Thursday, August 19, 2021

Review: Kokuyo Dual Color Pencils


This set of 20 Kokuyo Dual Color Pencils came in a plastic case.
You all know of my love for rainbow pencils. I’ve tried many, and while I love them all in principle, some are mostly a colorful novelty and not recommended for use. A long-time favorite has been the seven-color one made by Camel that is sold under various brand names (CW Pencils carries a custom version of it). Soft and richly pigmented, it is also unique in being a true rainbow arranged in a wheel so that each hue could be used independently (sort of, in theory; I wouldn’t bother, though). I reach for it most often when I want a rainbow pencil to use and not just ogle with heart-shaped eyes.

I may now have a new favorite – not necessarily to replace the Camel but to use in a different way: Kokuyo Dual Color Pencils. Made in Japan, the Kokuyo set includes 20 pencils (an alternate set includes 20 mini-size pencils). Each core is made of two hues mixed in a checkerboard fashion revealed by the unfinished end. (I’m not ashamed to admit that I squealed with delight when I discovered the ends!).

Thick, soft cores

Checkerboard cores!

The attractive barrel is also unique: Half the unvarnished cedar (wood type unstated, but my nose says it’s cedar) is painted with a geometric pattern. I have lately seen more pencils, both colored and graphite, with a half-painted natural barrel that I find fresh and modern.

A half-painted, natural wood barrel.

The Dual Colors call to mind two other rainbow pencils in my collection, both Czech-made by Koh-i-Noor: the Tri-Tone and the Magic. With three hues in the Tri-Tones and two or more hues in the Magic pencils, each core swirls the colors together. The Kokuyo Dual Colors, however, are much softer than either.

Kokuyo Dual Color, Koh-i-Noor Tri-Tone and Koh-i-Noor Magic pencils

In making my scribbled swatches (made in a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook), it was easy to reveal the two tones by rotating the pencil as I scribbled. I wouldn’t bother trying to isolate the individual hues; these are meant to be used together. Pencils containing analogous hues or two shades of the same hue work best; complementary pairs are less appealing. And I don’t have much need for the one containing two shades of similar grays.

Swatches made in S&B Epsilon sketchbook

Although these pencils are fun to use in the typical unicorn-rainbowy fashion (by that I mean gleefully and without regard for precise color application), they can also be used in another way: allowing the dual tones to work together harmoniously to add richness. When I saw this potential, I picked out three pencils that came closest to the CMYK primary triad that I have been exploring lately – a yellow/orange, a magenta/yellow, and a blue/violet – and sketched a peach. I’m not sure the triadic part of the experiment worked as it typically might, but if I were choosing colors in a more conventional manner, I could easily see using six or seven pencils to capture this peach with a range from yellow to violet. Here, I’ve done it with three; I probably could have done it without the yellow/orange. The soft cores layered beautifully in a Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook. And somehow it’s more fun to use two colors in one stick that mix without effort.

8/7/21 Kokuyo Dual Color in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

I repeat: I love rainbow pencils. And I especially love these.

8/14/21 The hand is baaaack!


  1. The one thing that's always bothered me about multi-colored pencils is that you lose control over the color. These dual-tone pencils look like they have lots of potential.

    1. Well, I'm not sure about that, if controlling the color is your goal... I think all rainbow pencils work best if you use them with reckless abandon. ;-)

  2. Love how the peach came out with these. The checkerboard cores are so cool!

  3. Ordered a Set today, Tina! Arriving first day or so in Sept! I just realized I must have been born a Charter member of the ==AMA== -- ART MATERIALS ANONYMOUS! What 'got' me was your report on the softness of the core! Wow! such a temptation should not go wasted!

  4. The combination of colors makes an ordinary 'drawing'one filled with surprises! That is what fills me with anticipation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...