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Although I use pan and tube watercolors for the vast majority of my illustration, from the ultra portable Sakura Koi for convention watercolors to my carefully assembled palettes for my larger pieces like 7" Kara, Gizmo Granny, or larger commissions, I'm still very much intrigued by the idea of self contained watercolor markers and brush pens. I've recently reviewed Winsor and Newton's watercolor markers and really liked them, but when I saw a photo on Twitter of a friend's beautiful watercolor illustration with a Neopiko 4 waterbrush, I was very intrigued. I've reviewed other offerings from Neopiko in the past (the alcohol based marker, Neopiko 2), and I wanted to see how the Neopiko 4's differed from Neopiko 2.
Watercolor Pens I've tested:
Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers
Background on NeopikoDeleter is a Japanese art supply company that specializes in manga making tools like technical pens, sheets of tone, and markers. Neopiko is Deleter's marker brand, and there are several types of markers available under the Neopiko banner. This includes:
- Neopiko Color- an alcohol twin tipped marker similar to a Chromatic marker.
- Neopiko Line 2- a technical pen available in a variety of colors
- Neopiko 3- Waterbased pigment ink, waterproof pen. Light stable. I have yet to test these.
- Neopiko Line 3- Revised Neopiko 3 with several improvements
- Neopiko 4- Deleter's watercolor brush offering.
|I ordered 4 sets from Amazon, sets A-D, which is the entire Neopiko4 color library|
Colors Available in Neopiko4
- Powder Orange
- Yellow Ocher
- Sky Blue
- Fresh Green
- Navy Blue
- Dark Brown
- Purple Red
- Silver Gray
Both ends of the brush are color coded, with the brush having a clear plastic cap. Colors appear very vibrant, and I was worried that the colors would separate once water was added, which is what happened with the Akashiya Sai marlers.
Swatches proved my fears to be mostly unfounded. Colors remained brilliant and dispersed readily with the addition of water. Some colors required a little scrubbing to get going, but most flowed freely.
Neopiko 4 Swatches
Most of these brilliant colors stayed true even with the addition of water, but a few did separate into the base pigments. Purple and navy blue were the worst offenders, and I was surprised to see that dark brown, purple red, and 'green' stayed true even with the addition of water. Neopiko4's blend easily with one another (see swatch at top) and layer well. Once the colors have dried, they can't be easily reactivated with water, which means pieces that utilized layered colors don't turn into a muddy mess.
Testing Neopiko 4I wanted to test out a variety of painting techniques I utilize often- using water to soften hard edges, using water to achieve lighter tones, mixing on both the paper and on another sheet of paper. To do this, I prepared a little sketch on Fluid cold press watercolor paper and inked it with Winsor Newton Bombay ink, letting the ink dry for 24 hours before testing.
Harsh edges were easily scrubbed and softened into gradients.
To apply a light blush, I used Carmine on a sheet of cardstock, picking up color with my clean wet brush. This may have been more effective if I had used a nonabsorbent paper like Yupo as a palette.
When I wanted sharper shadows, I simply applied another layer after the first had dried.
Since Neopiko4's don't reactivate once dry, I was able to blend successive layers of the same color without scrubbing out prior layers.
And since Neopiko 4's browns stay true, you can add water to achieve lighter colors.
I attempted to shade the skin with Purple Red (which is what I'd do when watercoloring), but it was a little too hot to effectively shade.
The Verdict:On Amazon, a set of 5 Neopiko4 brush pens go for $11-$15, which isn't bad. They are non refillable, and feature a filament brush, rather than a rubber or felt 'brush' tip. The filament brush is similar to Pentel Pocketbrush tips and has a lot of snap.
While there is currently no watercolor marker available that completely replaces the need for pan and tube watercolors and palettes, they make an excellent addition to an illustrator's collection, and are often capable of colors and techniques not easily replicated with traditional watercolors. The Neopiko 4 watercolor brush pens would make an excellent low mess option for the travelling artist, as they don't require much mixing, do not require any more water than a waterbrush holds, and have a shorter drying time than traditional watercolors. Artists can achieve some mixing directly on the page, or can utilize another sheet of paper (possibly a synthetic, non absorbent paper like Yupo) as a palette. I do wish that Neopiko offered a blending brush, but clean water and a regular brush worked just fine. Pigment is not easily reactivated once fully dry, so layers can be achieved without creating a muddy mess, which often happens to me when I overwork a painting.
All in all, despite how similar Neopiko 4 and Akashiya Sai are, the Neopiko 4's perform much better than the Akashiya Sai. Both were swatched in the same Moleskin Watercolor book (the same swatchbook I use for ALL watercolor swatches, regardless of brand, including pan and tube watercolors), although I did do the demo illustrations on different paper (albeit both were watercolor paper). I may revisit Akashiya Sai in the future to see if my opinion has changed and to see if I can combine the sets for a wider range. I hope to utilize Neopiko4's in conjunction with Copic markers and traditional watercolors in the future as well.
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