Often while bumbling around on art supply forums, I’ll see a new product that looks interesting, and one of those was the Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolour set. Available in sets of 12, 18, 24 and 36 colours, these paints are becoming increasingly popular within the crafting and scrapbooking communities thanks to their vibrant colours and reasonable price (compared to other products of similar quality). I couldn’t resist ordering some to try, and they have finally arrived.
The Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolours come in a stylish green cardboard box with gold foil. The box also has numbered inserts showing where each pan goes if you decide to take them out and want to put them back in again (each pan has its matching number on the underside). Given the size of the box, it can be easier to just take out the colours you’re using rather than sitting the whole box on your table. Though there are English names for the colours, these are not stated anywhere on the box, so you’ll have to look up the listings online. Also, being a crafting/student grade product, these paints are almost certainly not lightfast (I’m yet to do my own tests but other users have noticed significant fading when exposed to sunlight), so they are strictly for sketchbook use, or for art that will be scanned and distributed digitally rather than sold as an original. No pigment information is listed anywhere as far as I can tell.
Even though I knew it would be bigger than other watercolour sets, I still felt like a child at Christmas when I opened it and saw the giant paint set before me. How giant? Here it is with my German Shepherd for size comparison.
Each of the pans is about the size of two and a half whole pans, though they tend to only be about half filled. This means you get plenty of paint for your money, and the large pans make it easier to use bigger or wider brushes than is possible or convenient with other pan sets.
Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolours are poured directly into the pans and almost have the look of those cheap watercolour sets you can buy in the newsagent for pocket change. Those sets are known for being rubbish and producing thin, watery colour no matter how thickly you use them, but the Kuretake colours don’t suffer from this at all. Though they’re not as concentrated as artist grade watercolours, they are roughly on the same level as good student grade paints. Here is my colour chart for this set.
Being made of cardboard, the box doesn’t have a mixing area, so you’ll need to use another palette or a plate or something (luckily a variety of plastic palettes can be bought for a few dollars at most art supply shops). It does have a spot inside the lid where you can make a chart for all the colours but the squares are quite tiny, so I did mine on a separate sheet of paper.
The colours themselves are bold and vibrant, and are a little bit more opaque than most watercolours, probably thanks to the whitening filler that has been added to many of the colours. There is an abundance of reds, greens and blues – more than are necessary, really – but sadly very few browns. I would prefer to have more browns and fewer greens, as these could easily be mixed with fewer greens and some blues and/or yellows.
The three metallic colours – silver, bluish gold and gold – have a high load of mica or whatever is used to create the sparkle (though bluish gold looks more like a bronze colour). Most metallic paints I’ve come across have very little, meaning that the sparkle effect they produce is weak or non-existent.
In terms of how they handle, the Kuretake Gansai Tambi paints performed well. Though sometimes it took a bit of scrubbing to activate the paints, they lifted easily from the paper if I made a mistake, and they also dissolve well in water, making them more active wet in wet than some other paints I’ve used.
Here’s a little Crimson Rosella sketch I painted in one of my art journals.
If you do a lot of crafty stuff or keep a sketching and painting journal and want some bright colours that will last you a long time, the Kuretake Gansai Tambi set is worth your money. If you’re a student and you want strong, highly pigmented paint but are worried about ‘wasting’ expensive paint, this set might be worth playing with until you’re more confident. However anyone painting art that will be sold or displayed is probably better off sticking to artist grade watercolours, and if you’re already using artist grade paints for most of your work, you will probably find little benefit in getting one of these sets. I also think the abundance of pinks, reds and greens make this set better suited to those who do a lot of floral paintings and illustration work rather than landscapes/portraits/animals etc.