Reviewing Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Today I wanted to do something a little different and provide a review of one my most used supplies: Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolor paints. I received these as a gift from my mother-in-law when my in-laws were living in Japan. I hadn't ever heard of them before receiving them, but now I can't imagine making watercolor paintings without them! But what exactly are they?

These traditional Japanese pan watercolors are made by hand and boast quick dissolution. Unlike Western watercolors, these paints are more opaque and highly pigmented. I would describe them as a mix of gouache and watercolor as they dissolve like watercolors while bringing the high pigment load of gouache paints. They won't work for every artist, but I adore the way they go down on the paper. And their high opacity means I don't have to use a lot of paint when I want to play with varied levels of translucency.

I was fortunate enough to be gifted the entire 48 pan set. However, they offer many different sets with different colors and sizes. The packaging is really well thought out, and even serves as the storage container for the pans. Speaking of pans, these ones are much bigger than any I've ever used before. I love their large size, as it allows me to use bigger brushes. It also comes with a little swatch sheet so you can see how the colors look when applied to paper. Bonus: it matches their arrangement in the package! (I went to school for Industrial Design, and well-design products make me super happy.)

With the basics out of the way, let's get into the pros and cons of these paints.

The Pros

  • They dissolve really well. Unlike some other paints I've used, these paints dissolve quickly and stay evenly dispersed in the mixture. I've never had the paints settle or stick to the edges of the water.

  • So many colors. I've never wanted for another color while using this set. And with so many colors, I often find I don't have to mix that much. Mixing paint is great, but it's nice not having to tweak it every single time I need more of a particular color.

  • Good price point. Compared to some other brands, these paints are pretty cheap! At the time of writing this post, a 48 color set of Sennelier watercolors is $252.45 while the Kuretake set is $64.00 (prices pulled from Blick). That's a huge difference!

  • Colors look the same when dry. One thing that drives me crazy about gouache is how hard it is to predict what a color will look like when it's still wet. When working with these paints, they look the exact same on my palette and my watercolor paper.

  • They're lightfast. According to the Kuretake website, these paints are lightfast and will remain vivid and bright over time. I can't find tests to support this, but I haven't had anything fade in the year I've been using them.

The Cons

  • Not sold open stock. I've looked everywhere, and I have yet to find a trustworthy site that carries individual pans of these paints. I'm hoping that they'll eventually start selling the pans open stock. Otherwise, I might have to find a good replacement.

  • Some colors are chalky. It hasn't been an issue for me, but some of the pastel colors have a more chalky look to them when wet. They don't dry to a chalky appearance, but it can be weird using them for the first time.

Some Examples

Here are some paintings I've made with these watercolors. I love combining them with Caran D'ache Museum Aquarelles and Caran D'ache Neocolor II Crayons! I've used Arches hot press and cold press watercolor paper as well as Ampersand aquaboards. They worked fine on all of these surfaces, but I much preferred the watercolor paper.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, I love these paints! They check off a lot of boxes for me, and I find them really easy to use. I think they're a great set for people looking to try watercolors without spending a lot of money. They won't be exactly like Western watercolors, but I love the opacity and richness they have. You can grab a set for yourself here. I think you'll love them as much as I do!


I hope this review was helpful to you. If you decide to give these a try, feel free to send me a message through my contact page. I'd love to hear from you!

Remember, you can subscribe for blog and newsletter updates with the form at the bottom of the page. I post blogs weekly and send newsletters out once a month!

Thanks for reading and happy creating!