Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 Watercolours Set Review

Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolours have become quite popular among watercolourists and crafters so I was very curious to check myself what is going on with these watercolour sets.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi are Japanese watercolours. Kuretake and other reviewers claim that they are something between watercolour and gouache due to the binders that are used, in other word some kind of semi opaque watercolours.

So after some thought I decided to purchase the 12 watercolours box because it contains a classical range of colours that I think that suits better to my painting and sketching style.

The 12 colours box contains 2 yellows ( cool and warm) two green ( same cool and warm) two blues, two reds, one earthy brown, one cool violet bias red, a black and a white colours. ( click on the image below)

The colours come in a nice flat carton box covered with with a transparent flat plastic lid. ( I’ll tell you more about what is or can be the use of this plastic lid).

Kuretake Tambi Gansai Review- Artist Marialena Sarris

The colour pans are huge comparing with the regular half and full pans. At the photos below you can get an idea about their size.

Regular Half Pan Compared to Large Kuretake PansCompared with a regular W&N half pan

Regular Large Pan Compared With Kuretake Large Pan

And here compared with a Jackson’s full pan that is a bit larger than the regular full pans that you can find in watercolour sets.

Lid Swatch Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 setThe colours in the pans don’t have names neither indicate what sort of colour is supposed each of them to be, but are indicated by numbers. The underside of the carton box’s lid has a little swatch table in order make there your own swatches. I re arranged the colours in the box the way I find more convenient for me and made the swatch on the carton lid.





Below you can see a larger swatch made on a Strathmore 500 190gsm Mixed Media paper

Kuretake Gansai Tambi 12 set colour swatch

Contrary to what other reviewers have said, I wouldn’t say that these colours are semi opaque. As you can see ( click on the image to see it larger) most of them don’t cover the black lines that I made with black permanent India ink except the black that is totally opaque, ( but this was rather expected).

The colours are brilliant, can be wetted easily and have a creamy consistency. All these when you use them in their pure form.

But they have a serious in my opinion flaw when they are mixed. Though they give nice and expected colour results when they get mixed, the mixes dry three to four tones lighter in shade from what you see when they are still wet and give very dull colour results.

This makes very difficult to control the values of the work, while the final results lack the brilliancy and saturation that someone would expect from such brilliant and heavily saturated colour swatches as those at the photo above.

The sketch that follows ( that I made it specifically for this review) needed one trillion colour layers in order to look the way you see it.  In consequence  looks overworked and quite muddy.

Ducks- Watercolour Sketch - Kuretake Tambi Gansai Review- Artist Marialena Sarris- © 6-2016

Same with the sketch below. Less layers this time ( I didn’t bother that much ) and again all the mixes I did were weak in colour and dried quite dull and three to four tones lighter than I expected. Adding some more layers to boost the colour saturation gave me muddy and blurry results as well.

Naxos Portara- Watercolour Sketch- Kuretake Tambi Gansai Review- Artist Marialena Sarris- © 6-2016

Quite disappointing results from such otherwise brilliant and heavily saturated at a first glance colours.

Take also in mind that I don’t use very often Artists Grade watercolours, my favourite brand are Talens Van Goghs so it wasn’t the case that I’m used to super pigmented colours and Kuretake didn’t fulfilled my expectations.

The case is that when they get mixed lose completely their vibrancy and colour strength and I really don’t know the reason for this to happen. Perhaps it has something to do with their fillers.

Box Modification

Anyway.. The box as I said previously is a carton made flat box. Some reviewers said that this box misses a mixing area.

Well the mixing area is there and it is the transparent plastic internal lid that holds the pans in place when the box is closed. I stuck with transparent glue a piece of water colour paper and here is the Kuretake Tambi Gansai mixing space.

Plastic Lid Modified- Artist Marialena Sarris

Kuretake Tambi Gansai 12 pans Review-Artist Marialena Sarris

I also added some white tuck ( this sticky stuff for posters) on the under side of the pans in order to hold them in place when I transfer my box. That were the only modifications this box needed.


These colours have excellent and very convenient for outdoor sketching box that contain huge pans that you will not find somewhere else. They are very brilliant, heavily pigmented and saturated colours in their original unmixed form. Unfortunately doesn’t happen the same when they are mixed. For some unknown and unexplained to me reason, they lose completely  their brilliancy and saturation during mixing, and give weak in colour mixes that dry three to four times lighter, making difficult to judge and control the values and the contrast of a sketch or painting.

That makes them unsuitable in my opinion for serious sketching and painting work, unless you sketch or paint with pure colour straight from the colour pans something that most of crafters and art journalists do but not sketchers and painters ( as far as I know).

I think that Kuretake has to deal with this issue because these colour sets offer otherwise some very good features that you can’t find in other watercolour sets.

UPDATE 25-9-2016

And here is a lightfastness test I did on these paints.
The right swatch was exposed on day light for three months on a window. Not at direct sunlight of course. The left part with the spill on it ( I did it.. I admit it!! ) was kept inside a sketchbook.
The only colour on which I can detect a very slight fading is the blue one, but it is so slight that I don’t consider it significant. ( perhaps the ochre one too.. I’m not sure).


So the twelve colours Kuretake set includes light-fast colours. It is a pity that they have mixing issues something that I personally consider a worst problem than having lightfastness issues, as you can protect artworks from light in order to avoid these issues or use them for sketching in sketchbooks, but you can do nothing if the colours are unworkable because they don’t mix well.

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