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  • Writer's pictureS.E.Clark

Supply Spotlight: Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 Color Set 2

Welcome to the first edition of Supply Spotlight, a feature on my blog where I review unique art supplies. As a mixed media artist, I feel that becoming familiar with my supplies through testing allows me to use them to their fullest potential and enjoy my experience with them. In these Spotlight features, I hope that you, too, will reap the benefits of my testing and perhaps find your new favorite art supply. This week, I will be reviewing the Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 Color Set, edition II.

The Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 Color Set II features twelve Japanese watercolors, which are more opaque than traditional watercolors due to a different combination of binders. It is the second in their 12 Color Set line, featuring secondary and pastel colors. These watercolors come in pans rather than tubes, are easily reactivated with water, and according to the packaging can be “used as a gouache and watered down for use as a watercolor.” If you’d like to know more about Japanese watercolors, Sadie Saves the Day has a wonderful, detailed article about their general properties and ingredients, but for this blog post, I’ll be focusing specifically on reviewing this particular set from Kuretake.

As this is only a 12 pan set—and the second in a series—the color selection is limited though I could make some nice browns and decent, muted purples with careful mixing. I found that colors such as lilac and horizon blue contain more white pigment which creates beautiful pastel shades, but they can be easily overpowered by colors with higher tinting-strength like cobalt blue and maroon, so I needed to mind my ratios. The set seems split between cool-leaning colors on the left and warm-leaning colors on the right, which I appreciated since it gave me a good idea of which colors would mix nicely together. I was especially fond of the pastel colors and the greenish yellow which are unique in my collection. That said, I feel this set would work best as a complementary palette rather than a main one, as it is missing a much needed yellow and it can be tricky to keep mixing up consistent browns from scratch, especially if you’re doing a portrait.

Like the packaging suggests, these paints do behave like a cross between gouache and watercolor. They are reactivated with water on paper—less so after they have been allowed to dry fully, but there is still a bit of lifting—so I found thin layers of watered down paint to be my best strategy for laying down multiple washes of color. I also used these from thin to thick coats just as I would with gouache, which allowed me to build up vibrancy without too much lifting. I did notice a slight shine to colors that have been layered thickly, which is a little annoying but not a deal breaker to me. As for other media such as colored pencils, posca pens or fine liner inks, I had no problem layering those on top of dry washes of color.

Overall, I liked this set a lot. As a complementary palette it contains an inspiring color story and makes some interesting mixed colors (the palette doesn’t have a mixing area, so I used some old ceramic ramekins). The added opacity creates a unique look that’s particularly good for matte pieces and can act as a foundation for media like pens and pencils. The price is very reasonable—I got mine off of Amazon for about $16—and sites like Jetpens carry open stock refills, so you won’t need to purchase a new palette to replace your favorite colors. I think anybody who has some experience with watercolor and wants to branch out would have a good time with these.

Have an interesting art supply you want me to test? Or have you used this palette before and have opinions on it? Let me know in the comments below!

S.E.Clark is a writer and artist living in a small town outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She runs Aprilarium, a home for honeyed and haunted works. She may be reached by email at or by carrier pigeon.

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