Watercolor Review: Kuretake Gansai Tambi Palette Graphite Colors

Review by Tina Koyama

Although I’m mostly a colored and graphite pencil sketcher, sometimes I get into a painty mood. If I haven’t used paints in a while, though, I get a bit overwhelmed by choosing and mixing colors; I just want to grab a brush and hit the page with it. That’s what I love about a watercolor set like the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Graphite Colors (palette of 6/$16.50). The neutral, near-black hues require no mixing to have fun with.

The set comes in a cardboard palette of six pans that are larger than traditional watercolor full pans (though a bit shallower). The color name (in English and Japanese) and color number appear on the underside of the pan, and the number also appears on the palette. I find the color name on the pan to be especially handy because the subtle, dark hues can be difficult to identify when dry. (Apparently, these paints are not available individually at JetPens.)

When swatched, the hues become more distinct. The lightfast colors recall the Boku-Undo E-Sumi Watercolor Palette that I reviewed a while back. While that set evokes the rich blackness of ink, the Kuretake set is more subtle and matte like graphite. (I love having both pen- and pencil-like watercolor sets!)

According to the JetPens product description, “the surface of the paint can be polished to reveal a metallic luster.” That statement piqued my curiosity, so I took a paper towel and rubbed the concentrated ends of my swatches. It was difficult to photograph to show the luster, but with light reflected directly, the paints do show a subtle, graphite-like sheen.

To make test sketches, I first used green and red to sketch a portrait (reference photo by Earthsworld).

Then I sketched my friend Skully (inspired by the X-Files character, of course) twice in a gray Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook – once with blue and once with violet. (The white highlights were made with an East Hill Tombstone white brush pen that Ana and I both reviewed several years ago.)

I used a standard-size East Hill Kumadori water brush to make these sketches. With a finer brush (and a finer hand), I think these graphite-inspired paints would be lovely for calligraphy as well as painting.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love mine, but they smudge in my watercolor sketchbook. How can I seal the paintings so they won’t smudge? Or is that possible?

    1. You may be able to use an art spray. There are lots of spray finishes that are available that will seal the art without affecting the color. Ask your local art supply shop. I’m thinking a pastel spray might be a good option.

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