Watercolor of Northern lights in gray frame

Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set 01

Landscapes painted with Derwent Inktense Paint Pant Set #1

Flowers painted with Derwent Inktense Paint Pant Set #1. This image shows a combined palette of Set #1 and Set #2, but all flowers were painted using only set #1.

Watercolor is such an exciting, versatile, and complex medium, but the world of watercolor materials can be quite perplexing. Hot press vs cold press paper, paint tubes vs pans, blocks vs pads of paper, professional vs student grade, synthetic vs natural brushes…. Is your head spinning? This can be extra frustrating because of prices. Professional products are absolutely worth the money, but most of us do not have over a hundred dollars to drop on a single sable brush and a few pigments.

Now let’s discuss the medium itself. Watercolor is transparent and unable to be erased, which means many watercolor paintings tell a story of acceptance and beautiful mistakes. You have to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to surrender control. The organic nature of this medium makes it beautiful, but this also leads to some discouragement. I remember when I first started practicing with watercolor. I was constantly annoyed at my inability to fix mistakes or avoid muddy color mixing, and my paper would break down because I was unnecessarily drenching it with water. Years later, I am still learning new skills and perfecting my craft, but a few specific items play a paramount role in improving my work.

When it comes to traditional pigments, I am a HUGE fan of Winsor & Newton watercolors. For paper, I recommend trying professional grade Winsor & Newton or Arches cold press blocks. Traditional professional watercolor pigments are rich and brilliant, with stunning transparency and pure color. While these products can be a bit expensive, I recommend at least trying these at some point because they will help you realize your watercolor potential.

For many years I only used these traditional items, but in 2020 I was introduced to Derwent Inktense products… My world got even more COLORFUL! I’ve discussed these briefly in a few of my other posts, but I figured it was time to share some details and explain why they are so inviting.

So, what are these Inktense products? Well, they’re similar to watercolors since they’re water soluble, and you can manage the color intensity by controlling the concentration of pigment mixed with water, but they aren’t technically watercolors. I look at them as a modern take on traditional watercolor. They are vibrant and highly pigmented, and they can be applied in layers to achieve an almost opaque, ink-like finish. That’s where the difference comes in, that ink-like finish and the fact that they are permanent once dry, allowing one to layer colors and avoid a muddy mess. Traditional watercolors are unable to be erased, so they are also “permanent” in that way, but you are still able to blend them a bit once dry.

The paint palette presents in a pocket-size case that comes with a waterbrush. It travels very well, and it’s affordable! You can purchase one of these palettes for less than $30.00. (See links below) The first thing I noticed when I used Inktense was how vibrant they appear on paper! The yellows and oranges are especially loud and bright, offering a perfect solution for highlights. They just have such a rich, fun finish, and the product invites both new and experienced artists to experiment.

Here’s a short video demonstrating why they’re so great!

Derwent offers a wide range of Inktense products and paint pan sets, but I am going to focus on Paint Pan Travel Set #1 for this post. I use these products on a daily basis in conjunction with my traditional watercolors because their vibrancy is unmatched. The best way to engage with a new product is to experiment with it. So, here is a video that I did with Michaels demonstrating how to paint a wintery Northern Lights scene using just twelve colors from Paint Pan Travel Set #1. I recommend getting the following items to follow along. (Don’t stress about the list… As long as you have watercolor paper, a few brushes, and Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set #1, you will be able complete the painting.)

All of the items listed below can be purchased at Michaels.com.

The Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set can be purchased through Derwent, Blick, or Michaels.

  • Arches 8×10 Cold Pressed Block or Watercolor Pad OR Winsor & Newton 7×10 Professional Watercolor Block
  • Masking Tape
  • Derwent Inktense Blocks (72 or 36 set) (optional)
  • Derwent Inktense Paint Pan Travel Set
  • Derwent Waterbrush 3 Tip Set OR Variety of watercolor brushes include thin pointed tip, medium round, and flat
  • Liquitex® Professional Acrylic Gouache Paint, 2oz. OR any acrylic white paint
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Cup of water and towel

Enjoy painting and let me know what you think about Inktense products!