Review by Tina Koyama
It’s no secret that I love Tombow Irojiten colored pencils, inside and out. Aside from their beautiful glossy white lacquer and even more beautiful end caps, these wax-based pencils are a delight to use. As much as I could go on about them, I won’t repeat what I wrote in my original review about their performance or appearance; my focus in this review will be on a new portable case including pencils (24 pencils/$39 with case).
The set comes with an insert (mostly in Japanese) showing swatches of the entire Irojiten color line and a blank swatch card to make your own color chart. It’s clear from the imagery that the Japanese esthetic based on the four seasons guided the color selection of the 24 pencils, which are suitable for landscapes and nature.
Made of sturdy canvas, the cream-colored case is fastened with a brown elastic band. The brand is printed in brown on the front. Unlike many pencil rolls that are literally bulky rolls, the Irojiten case tri-folds like a book. It emulates an elastic-banded journal as well as Irojiten’s other boxed sets that look like books (after all, Irojiten means “color dictionary”). Folded and filled with 24 pencils, the case is no more than an inch thick. I like the slender profile.
When opened, the “book” reveals 30 elastic loops – 24 for the enclosed set, plus six more for additional colors or other pencils. Although 30 pencils will fit, I prefer keeping the folded profile slimmer by sticking with 24. The loops are snug enough to hold standard-size pencils securely, but slightly larger pencils (like my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles) will easily fit, too.
The 24 colors are not new to the Irojiten “dictionary,” but they have been carefully curated for a landscape sketcher. In addition to five greens (essential to any landscape-focused set), the palette also includes several shades of blue, a few earth tones, some warm florals, and a warm and a cool gray. Although I might have exchanged one of the darker blues for a second, cooler yellow, this urban sketcher approves of Dandelion, which could be used for heavy equipment (one of my favorite subjects). Overall, it’s a good urban and natural selection.
A flap of fabric protects the pencil points. (Gratuitous image of lovely end caps also shown.)
On the end of one flap are two small pockets that would accommodate a standard bar eraser and small sharpener.
It was time to give the Irojiten case a spin! Sadly, my urban sketching range has narrowed to a few neighborhood blocks these days. But on a sunny afternoon, I tucked the Irojiten case under my arm and dragged a kitchen chair out to our front stairway landing. Across the street, I spotted our neighbors’ happy trees. It’s a tidy sketch kit that fits easily on my lap under my sketchbook. (For my sketch, I used Scarlet, Dandelion, Moss, Cactus, Indigo, Sepia and Taupe in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook.)
I tried sandwiching a Field Notes Signature sketchbook inside the Irojiten case, and it fits nicely without adding much bulk. A pocket-size Stillman & Birn sketchbook would also fit, but it’s a bit bulkier. With either, when the elastic is fastened, the book stays secure inside. The pairing makes a great grab-and-go sketch kit. In fact, what a terrific gift they would make for an urban or travel sketcher. As the smallest Irojiten set, this is an ideal introduction to Tombow’s dictionary of color.