Art Supply Review: Kokuyo Pasta Solid Markers

Review by Tina Koyama

I’m always curious about art materials with unique properties, and Kokuyo Pasta Solid Markers (30/$82.50; smaller sets available) certainly fill the bill on many counts. (And Pasta – what a curious name!)

First, let’s talk about the packaging and design – both of the product set and the product itself. The clamshell box comes with a colorful sleeve.

Opened, the box reveals a lovely tray of markers with a color chart showing where each marker belongs (according to Kokuyo’s spectrum arrangement).

Also included is a sheet of color labels to be applied to the marker barrels by the user.

Wondering if the tray would stand up as a handy holder during use (I have a small desk, so I’m always looking for compact ways to use sets of pencils or pens), I stood it up on end. Unfortunately, the “tray” has no individual slots, so the whole thing collapsed all over my desk. Buh-bye, Kokuyo’s color arrangement.

It’s kind of like getting the first ding on a new car: Initially annoyed by the collapse and disarray, I could then relax and enjoy using them from the pile instead of fussing over keeping them neatly arranged.

I saw immediately, however, that using the markers is inconvenient without applying the color labels to the barrels because the only color indicator is on the cap. I applied a label to one barrel and set it aside while doing some photography. A few minutes later, the label was already un-adhering itself. I stuck it down again, but it peeled itself off again. I decided not to bother with the rest of the labels.

Let’s get to the markers themselves. A color indicator and color number are on the end of the postable cap. Unless I’m using materials that dry out quickly, I tend to leave the caps off of a few colors at a time while I’m working. Since the color indicator is on the cap and not the end, it could be an easy problem getting the caps of similar colors mixed up afterwards – another reason to apply the barrel labels (that don’t stay on) immediately.

The rectangular barrel, a unique shape among art materials in stick form (usually round), has a twisting mechanism to extend and retract the stick. Instructions on the box as well as a label on each stick indicates this operation and turning direction. Unlike lipstick-like twisting mechanisms on some other retractable art materials I’ve tried, these are smooth, and the material extends and retracts flawlessly. The rectangular shape is a bit awkward to hold, however.

Colors were swatched in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook. Pasta markers (not at all like markers, actually) feel like slippery lipstick to apply. Reading the product description, I thought they might be similar to wax pastels or water-soluble crayons, but they are not opaque like those products. In fact, they are disappointingly transparent on dark paper – barely visible.

I swiped a waterbrush through each swatch to test water-solubility, and I also mixed a primary triad to test for layering and mixing qualities. The transparent colors glaze well; in fact, I liked the triad mix before I applied water, which tended to muddy the mix. Unlike watercolor pencils and crayons that I am more accustomed to using, Pasta markers tend to become less saturated when water is applied rather than more intense.

Finally, I used my own reference photo to make a test sketch. Blending some areas without applying water, I liked those areas better than places where I added water, which diminished the intensity.

The attractive product design has some flaws, like the unsticky labels and the tray that must remain flat on the table. But I can tolerate design flaws if I love the material. The deal breaker for me is the material itself. I found it curious that JetPens’ description mentioned that Pasta markers could be used as an alternative to a highlighter. While the bright, transparent colors would highlight text well, this product remained sticky for a long time – not just hours, but days. It’s not the kind of thing I’d want on a book or notebook page.

The fun of smearing a lipstick-like substance on a page did remind me, though, that I do enjoy using such products. I’m going to get out my wax pastels.

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.

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.

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