Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Koi Coloring Brush Pens - review

I recently received a set of the new Koi Coloring Brush Pens. I've been trying them out for the past week or so and now it's time to let you know what I think of them. They are a wonderful addition to my zentangle supplies!

The first thing I do when I get a new set of pens is make a little color chart. You can see that on the right next to the pens. I made a mark with the pens at full strength first and then used a brush with some water to fade the color to see what gradations I could get. You can clearly see that while the color of the cap is helpful, they do not really show what the pen can do. The yellow and orange are even brighter. The light orange is really too pale for me - (but would be perfect for flesh tones). The red came out more as a brick red - not as bright as I would have liked. The light blue and light green are wonderful shades! You can see the others on the chart. Overall, a very nice selection of colors in this set.

I also got a blending pen (the white one) - more on that later.

I did a zendala (6" x  6") and tangled it with my micron. I let it dry overnight and started adding colors the next day. They worked perfectly in the white spaces. I had to be very careful in the tangled areas though. If I overworked an area I found the colors tended to pick up some of the black ink. I was not real happy with that and I'm not sure if that was caused by the black ink or the color brush pens. I went back and added different colors to shade those sections later and found that I could hide most of what I didn't like so in the end I was fine.

These zendalas are still works in progress. I wanted to have lots of colors on these so I colored them first and I'll tangle them later. (They will show up on the blog as they are completed.) I did these using a combination of straight coloring with the pens and brushing the colors on with a brush and water. I got wonderful gradations with the water method. 

I also made up a chart for myself blending each color with the other colors in the set. The colors are shown by themselves at the top row and also on the left side.  In each square at the top or on the left - you will see the straight color. The rest of the square shows color that has been softened with water. This experiment - while it took some time to do, really helps me see what the blending possibilities are.

I also got a blending pen to try with the colors. The blending pen worked - but it also occasionally picked up bits of the paper as I blended. That was not the look I wanted. So I went back to my trusty brush and water and palette. That made me much happier. I guess it comes down to which tool you feel more comfortable using. Since I've done a lot of painting, a brush feels very natural to me.

I also went to the Sakura website to get more info on the pens. They have a nice color chart there to help with color selection http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/images/stories/content_documents/koicoloringbrush-colorchart.pdf General info on the pens is here http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/color-markers

One other piece of info you should know is that these pens are a dye based ink. As such, they are not archival or waterproof. If you are photographing your work as I am, that's not a problem. If you are concerned about archival properties, you might want to use the Koi watercolors instead for their pigments. 


  1. This is a great lesson, thanks for sharing.

  2. I can see you are having fun with these pens in exploring them. And what about unexpected chances? they can be nice too? ;-) love 'n greetz, Ellen

  3. Thanks for the color chart idea - love it!

  4. Thanks Sue,
    I just got my first set after speaking with Joanne Fink, who really likes working with them. I first discovered if you want to do some decent work with them, it's best to use watercolor paper greater than 140#. It is easier to blend with water and brush,but I have wanted to learn how to use the blender pen more. These are great and I look forward to further creativity and reseaarch.


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