After using Inktense pencils for a few years I asked myself: ‘do they fade?’ Textile practitioners often use Derwent’s Inktense product range to colour small areas of fabric. The range has been popular since their release a few years ago. This product take-up is mainly because Inktense pencils work well on cotton, are permanent when dry and are easy to use.
To use Inktense pencils, you simply draw or colour the area and then ‘activate’ them with water. In other words, paint the area with water. Once dry they are permanent. A key advantage of this product is that you do not have to pre-prepare the fabric for them to work. I love that I can decide to add colour and do so quickly. I don’t have to pre-plan and set aside a block of time to do it. In short, Derwent’s Inktense pencils allow creative people to be spontaneous responding to the fabric as part of the creative process. By the way, I am not affiliated in any way Derwent or gain from this post.
Although there is information about the permanence of Inktense products online, when I started to use them I could not find much about how lightfast Inktense pencils were on fabric. I wanted to know if they fade? If so, how quickly? Do some colours fade quicker than others? On the Derwent website, they now host this information and say that 90% of colours within the Inktense range are lightfast. But all the information I could find made reference to paper, not fabric. I wanted to know more about this product on fabric. So just over a year ago, I set up a fade test or what the industry calls a lightfast test. Obviously this is not a professional scientific test, but it provided me with the answers I wanted. It is quite simple to do. If you work with different mediums it is worth doing, so that you understand the products you use.
How to do a lightfast test at home?
A lightfast test is very simple. Take two pieces of the same fabric. On each piece, you mark what you want to test. Place one piece of fabric in your studio journal, where it will not be exposed to the light because it sits between the pages. Place the other on a window sill that gets full sun. This will not work if your windows are of UV protected glass. Leave the sample there 6 months to a year. After the time has passed, compare the two samples and make a note of significant changes between the two. The idea is that a year in full sun is approximate to 50 in normal indoor lighting conditions. Sitting in full sun speeds up the process.
This is what I did in March 2019. As you can see, I took 5 colours of the Inktense pencil range and marked the fabric with lines and a block of colour. I used two lots of lines for each colour. I left one set of lines dry, and activated the other with water. Then I activated the block of colour with water.
Doing this on 2 strips of 100% cotton, I kept the first one in my studio journal and taped the second to the window. The second is a bit yellowed as a result. As you can see the Chilli Red faded quite a bit in 12 months. Yellow Sun and Midnight Blue faded slightly. This is not a bad result, but enough to make me think about using not a lot of red! But it is not enough to make me stop using Derwent’s Inktense products.
At the time, I just tested the pencils, as I only had the pencils, but I think I will repeat this with a full swatch chart on fabric. In the meanwhile, I thought I would share the results as I am sure other people who use Inktense pencils on fabric will find it interesting.
The Inktense range is made by Derwent and comes in pencils, blocks and paint all of which are activated with water. I now have all 3 as each product allows me to make different marks on the fabric. The pencils are good for detailed work. The blocks are good for larger areas, and the paint is good for painting larger washes over areas where you want colours to merge and mix in a soft manner.
Tips for using Inktense pencils on fabric
If you have not used Inktense products on fabric before, test them first until you understand what they do. Always test them on a small swatch of the fabric you plan to use to see how absorbent the fabric is and how the colour sits.
Select a natural fabric such as cotton, ramie, silk and linen or mixes of these. So a ramie-linen mix is fine. You can do the same for linen-cotton mixes and so on.
Choose a fine fabric if you want detail. If you are looking to create detailed work the higher the thread count the better.
Prewash the fabric so that if it shrinks, it happens before you start your project instead of after you have finished it. It is important that you remove all starches and finishing substances from the fabric, as these will block the take up of the colour.
Keep your swatch test in a studio journal so that you can refer to the information for future projects as relying on memory is not always dependable.
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