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  • Writer's pictureArielle Li

Art Supplies Review - Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens

Recently I've been obsessed with these brush pens from Kuretake. I was given a set of 36 colours by my mum for my 23rd birthday and while I found it fun to play around, I wasn't really good at using them. So for years they've been sitting in storage, waiting to be discovered again.

And they were! One day, just before I packed for my trip to Taiwan this year, I was trying to find something that's portable and easy to pack, and I remembered that I had these brush markers!!! I played around with them and did this little drawing in my sketchbook...

Sketchbook opened showing a pen drawing of a little old lady collecting water in a pail
Sketch of a little old lady collecting water in a pail

Now, realising that I was able to use them to create works in my own style, I decided to bring them along my trip and did quite a few more sketches using these markers.

And I even found this amazing stationary store in Taiwan which stocks the whole range (It's called Nenn-Yih Stationary Store at the Shen-Ji New Village, Taichung)! Obviously, I couldn't resist and ended up purchasing more of these brush pens to add to my collection...

Whole selection of Kuretake ZIG markers and the Nenn-Yih Stationary Store

Ease of Use: 5/5

The brush pens themselves felt like real brushes when you use them. You can add some water to the tip and the colours would become diluted, and from there on you can create lovely gradient effects as well (see picture on the left below).

With the brush tips, they are very soft and "bendy", and are made out of actual bristles instead of a single tip. Like a real brush, the bristles spreads out as you press harder creating wider strokes (see top right picture), but if you use the brush lightly, the tip remains sharp and thin. So yes, it does feel almost as if you're using watercolour brushes. So if you prefer marker pens to have a slightly stiffer tip (e.g. the Tombow brushes) then I wouldn't recommend using these brushes, but if you're after pens that mimics a brush and allows you to create very fine lines but also broad brush strokes, these would be perfect for you.

use different pressure to create differing stroke width

The brushes are also very convenient, you basically detach the lid, and you can start painting straight away!

One thing I really hope they could do is make them in larger pen sizes, I'd really love to be able to create large washes with these brush markers.

Blendability: 5/5

In terms of how well these brushes blend, the Kuretake Zig brush pens comes out very pigmented, but if you add water to the nib, you can basically use it like you would with watercolours. Adding water doesn't ruin the marker as it is water-based, and you would find that after a few strokes the colour coming out from the brush returns to it's original pigmentation.

Now, if you like to blend the colours on paper like I do, you would find that the brush tip would become stained with the other colour you are mixing together, but likewise after a few strokes the ink from the brush will return to it's original colour. (This is why it's pretty handy to have a scrap paper to "clean" your brush with after blending)

(a lighter colour being applied to a darker colour to blend it out)

I've seen from the Kuretake's own website that they mix the colours together in a mixing well before applying it on paper. Now, I personally haven't tried that before (because for me the whole point of using brush markers is precisely so I don't need to take all these supplies with me), but the effects looked really good, so it's definitely worth a try.

Although, what I have been doing a lot of is laying down the colours on paper, and then blending them together with another lighter colour. This works really well, but only if you're not after a soft blend, but rather, keeping some of the strokes and textures of that first initial stroke (See below scan of sketchbook page). This is because it is still a marker, and a bit of the residue would be imprinted on the paper after you lay down that first initial stroke. So if you're blending using this way, just be aware that you won't get a soft gradual gradient.

scanned pages from sketchbook featuring an illustration of sheep grazing on grass on hills with mountains on the background on the right page with colour swatches and random brush strokes on the left page
Another illustration made with the Kuretake Zig brush markers and Fabel Castell Polychromos colour pencils. Note the strokes on the left page, where I used to "clean" ink residue after blending

Also the ZIG clean colour range also comes with a blender marker, where the ink is clear and you can use it to blend out the colours. I haven't found it as useful for blending, as it basically does the same thing as blending using another colour.

(blending using the blender brush)

Colour Selection: 5/5

The entire Kuretake ZIG brush markers come in a massive range of colours, 180 colours in total. So there are definitely a lot to choose from. There is a great variety ranging from dark to light colours, warm shades to cool shades, greys and neutrals to bright fluorescent hues. There are lots of colours that come out vibrant and pigmented, but there also a good selection of muted tones to complement them, too.

Colour chart from

Price: 4/5

In terms of price, I would say they're not cheap cheap, but they're not unaffordable either. Of course, the price would also depend on where you're located. On Amazon Australia, you can get a set of 120 for AUD $231.18 which means you're paying roughly AUD $1.93 for one marker.

