Derwent Inktense on Fabric

This weekend I tried painting with Derwent Inktense on fabric.

I started by cutting out an ACEO sized piece of denim from an old pair of jeans. ACEOs measure 2.5 x 3.5 inches, and you can read more about these fascinating collectible paintings here.

According to Derwent, intense pencils and blocks are washable at 30 degrees celcius proving they have been completely dissolved, so it is important to make sure that the fabric is thoroughly damp before using the pencils. 

So to begin with I used a flat brush and clean water to dampen the whole piece of denim to the point where it was most definitely damp, but not soaking wet.

Inktense pencils work really really well on the damp denim - much better than I have ever found them to work on paper. The colours were very bright.

With the inktense blocks I picked up paint from the block with a wet brush, and these also worked well but were not as vibrant and did not spread very far.

Next stage was to let the painting dry - seemed to take an inordinate amount of time! I'd forgotten quite how long it takes denim to dry, but I was patient and let it dry naturally. You can see that the colours dried into much more muted tones.

Once dry I added some definition using the inktense blocks, picking paint up from the block with a wet brush and applying it to the now dry denim. This worked well as the colour did not spread as much on dry fabric, although it did still spread a little.

Next day the denim had completely dried, and again the whole painting was much more muted.

Now for the scary part - time for my little fishy to go for a swim!

According to Derwent, inktense is fully washable at 30 degrees celcius. I prepared a nice warm pond for him with washing powder (that took ages to dissolve at that temperature)...

And in he goes...

After 5 minutes of swishing, prodding, and a gentle rub, you can see that a little of the yellow has run, but otherwise the washing water is pretty much the same colour as before.

Here is is straight out of the bath, looking good I think! I made the mistake of squeezing him dry, which left him full of crinkles, so I thoroughly wet him again and left him to drip dry.

24 hours later he was quite dry and, disappointingly, quite faded.

I very much enjoyed this exercise, but have to conclude that inktense painting on denim is not durable enough to be wash-and-wearable.

I will be re-painting this fish with my inktense blocks, but this time I won't wash it!

Do please share your thoughts on (and experience with) inktense on fabric in the comments below, I'd love to know what you think.


  1. This comment came in via facebook from Lynn Bradford. I think she's made a very good point, and is very probably right...

    "I especially love that he's on recycled jeans! Read your blog and to me it seems the inktense stayed on the jeans, but not on the built up layers of inktense maybe? Either way... he's is a very lovely little fishy!"

  2. I seem to recall doing something like this at college when I did a City & Guilds embroidery and design course and we were told to iron with a hot iron on the wrong side of the fabric to set the colour before it was washed, so that could be worth trying

    1. Thanks for that Terry, I'll give it a go. I really want it to work - my 16 year old daughter has some jeans that she's lined up ready to be painted (although I somehow don't think she'll be wanting fish on them...)

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I like the faded one as well as the brighter one.

  4. Very interesting blog, and I too like the faded one as well as the brighter original version. I love the idea of an ACEO made from recycles jeans!

  5. Thanks Tessa and Margaret, it's good to know that the faded one isn't necessarily a failure - although I do think I'll brighten him up again.

    It's certainly an exercise I'll be repeating Margaret, I expect to have them in my shop before too long :)

  6. I like the faded texture of the denim. I love how the bright colors in this piece.

    1. Thanks Shelley, Derwent's Inktense colours are very bright, and I'm now on the hunt for some really faded denim now as I think the colours will be even brighter.

  7. Wow. I hope this works for you, the ironing the wrong side to set the ink. Painted jeans sounds like fun, Stephanie. However, this is also interesting as a form of art card work. A mini canvas covered in denim with a painting on it.....? Kinda of cool, don't you think? ...and I don't think anyone would be laundering something like that.

    1. Thanks Leslie, I'd really like to customise some jeans and turn them into wearable art - so I'll try a test piece and iron the back, but I'll just layer some colours on a scrap this time rather than invest the emotional energy into painting a picture that then might wash off!

  8. Oh how sad that he's not washable!! I love your little fishie though, he's just adorable!

  9. love the fishy... heat setting the inktense from the back and also using a sealer over the top of it when it is the BRIGHT color and DRY may help keep it at the prettiest color that you liked and also make it 'wearable'. Maybe also, if using on denim, putting it on something that isn't worn a lot.. When you mentioned the size of your sample piece, my mind immediately went to making a new project that size... but you were just experimenting. LOL Good luck.


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