Thursday, November 26, 2015

Watercolor Marker Review: Zig Clean Color Real Brush

I've had Clean Colors around for a long time- I purchased a few from Jetpens when I reviewed the Akashiya Sai set years ago, but since I've reviewed A LOT of watercolor and waterbased markers since those Akashiya Sai, I decided I wanted to revisit the Clean Colors to see if things had changed for me over the years.  After reviewing my paltry stock of Clean Colors,  I decided to order more because I've greatly changed how I test products, and I needed better skincolors in order to complete my current style of field test.  The older Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers come with a color coordinated cap, post, and a gray area around the nib, and the newer ones come with a clear cap, color coordinated post and color coordinated area around the nib.  Other real bristle brushes I've reviewed in the past include the aforementioned Akashiya Sai, Neopiko 4, Bienfang, and Pentel.   Unfortunately, the Bienfang and Pentel brushes were reviewed in a joint mini review, which doesn't really do either brand justice, as the paper I tested on was awful.  I'd love to revisit the Pentel or Bienfang watercolor brushes again in the future. You can find the Pentel brushpens here.  If you'd like to donate a set of the Pentel brushpens for the purposes of review, you can do so through my Jetpens wishlist.  Here's the link for Bienfang's watercolor brushpens, and if you're interested in donating a set for the purposes of review, here's a link to my Amazon wishlist.)

I'd ordered these, some Momentos, and some Distress markers from MarkerPop about a month ago, but due to a shortage of Zig Clean Color Markers (they've suddenly become popular amongst the crafting set, despite being out for several years), it took a long time for MarkerPop to get a new shipment in stock.  Even waiting a month, MarkerPop didn't receive several of the colors I'd ordered, so they cancelled those and refunded me that part of the shipment.  This isn't a real issue for me, just keep in mind if you're ordering these markers that there is some difficulty in getting certain colors and new shipments, so you may have to wait awhile for your markers.

Zig Clean Color watercolor markers are not the only watercolor markers that Zig, or Kuretake, make.  I've favorably reviewed Zig's Art and Graphic Twin (link) not too long ago, and included a Zig Clean Color in the lineup for comparison.  Browsing the Kuretake Zig 2013 Catalog (which is the most recent on their site) Zig Clean Color is a line of waterbased markers, and there are several available (although not in the US).  There's Clean Color, Clean Color II, Clean Color Real Brush, Clean Color Kawaii.  All but the Zig Clean Color Real Brush are twin tipped pens, but do not feature real nylon bristles.

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Stats
  • Available in sets-4, 6, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 
  • $2.78 openstock on MarkerPop
  • Available through a variety of retailers, including MarkerPop, Jetpens, Amazon (my affiliate link, purchasing through this search link helps financially support this blog), DickBlick
  • Individual nylon bristles make this a real brush pen
  • Waterbased
  • Dye ink
  • 80 total colors

Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Color Chart
Color chart from Markerpop

The colors I started with: 
Zig's set of 6 colors from Jetpens containing:
Carmine Red
Bright Yellow
Persian Blue

And purchased openstock, either from Jetpens or MarkerPop:
Blue Grey
Flesh Colour
Tea Rose
Mid Brown
Geranium Red
Dark Pink
Turquoise Green
Light Violet
Dark Brown
Light Brown
Light Carmine

The Packaging

The pack of 6 comes in a reusable plastic case that snaps shut securely.  All markers came with a shrinkwrapped plastic 'cap' that keeps the cap on the pen securely, but is annoying to remove.

Left:  Neopiko 4 packaging and pens  Right:  Zig Clean Color Real Brush packaging and brushes

The shrinkwrapped openstock markers are almost impossible to open, unfortunately all Clean Color Real Brush markers from Zig come with this shrinkwrap, and I suppose it does assure you that you aren't purchasing pens that may have been used up in-store before being shipped out.

Larger sets, starting at 24, come with a different type of plastic packaging that's more similar to the Neopiko 4 packaging shown above, and seems to be very sturdy.

Image from Markerpop

The Markers

Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers are pretty similar to their brushpen cousins- single ended markers with product information printed on the body.  Newer markers have a clear cap with the barrel around the nib color coded to match the ink, older markers have the color coded cap.  Both types have a color coded post as well.

Below are some comparison shots for the Neopiko 4 and the Zig Clean Color Real Brush.  These markers are very similar, but the Clean Color Real Brush pens are much easier to get in the US.

Top: Deleter Neopiko 4
Below: Zig Clean Color Real Brush

Both pens have caps with clips that post to the back of the pen, and individual nylon bristles that give both pens a 'real brush' similar to inking brushpens like the Pentel Pocket Brush.

Top:  Clean Color Real Brush
Bottom: Neopiko 4

Left; Zig Clean Color Real Brush
Right: Zig Art and Graphic Twin

Swatch Test

Swatches were done on Strathmore's Coldpress watercolor paper, in my hardcover swatchbook.

Although most of the dyes hold their integrity when water is add, Mid Brown takes on a green cast.

Allowing the ink to dry fully does make color dispersal a little more difficult, but not impossible.

Colors were blended into one another- orange first, then red, then orange pulling from the red.  As you can see by the squiggle beneath, the orange pen picked up a fair amount of red dye.  This is easily removed by doodling on a scrap piece of paper.

Colors Included in the 6 Piece Set


Other Openstock Colors

Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers offer many vibrant, intense colors that hold up well, but the more natural colors- browns and tans and peaches, tend to fall apart quickly with the addition of water.

Field Test

This field test was done on cotton rag watercolor paper, which had been inked with the waterproof Sailor Mitsuo Aida.

