Kissho (吉祥) Gansai Watercolors are handcrafted watercolours made in Japan. Unlike European and American watercolours, they are more opaque.
This brand is not to be confused with Kuretake (呉竹) Gansai Tambi. They look quite similar and the pan and packaging designs are quite close too. A reader had told me that my previous review published under the name of Kuretake is not accurate. Thanks for pointing that out! I'll compare the two brands in the future.
The words Gansai refers to Japanese watercolour and Tambi means"aesthetic".
The watercolours are sold in pan sets from 12, 18, 24, 36 to 72 colours. Some can be half pans, some are full pans. The pans are also sold individually but they can be difficult to find because they aren't sold at many places.
Speaking of pans, their half pans are two times the size of the more common half pans.
However, the paints are not filled to the brim, more like half so the amount of paint in the Gansai Tambi pan should be close to that of a common full half pan. I've use the set for a few sketches and already I can see the bottom of the pans for some colours.
One advantage of the large pan is you can put a large brush in and pick up a lot of paint. This helps you save time when you want to mix a large amount of mixture.
This is the 18 half pan set that I bought on Amazon Japan. It's quite rare to find a plastic palette set as most other sets are cardboard holder sets. You can try searching on eBay for Japanese sellers that stock them. Make sure to compare prices elsewhere. I'm not sure if you can find a similar palette box from Kuretake.
The plastic palette is convenient because you can bring it around. It's compact and yet there's still plenty of space for mixing. 5 mixing wells are on the cover. While the set holds 18 half pans, you can add an additional 6. Or you can replace some of them with full pans.
Inside the box there are some leaflets. One tells you the colours that are in the box. The other has labels that you can tear off to stick onto the side of the pans. I suggest you stick those on immediately so that you can identify the pans in the future. That's because it can be difficult to tell some of the colours apart just by looking at them as their shades are too similar.
Anyway, all the words are in Japanese. If you really need the colour names, you have to use the product number code and go online to match them to their English names. By the way, Kissho and Kuretake use different numbering systems for their colours. The same colour from each brand might not have the same number code.
Here are the swatches. Some look like their are transparent but in fact are actually semi transparent or semi opaque. When mixed, the mixtures can become too pastel-like or muted quickly. Of course it depends on what colours you use. But that's generally the case when I use them.
I find the colours are more prone compared to other brands to creating hard edges when you don't control the amount of water used well. When you use too much water, the pigment seems to want to move inwards and dry with a hard edge.
Here are swatches where I used more paints and also tried to properly control the amount of water used. You can get flat washes too, but for certain colours there's still a tendency for the pigments to concentrate. I'm not sure how lightfast they are though and have no means to test for that.
The paper choice also matters. These are swatches painted on Saunders coldpress where the grain texture is much finer.
Here are some secondary colours mixed from the paints. I think it's especially important to know your paints well compared to other brands because of how their colours behave and mix, also you have to take into account the additional opacity.
Here's a sketch I painted and touched up with coloured pencils.
Here's a sketch from Bali. Notice the muted and pastel like colours?
On their own, you can create intense colour swatches from the pans. However when it comes to actually using them, I find the resulting mixtures to be less intense. This has probably go to do with the opacity of some colours. For if you mix colours that are opaque or semi opaque, they tend to dull much faster. So it's important to know the characteristics of your colours as mentioned earlier.
Also with their increased opacity, it might not be suitable for artists who use watercolours over their pen and ink artworks. I did not find that to be too big a problem though.
Overall, I enjoy using Kissho Gansai Watercolour. It's not always that you must use really intense colours and have vibrant mixes. A more muted palette can give a different look and feel. However, if there's a mix you want that you can't create with the palette, then it becomes an issue. I think such is the case with Kissho. It can be challenging to get a vibrant mix from semi opaque colours.
I particularly like the plastic palette box. When I use up the colours, I will refill the pans with other brands.
Price is quite affordable. More like student-grade paint prices.
For the set with plastic palette box, check out eBay. I bought mine on Amazon Japan and had to send it to a third party forwarder before they can send it to Singapore.
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