the ranges. The sets are packaged in a robust tin, perfect for taking to classes or on painting trips.

Derwent Inktense XL Blocks

Derwent Inktense XL Blocks 12 colour set on a painted background

Inktense XL Blocks bring together all the best qualities of Inktense with the benefits of a large stick. Their formula makes use of Active Colour Technology, giving these blocks their signature vibrancy and layering capabilities. Like the pencils and smaller blocks, their colour is permanent when dry. So you’ll be able to build up layers of jewel-like colour without reactivating any layers beneath. The blocks are fantastic for quickly covering large areas in colour, so would be especially useful for painting backgrounds and quickly covering fabrics. The colour range available encompasses some of the most popular shades – including vibrant primaries, secondary hues plus black and white.

Derwent Graphitint XL Blocks

Derwent Graphitint XL Blocks on a painted background

Graphitint XL Blocks are a beautiful combination of the drama of graphite and hints of subtle colour. The large block allows you to apply these colours in powerful marks that you wouldn’t be able to achieve with a pencil. Used dry, these blocks develop dark, moody hues that freely dissolve into rich, muted colours with a touch of water. Their moody, atmospheric palette is perfect for capturing natural subjects. Because they contain graphite, they retain some of the gentle shimmer of the medium and also granulate on textured papers.

Derwent Graphite XL Blocks

Derwent Graphite XL Blocks on a background with swatches

Graphite XL Blocks are the perfect medium for artists who love drawing with bold strokes and expressive marks. Available in six degrees, these drawing tools let you explore graphite in all its beauty – from the deepest, darkest black to wispy, misty greys. As well as traditional graphite, these blocks also include two deeper shades from Derwent’s Onyx range. Onyx offers dramatically dark graphite, even darker than a 9B pencil, and is ideal for building depth and deep shadows.

Derwent Charcoal XL Blocks

Derwent Charcoal XL Blocks on a background with swatches

Charcoal XL Blocks are brilliant for artists who enjoy the rich, deep blacks of charcoal, but don’t like its crumbly texture. These dense blocks allow you to use charcoal boldly and expressively without worry that the block will fall apart in your hands. Extremely dense, yet soft in texture, these blocks make it easy to work with everything from rich blacks to warm and cool tinted greyscale shades. You can also take advantage of charcoal’s natural water-solubility and work your marks into washes of grey and black.

Derwent Tinted Charcoal XL Blocks

Derwent Tinted Charcoal XL Blocks on a background with swatches

Tinted Charcoal XL Blocks combine a muted palette of colours with the smooth, smudginess of charcoal. The selection of subtle red, yellow, blue, brown and violet is perfect for any artist capturing natural subjects. Not only will you be able to explore your subject in bigger, bolder strokes, you’ll also be able to take advantage of charcoal’s natural water-solubility. Add a touch of water to your composition and the strokes will melt away into wispy washes of muted colour.

Explore Exciting Techniques with Derwent XL Blocks

Derwent XL Blocks let you work with more techniques than ever before. You’ll be able to use the drawing techniques you’re familiar with but blown up to a larger scale. All the blocks are water-soluble too – so you can combine a mixture of dry and wet marks into any composition imaginable. Use these chunky blocks to draw, paint, cut or grate, and take your creativity to bolder places.


Activating a Derwent Inktense XL Block in Fuchsia with a wet brush

The versatility of these blocks lies in their water-solubility. While you can create some great textures dry, a touch of water really unlocks their intensity. Apply dry colour directly to your surface and you’ll find that they freely dissolve into washes as you glide a wet brush over them. Water-activation also works straight from the block too. Just take a wet brush and lift colour directly from the stick like you would a traditional watercolour pan! These blocks work great for wet-in-wet effects and you can get some fantastic splatter textures by flicking colour directly from the block with your brush.


A Derwent Graphitint XL Block in Olive Green split in two.

While these blocks are fantastic for working big, there may be times when you need a more delicate drawing tool. These blocks are really easy to break down into small pieces to create precision drawing tools. You can create some unique marks, patterns and textures with the chunks you break off.


Grated colour from a Derwent Graphitint XL Block being activated with water

To unlock a fine powder with various creative applications, grate your block. You can transfer the shavings onto a palette and mix in a drop of water to create a versatile paint. Or try sprinkling onto dry paper and working it into the surface with a brush or paper stump to create wispy smudges. You can also create some fantastic mottled textures by sprinkling powder onto wet paper. You can grate your blocks using a mini grater or scrape off colour with a craft knife.


Different mark making techniques with the Derwent Graphite XL Block in Onyx Dark.

You can explore mark-making to it’s fullest with XL Blocks. Their chunky size and clean edges make it easy to create strokes of varying widths and thicknesses. The flat faces of the blocks are great for depositing vast swathes of colour and covering large areas quickly. You can also use the edges of the block to create smaller, precision marks. Pair your blocks with a heavily textured surface – like rough watercolour paper or pastel paper – and their thick strokes will create some fantastic broken patterns. They’re also fantastic for breaking down a subject into large strokes full of movement, so would be a great option for life drawing. You can also experiment with dry colour on a wet surface. Dampen your paper slightly and glide a block over it to create soft, creamy strips of colour.

Try out this tactile drawing experience

Derwent Inktense and Graphitint XL tins on top of painted swatches.

Derwent XL Blocks are sure to take you on an exciting journey of creative discovery. They offer up a really tactile drawing experience and are both liberating and engaging to use – crumble the block, rub dust into paper, blend directly with your fingers and experiment with splashes of water. Their large size is great for helping you to let go of any inhibitions you may have about drawing large scale, and their perfect for working with experimental techniques. They’re also compatible with the rest of the Derwent range, so you can mix them with Derwent’s other pencils and pastels to be guaranteed the same brilliant performance across the board.

Browse the new range on our website and dare to be bold with Derwent XL!

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Tanith is a Fine Art Graduate with a passion for drawing and watercolour. Her love of art extends beyond her own practice, as she regularly delves into researching and testing new materials for the Bromleys blog. Through collaboration with suppliers, she gains the technical know-how to help troubleshoot artistic challenges, aiding fellow artists in refining their craft. While she specializes in watercolour, her articles span various topics, inspiring artists of every skill level to explore the world of art.
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