UK Week, part 5: Craft Product Review of Derwent Inktense Blocks


I’m continuing with art/craft product that are made in the UK, and today you’ll see a familiar name: Derwent! I’ve reviewed the Metallics, Coloursoft, and Inktense pencils– but now it’s time to try the Inktense Blocks.

Let’s see how Derwent Inktense Blocks are described on the website:

These chunky water-soluble ink blocks bring a new sense of freedom and colour to your drawing and painting!

Dry Derwent Inktense delivers pure vibrant colour but when completely washed out it is transformed into a translucent ink-like paint which, when dry, can be worked over.

The blocks are extremely versatile and can be used for a wide range of creative effects. You can use them like pans of paint. Dip them in water and apply colour directly to the paper, use dry on their side of apply directly to wet paper for instant intense colour.

The blocks complement the Inktense range perfectly opening up an exciting world of endless possibilities. They can also be used on fabric to create stunning silk paintings and quilts.

The blocks look a lot alike the pastels that we used in school- but the Inktense blocks are nothing like those. The blocks are firm and do not have a chalky texture at all. I tried to rub the color off on my hands, and almost none rubbed off.

So of course, my fingers were itching to get started. So let the swatching begin!

To make the swatches, I used the corner of the block to lay down color, and then used my waterbrush to blend the color out a bit. . (You’ll notice that I actually ripped the vintage sheet music swatch trying to get color onto the paper.  I also noticed that it was easier to lay down color on watercolor paper- there is more of a “tooth” to it- that makes it the idea surface for working on. (That probably goes without saying, but we crafters get excited, right?)

I love that there is a fair amount of opacity- you can even use it on dark cardstocks and the Inktense Blocks show up for duty, so to speak. You can’t really see it on the black sample, but you can see the red Inktense color- it’s subtle, but it’s there.

Here’s another version of a swatch test, using the Inktense Blocks with a stamp, but three different ways:

This really shows how versatile Inktense Blocks are- you really get a variety of effects depending on how you use them. The third sample shows how I picked up the color right off the block, using my waterbrush. It’s like having a set of really vibrant watercolor paints at your fingertips, with with the versatility of using it to draw with as well.

Next I thought it was time to just play a bit in my journal.

I just made these two small drawings quickly- just getting color and layers down. Since I’m entranced by how vibrantly the colors pop when you add water, I did a quick wash over both.

I went over the flowers with the dark brown while the paint was still wet to add detail.

Just like watercolor paints, the colors will bleed when wet. Note the smudging near the beak.

See how the colors pop? Next, I tried the technique where you dip the block right into water and then draw onto the paper.

The color lays on more smooth- almost creamy- when the block is wet.

When you dip the block into the water and draw with it, the Inktense Block goes all creamy- the color just glides right on.

Time to try the Grate and Shake- if you grate some of the block into this handy container, you can add water and “presto”- you’ve got watercolor paint to use as a wash. And here’s a little hint for you- add some Perfect Pearls to the paint and you’ve got a glimmery, shimmer wash! Load it into a mist bottle, and you’ve got your own customized mists for a fraction of the cost!

Grate one or more colors into the container-create custom colors.

Add water & you've got paint. Add some Perfect Pearls for a glimmer wash.

I just HAD to use some of this new wash- with Perfect Pearls- to my peice:

So, a nifty aspect of Derwent Inktense Blocks is that once they are dry, they can be over-worked without smudging or bleeding. This is true, but I found that in order for this to be fool-proof, you need to apply the Inktense like a paint to begin with. When I drew on the paper and added water, I found that I did not always completely “activate” all of the ink….so that whe I tried to wash over it, it actually DID smudge- such was the case in the above piece.

On more experiment with wet-on-wet techniques below. You’ll see where I stacked 2 blocks next to each other and then brushed over both to get a 2-tone effect, and also where I flicked a paintbrush over the block to get a splatter effect. I also used the white block on some black paper just to show you how well it worked there:

I love random watercolor effects!

Really, at this point I needed to rein myself in. I could have played with these all day! (And I didn’t even get to using them on fabric- wait for a “Part Two” article coming up.)

Do I love them? Yes I do. I’m anxious to finish a collage using my birdy piece- but I did make a small booklet and a gift tag to show you.

So let’s talk price. I found them for about $1.50-2.50 USD per individual block or $35.00 for a tin of 24 (what I used) at– otherwise they were about $58 USD on Amazon- so shop around for the best deal. These really are wonderful, high-quality ink blocks- and if you like mixed-media in your crafting, you will love these on your worktable. The aspects of being able to draw, paint, and create washes makes them a great value- and you can completely USE THEM UP because there is no wood/pencil waste.

Oh, and lastly, I just want to mention that there is a Derwent iPhone app– which gives you product information, tips, galleries, etc- and it’s FREE. I downloaded it & had a nice time browsing it in the supermarket line!

OK friends- weigh in with your opinions or questions…and I DO promise we’ll get to the fabric applications another day!


If you are considering purchasing the Derwent Inktense Blocks, I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate links:

About Jenny

Chief Craft Test Dummy, Craft Evangelist, Founder, Editor, bottle-washer, trouble-maker, and creative whirlwind.


  1. Stazzi says

    I wasn’t really impressed until I saw the little jar with the grater. Now that thing looks cool! Can’t wait to see what you do on fabric with them.

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