Irodori Gambai Tambi set, six colors plus water brush and Kuretake manga pen
This set was on sale at Blick in the Winter seasonal catalog. Still is and it sold out a couple of times, got back ordered. I can see why. It's compact and interesting, contains everything I'd need to do good color illustration including an interesting pen.
The Kuretake Mangaka Flexible pen is water soluble, not waterproof. It's not a brush tip pen like the Pentel Brush Pen that I dearly love, but it has a thick-thin line and a sturdy nib that's pressure sensitive. The line flicks well and does thin on lightening up. I was pleasantly surprised to have a pen with a different effect in my lineup between the Pentel brush pen and my assorted Pigma Microns, one that's expressive without demanding absolute precision.
The colors are well chosen in the small set, though the full range has 36 or more all with interesting names. They're not as strong as the Daniel Smiths that I'm used to, but they are pan colors and sufficient pickup gives me good dark color, especially with the Dark Blue.
Naturally I did a test painting using a reference from coldpress on WetCanvas, for a challenge.
Cherry Blossoms, branch with white flowers on pink and blue haze
This came out well. I'd originally penciled it to test the Pebeo Masking Marker but there's been some problems with that, I may have to wait to get it until a warmer season. If it's frozen along the way it damages the fluid and the pen's dead before it arrives. That was what happened to last week's review - the product didn't work at all but Blick made good. So I'll order later in spring and see what happens, just get a customer refund on it - but beware, don't order that product during the winter! You don't know how far it'll travel or how cold the delivery truck gets along the way. It would be worth getting it anyway if it works well - but just keeping it indoors in the warm studio instead of taking it out on bad cold days.
So I reserved white manually instead and that worked well. The colors in the little set are Brown, Dark Blue, Green, Gold, Dark Pink and Lemon Yellow - an excellent palette that can mix anything else I want or work together in glazes for optical mixing. I did some of both and some mixing on the paper. I used the pen to darken the branch but didn't outline the flowers as I preferred them without.
These colors layer well although they do mix with what's under them. They are a touch more opaque, they're not exactly like Western watercolors but still very good. Not quite in a league with Daniel Smith but they have their own particular charm and would be very good for Asian styles of painting like sumi-e with color.
The water brush is a little different. Water isn't automatically delivered, it takes squeezing to renew it so the brush dries up to allow dry brush effects pretty easily. I liked that as a variation. Each brush handles differently and this one has a good point, it just takes a little more work to use as I have to remember to squeeze. However that gives much more control of flow!
Overall, the set is a good value and it was surprisingly small and handy. I put a Tikky mechanical pencil next to it for scale, it's only about 5/8" thick in its green silk box and quite sturdy. I've had those boxes before with sumi-e supplies and they stand up well to travel. I could pocket it as long as I had reasonably large pockets, suitable for tossing in a paperback or a post card sketchbook. So this is a go-along set too.
I may update this later with some example painting on rice paper, since I've got some. But so far on regular sized paper it performed well and the colors are lovely.