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Review: Sakura Koi Watercolor Field Sketch Set

The Sakura Koi Watercolor comes in tube and pans sets. They are among the more popular watercolour sets for beginners because they are rather affordable.

For pan sets, they come in 12, 18 and 24 colours. The layout of the box depends on how many colours there are. I really like the design of the box, specifically the large detachable mixing tray with individual wells. You can fix the tray on the left, right or bottom of the main box.

For the 24-colour set that I have, it comes with sponge on both sides and a waterbrush. The colours are slightly hard but once you add water, they dissolve easier. However, to mix a large wash, it will take some time to scrub the paints off.

The waterbrush comes with a stopper that you can use to prevent water from leaking as you detach the waterbrush to fit into the box. It's truly a compact set that you can bring outdoors. It's quite lightweight too.

However, it's not as compact compared to those 12-pan metal boxes. The 12-colour Sakura Koi set might be smaller. Shown beside is the Prima Marketing Watercolor Set that cost around the same price.

These are colour swatches from the set. The colours are

  1. Chinese White
  2. Lemon Yellow
  3. Aureoline Hue
  4. Permanent Yellow Deep
  5. Permanent Orange
  6. Jaune Brilliant
  7. Vermilion Hue
  8. Cadmium Red Hue
  9. Crimson Lake
  10. Quinacridone Rose
  11. Purple
  12. Cobalt Blue Hue
  13. Cerulean Blue
  14. Ultramarine
  15. Prussian Blue
  16. Yellow Green
  17. Viridian Hue
  18. Permanent Green Deep
  19. Olive Green
  20. Yellow Ochre
  21. Light Red
  22. Burnt Umber
  23. Payne's Grey
  24. Ivory Black

Straight from the pans, the colours appear quite vibrant. However, there's a trace of chalkiness with some colours. Some colours are quite weak, such as Crimson Lake and Jaune Brilliant. I suppose if you get enough paints from the pans, you can get a stronger colour, but those two colours are more difficult to dissolve.

There's no information regarding the exact pigments used. I bought this set at USD $20 and at that price, I don't expect artist grade quality, lightfastness or permanence.

Here's a comparison of selected colours vs Prima Marketing's colours. I want to compare these two sets because they are priced quite close. To me, Prima Marketing's colours are slightly more intense.

The real test of how good the colours are are when you mix them. Colours that are of inferior quality often lose their vibrancy quickly when mixed. This is because the paints have more binder than pigment, or multiple pigments are used are to make up a colour. You can usually identify such colours because there's the word 'Hue' appended to the colour's name.

When I mixed Sakura Koi colours, I find that they are unable to hold on to their vibrancy compared to artist grade colours. The colours from the mixtures are dulled down faster, and at times they appear to be more pastel-like resulting in soft colours. Check out my review for Pebeo's 12 half pan set to see some really soft colours.

At times, I also find that the colour mixtures to be a slightly chalky but still acceptable. Overall, I find it quite a challenge to maintain the vibrancy of the original colours. The best way to use Sakura Koi watercolours is probably to use them straight from the pans without mixing them too much.

For the price, it's a good introductory set for watercolour beginners. However for the same price, I would recommend you go for the Prima Marketing Tropicals set instead unless you really want to get this set for the plastic box which is really nice.

Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)