Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Product Review: Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers

10/8/12 Zig brush marker, Stillman & Birn sketchbook

Back in April, I reviewed the Pentel Color Brush Pen and the Kuretake Brush Writer in one blog post and Tombow, Akashiya Sai and Akashiya Thin Line brush pens in a second post. If I were (slightly) more A.R. than I am, I would rewrite and reorganize the reviews this way:
  •  Tombow dual-brush pen by itself (this is the only brush pen I’ve reviewed that has a compressed fiber tip, not an actual brush tip, so it’s a different animal that shouldn’t be compared with the rest).
But in the interest of time and laziness, I’ll leave my existing product reviews as they are and review the Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush marker here now by itself.

Apparently popular with scrapbookers and manga cartoonists, these water-soluble markers come in a shorter length (slightly longer than a standard writing pen) than the other brush pens I’ve reviewed, which makes them more portable in some super-space-efficient circumstances. They are available in 60 colors – an impressive range compared to the Kuretake Brush Writer’s 24 colors, the Akashiya Sai’s 20, the Pentel’s 18 and the Akashiya Thin Line’s five (though they can’t hold a candle to Tombow’s 96 colors).

After paying more than $8 each for Kuretake Brush Writers, I figured that the Zig Clean Color marker at less than $3 each would have an inferior brush tip or some other flaw. I am pleasantly surprised to find the Zig’s tip to be just as sensitive and, in some cases, better able to render a very fine line than its Brush Writer brethren. In fact, because the Kuretake Brush Writer’s ink is dispensed from a reservoir that isn’t always easy to control, the flow can be unpredictable. While less juicy, the Zig’s consistent flow results in an easy-to-control, fast-drying line.

10/8/12 Zig marker, Stillman & Birn
Because I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Zigs, I bought only a small range of gray shades and a green (a first for me! I usually snap up all the purples, reds and lime greens first in any color medium I’m trying), thinking they would be good for quick gestural sketches and times when I need to distill an overwhelming scene. They proved to be exactly that when I took them out to the zoo for a couple of quick sketches of a giraffe and a speckled mouse bird (top of page). Note the fine Mohawk-like feathers I was able to capture with the Zig’s brush point.

10/8/12 Zig marker
Similar to the other Japanese brush pens I reviewed, the Zig contains water-soluble ink that washes well for shading (see hand at right).

After using all of these Japanese brush markers for several months, I’ve come to appreciate the types with actual bristle brushes rather than compressed fiber tips. More flexible and sensitive, real brush tips are simply better able to deliver a wider range of line widths, so they can paint as well as draw.

However, if you’re practicing modified blind contours as I am, you might want to stick with harder, inflexible media. The soft, flexible tip on the Japanese brush markers that I value in other types of drawing is practically “invisible” to my hand when I’m not looking at the page, so my blind contour line is even more unpredictable than ever.
10/8/12 Zig brush marker

One underrated advantage of the Zig (as well as of the two Akashiya markers, which are also non-reservoir) that I didn’t know about until last week is that it is not sensitive to high-altitude changes in air pressure. Open a Kuretake Brush Writer cap at 10,000 feet, and you will understand why this is an advantage.

I haven’t yet put the Zigs to their paces in terms of color blending, which looks interesting in their marketing information. But I will – as soon as I buy more of those 60 colors! (BWAA-HA-HAA!)

Edited 4/26/14: Read the results of a longevity test on Zig Clean Color Read Brush markers and some philosophical comments about lightfastness and sketching.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the info about the pens. I've been tempted to try them myself, but I haven't yet. I'll have to go back and read your reviews.


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