Color My Life: Sakura KOI Colouring Brush 48 Col. Set Review


PART 1: Introduction

I got this set from Pustaka Seri Dunia, Kelantan, Malaysia. You can read more about my art haul here.

Price: RM254.29 
Made in Japan

Claimed to be:
  • Flexible Brush Markers
  • Blendable
  • Odorless
  • Transparent Colour
  • Water Based Ink (not alcohol-based)

Coloring your artwork is easy, anywhere, anytime with the no-mess, dye-based, Koi® Coloring Brush pens! These pens perform similar to an artist brush. Make fine, medium or bold brush strokes just by changing the amount of pressure to the nib. The durable tip will quickly spring back to its original shape! The odorless, water-based solvent facilitates smooth blending and layering of colors.
Koi Coloring Brushes are a convenient way to add vibrant color to any sketch, journal, cartoon, illustration, or rubber stamps. The 48 transparent ink colors blend easily to create a multitude of hues and effects. Use the colorless blender pen to create seamless washes and color gradations.
  • Illustration
  • Journaling
  • Sketching
  • Rubber Stamping
  • Architectural Drawings
  • Manga / Comic Art
They have a good review (4.3/5) on
Colour Chart here.

PART 2: Reviews

1. Colour Selection

There are 48 colours and the colours are vibrant. I would be more delighted if there are even lighter tones for the green and blue because the lightest now isn't light enough for me.
My own color chart on Sakura Koi Coloring Brush.

2. Application and Accuracy

Overall, the brush tip has an easy control for different size of line from broad to thin. Its also good for writing texts but its hard to get the more "angled' text. I found out that some of the brush are softer than the other such as Coral Red, Pale orange, Light Sky Blue and Aqua Blue. The application is very smooth but you have more control over compared to  watercolour brush. I wouldn't say this brush pen is super accurate as it does takes skill to master the amount of pressure needed to get the desired line thickness. I compared it with Kurecolour and Alpha markers I have on hands. As a result Sakura Koi have a more prominent overlapping streaks which is not very good for filling in colors but works well for creating shadows and same-color gradient effect. 

The brush tips can be control easily for a broad to thin line.

The brush tips can be control easily for a broad to thin line.
Sakura Koi Colouring brush Pen can create different Font styles.

Smooth application of the markers.

Comparing with the broad tips markers I have which is Alpha Dual Tip and Kurecolor Twin Marker. You can see for Sakura Koi, the overlap is more prominent compared to the other two. Kurecolour does not have obvious streaks upon layering and the colour is smooth and clean compared to Alpha and Sakura. Sakura have very obvious overlap streaks.

Comparing with Kurecolor and Alpha fine brush tip. Sakura again have the obvious brush streaks overlapping. 

2. Bleeding

Overall I am very happy to report that it does not bleed on my papers. It does bleed on normal 70gsm papers, but does a clean job for 80gsm, 160 gsm and 200 gsm, as much as I have tried. The only downside of this brush pen is you need to wait a little before putting up a second different colour or else it might bleed and form tiny uneven lines due to its water-based properties. 

Bleed test using 160gsm paper, comparing Kurecolor, Alpha and Sakura Koi.

Colour bleeds during overlapping of different colours. Normal clean line are drawn above every overlaps as a control reference.

3. Blendability

To test its blendability, I am testing it individually, blending without water and blending with water. I do not own the Sakura blending brush, so I am using water. I am testing it on 160gsm and 200gsm papers respectively to see how well they blend on different papers. 

So my verdict of the results is that for blending, its better to use thicker papers as both blending with or without water will have the chance to penetrate your paper if its not thick enough. There will be some fluffs and paper residues coming off if you blend it too hard. Its pretty hard to blend colours from different tones and families (such as red blue brown) together, but blending works well for colours of the same hue (dark brown, orange, yellow, beige). Blending with water is definitely messy and lack of control due to the unpredictable direction flow of the colours, I wouldn't recommend blending with water in a large area but as you can see below, the water does resemble the gradient effect we can get from ordinary watercolours. 

I also tried to blend it with colour pencils. I used to use the cheap Faber Castell 24 Classic Colour Pencils to blend and it worked really well. Today I am trying Derwent Artist colour pencils instead, and the results are equally satisfying. The only downside of this technique is your marker tip gets stained during the blending but overall, due to the soft brush tips, Sakura Koi blend in with colour pencils beautifully, just makes sure you get the right hue and do avoid using it with watercolour pencil because the brush pens are water based. 

Test on 160 gsm paper. Individual, without water and with water. 

Test on 200gsm paper. Individual, without water and with water.

Have a closer look at water blend effect on Sakura Koi.

Blending test with color pencil. I choose Derwents Artist. The trick to blending colour pencils and markers is to choose a marker hue that is lighter and same family with the colour pencils. Example (pale pink marker with purple pencil, Light green marker with dark green pencil etc)
I drew this Dota 2 hero: Brewmaster with some nude colour Sakura Koi brush pens and Faber Castell 24 classic color pencils. The blending does give a more realistic feel in my opinion. But overblending and wrong shades of brush pen might overpower your drawing, making the colour really deep.

Sakura Koi Tip is stained after blending it with color pencil. But the colour doesn't change afterwards, which is a good thing.

4. Affordability

If counted individually, one marker cost like RM5.30. Definitely more affordable than Copic or Kurecolor. Alpha is Rm8.60 per marker and Kurecolour is RM12.50 per marker. I couldn't find Copic marker locally but i think they are $7 per piece. 

PART 3: Verdict

  • Good selection of colors
  • Good color payoff
  • Water Based marker colour which is less messy and have better control than watercolour
  • blends well with classic colour pencils
  • different colours blends well with water due to water based, creating the watercolor effect
  • affordable
  • odorless, really!!
  • Does not bleed much
  • smooth applications with flexible brush style nib
  • Harder to control than regular marker due to soft tips
  • Not good for fine line work, might create uneven lines depends on skills
  • The nib is stained when used together with other color of the same type or with color pencil.
  • Color not as same with those on the caps
  • Not refillable
  • Have overlapping streaks on build-ups
  • Thicker papers are recommended for blending and drawing 
  • Does not blend all that well alone without using water or Sakura Colorless blender brush pen. 
  • The need to let it dry before applying another few layers or blending it with other colours due to bleeding like melted mascara. (due to water based)
My rating: 3.5/5 

Overall, I like these brush pens because they are pretty unique and soft like you are playing with multi-color Chinese Calligraphy. But for a professional artist or someone with good art skills, I don't think that this could serve as a sole set. In other words, you should probably have more markers of other brands (Copic, Kurecolour etc) because you couldn't used it alone that way. The color selection is good but not good enough to have even lighter shades that is needed sometimes for your artwork. In addition, using this kinda brush pen require skills and effort, because it is unpredictable where the water pigments might flow to and the wrong strokes and pressure will give you a totally different thing from what you expected to draw. I do recommend getting a more solid and down to earth marker such as Copic or Kurecolor for a better experience with marker arts. But if you have this set, just have fun with it because they are not bad at all!!

That's all from me. Stay Creative.

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