Colors I'm Using For the Field Test: 
Light Carmine (background)
Flesh Colour (gee what a DESCRIPTIVE name) (skintone)
Tea Rose (blush)
Light Violet (skin shadows)
Oatmeal (skin shadows, freckles)
Persian Blue (whites of eyes- shadow)
Light Brown
Mid Brown
Dark Brown
Blue Grey
Turquoise Green

Direct application of color to paper (wet or dry) cannot be entirely blended out.  It will always be very obvious where you first applied color, regardless of how you scrub, at least with light carmine, the color I applied to the background.

Color has been applied to tape, not to paper.  A wet brush is then used to blend the color onto the paper.

To remedy some of the bluntless of the original application of Light Carmine, I applied color to the edges of my masking tape and used a wet brush to brush it onto my paper.  Color dries a lot pinker than it goes on- it goes on a yellowish pink and dries to a blueish pink, almost a hot pink.  It took a lot of work to make my initial application of Light Carmine

Coloring the Skin

Rather than applying color directly to the paper, I apply it to the masking tape I've set up beforehand.

The dye is mixed with a wet brush, and then applied to the paper.  The Zig Clean Color Real Brush pens feature dye that is often too light for this technique to work to it's best advantage.

Tea Rose was applied in the same manner, then applied to the lips, nose, and cheeks.

For skin shadows, I applied the final layer of Flesh directly to the paper, and didn't worry too much about getting a smooth blend out.

Cast shadows were applied using this light purple applied to the masking tape, and then painted onto the paper.

More shadows were added in Oatmeal, applied to the masking tape, then painted onto the paper.

The caps don't snap on as securely as I would like, and seem like they might come off if you threw these pens in your bag.    As I feared, indirect application of color (on masking tape, picked up with a wet brush, and applied to the picture) is very light, so it would take repeated indirect applications to build color up enough to match the mark made by direct application.

Rendering Hair

Kara's hair was rendered through direct application of marker to paper.  Because the Clean Color Real Brush has real bristles, its able to pull really sharp details, like the highlight in Kara's hair.

Rendering Clothes

Direct application- hair.  These work ok as traditional markers- the bristle tip keeps these pens from abraiding the paper, and are flexible enough for nuanced strokes, something that traditional waterbased (not necessarily watercolor, however) markers fall short on.  I think this application is where the Clean Colors really excel- the bristle nib is more flexible and finer than the dense foam 'super brushes' on watercolor markers such as Tombow ABT, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, or Marvy LePlume II.

The Verdict

With so many watercolor markers to choose from, and some waterbased markers performing just as well as much more expensive watercolor markers, it's a little hard to justify purchasing Zig Clean Color markers, especially if you already own other watercolor markers.  If you're looking for a particular effect, like the ability to render hair crisply, its a much easier argument to make.  A handful of curated Zig Clean Colors will by no means break the bank, and can be a useful addition to your collection.

If you're purchasing these markers to use as a substitute for markers designed to be used with water, you're better off just purchasing Winsor & Newton watercolor markers, Docrafts Artiste Watercolor markers, or Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers, because those will react with water in a predictable way.  You can even purchase Crayola Supertip waterbased markers and use those with a brush and a side palette

What's most surprising to me is how popular these markers have become recently, when they've been on the market for years, and haven't changed much.  When I ordered more markers for this review from MarkerPop, I had to wait a month and a half for MarkerPop to get another order from Zig, and even with waiting, several of the colors I ordered never came in, and were canceled from my order.

By watching through some of the videos I've linked at the bottom of this post, I've realized that the paper you use makes a huge difference.  It seems that on certain cardstocks, you can use these waterbased markers for immediate blending techniques without needing to pull out a blender marker, techniques that work well on these cardstocks but falls short on watercolor paper.  At a later date, I may revisit many of my waterbased watercolor markers on Strathmore's plate bristol, and see if my opinion changes any.

Still Want Your Own?

You can order a set of Zig Clean Color watercolor markers AND help support this blog by ordering your markers through my Amazon Affiliates search link at the top of this post, or by ordering from the Amazon carousel below.  Your support helps me purchase more supplies to review, provides a financial reward for the hours spent reviewing products for your entertainment, education, and benefit, and gives me an incentive to keep updating this blog with more useful content.  If you aren't interested in your own set of Zig Clean Color markers, you can help support this blog by purchasing any product linked through one of my affiliate links, purchasing something from my online shop, putting a tip in my Paypal tip jar, or writing to any of the companies whose products I've reviewed.  If you've found this, or ANY of my posts helpful, please consider sharing them to your social networks- Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook- by using the handy links above the post.

Products Mentioned In This Post

Neopiko 4 Review
Zig Art and Graphic Twin Review
Docrafts Artiste watercolor markers
Akashiya Sai watercolor markers
Winsor & Newton Watercolor markers
Crayola Supertip waterbased markers

Helpful Outside Links

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Tips- Kuretake website
More on the Clean Color Real Brush Pens+GIVEAWAY- There's a LOT of really useful information and tips in this post, so I highly recommend you read it before investing in any Clean Color Real Brush Pens

Helpful Videos

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens Q&A- Jennifer McGuire Ink

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens Intro- Jennifer McGuireInk

Clean Color Real Brush Pens- 6 Ways

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers- CraftTestDummies

Zig (Kuretake) Clean Color Real Brush- Marker art&hobby

Watercoloring with Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers- Maureen Wong

Zig Clean Brush Water Color Markers- How to #TheDailyMarker30Day-The DailyMarker

Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers and Cardstock Comparison- catherinestamps

Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pen Review, Demo & Comparison- thefrugalcrafter Lidnsey Weirich

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