Amazon has a set of 120 for AUD $231.18

You can also get them open stock too, although that said, I have noticed that apart from Amazon, these pens are harder to find in art supplies stores, and Kuretake doesn't seem to sell them individually either.

I mentioned at the beginning that I stumbled across this art supplies store in Taiwan while I was there, and they do stock the entire Kuretake range, which was really exciting for me to be able to just pick the colours I want off the shelves. The art supplies store is called Nenn-Yih 能藝文具 in case you're interested.

(Photo on the left from Nenn-Yih Stationary Store's website taken on their opening day, photo on the right was me walking out from the store with my haul...yes, you can tell I definitely stuck to my budget that day)

Lightfastness: 2/5

Unfortunately, there is one downside to these colourful, pigmented and convenient brush pens. It's because they are not very lightfast. Of course, Kuretake never claimed that they are lightfast, and they are usually used for illustrations where you'd scan your work immediately and store the digital files. No complaints here, as this is what I do too, being an illustrator. However, knowing that these markers are not lightfast does mean that work created with them may not last, and also that original work created with them cannot be sold for display.

However, as long as they are stored properly and not hung out in areas with direct sunlight, the colours should stay relatively stable. For the purpose of doing a fair review (and also to create them as a reference for myself), I decided to do a lightfastness test myself to compare and track the fading progression.

Lightfast Test - Day 1

I created two sets of swatches:

  • one set is the control, where I kept them inside a sketch pad and stored away from sunlight, and

  • one set of test swatches, where I stuck them to the windows in direct sunlight

Below are scans of the swatches on Day 1, scanned using my CanonScan Lide300 A4 flatbed scanner using the exact same settings.

Lightfast Test - a week later

To my surprise, some of the test swatches had already faded or changed drastically from the colour they were originally. Although, to be fair, they were stuck on a west-facing window with direct sunlight, and quite unfortunately the weather during this specific week in Adelaide had been a constant 35-38 degrees, which would've really sped up the fading. However, still keep in mind how quickly the colours can fade if the works are not stored properly. But for the control swatches, I'm happy that they haven't fade at all, and I couldn't see a difference in colour change for any of the colours.

Lightfast Test - 2 weeks later

For the test swatches, most of the colours haven't faded that much more, however the blue swatches at the bottom row did fade further from the previous week, with some appearing to be almost transparent. The control swatches, being placed inside a sketchbook and stored away, I'm glad to report that the colours haven't shifted much, if any. I would be keen to leave the control swatches and scan them again after a year, as I'm interested to see whether the colour would still stay put and for how long if you store them properly. (I will update this blog with the results next year)

Durability: 3/5

The brush tip of the 071 natural beige marker

I think the durability of the brush nibs themselves is also something to keep in mind if you're interested in getting these markers. Personally, I like to create works with a bit of texture, and I have been a bit too vigorous with the scribbling when I was blending with the natural beige, and ended up wearing the tip slightly (see picture on the right).

That said, it still works fine, apart from not being able to use it to create fine lines, but it's just something to be aware of when working with these markers.

Final Conclusion

Overall, I think these brush markers are definitely worth it to add to your art supplies collection if you are an illustrator, manga artist, bullet-journaling or scrapbooking enthusiast...etc, and they're perfect for sketchbooks, too. However, if you're looking to create original artwork for sale, or to display them in a bright area of the house, then they may not be the best solution for you.

Sketch of some pink peonies in a garden

The Kuretake ZIG brush markers are super pigmented with a wide range of colours. The price is reasonable, and the brush tips themselves are good quality (as long as you don't apply your strokes too rough), and they really do produce a wide variety of strokes, tones and textures. I love using them in my mixed-media artwork or just to have them handy for random sketchbook sessions.

Hope this review helps you make a decision, whether you are looking for the perfect sketchbook marker for you, or if you're wondering whether this would be a good gift for someone :) And feel free to drop me an email or message me on my socials if you have any questions regarding art supplies, I'd be more than happy to help where I can.

Otherwise, happy sketching :)

Plus, stay tuned for more art supplies reviews :D


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Arielle Li | Illustrator

Hi and welcome to my blog. I'm really excited that you are here. I'm an illustrator and artist based in Adelaide, Australia. I create children's book illustrations as well as other commercial art. This is my blog where I will share announcements, art supplies review, the occasional travel musings, everything and anything. Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoy :)

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