DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Koi Sketch Kit and Cotman Pocket Box

Closed and stacked Koi and Windsor and Newton Cotman sketch boxes

Closed and stacked Koi and Windsor and Newton Cotman sketch boxes

Thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments on the first supply post!  Many of you want to see a review on Daniel Smith watercolors and a review is coming.  Oh, how I love those DS paints!  My plan is to alternate between artist grade, and other more affordable paints, and paints people might want to use for sketching or journal keeping.  You will get all kinds here.  The post after this, I would like to review Mission Gold watercolors.  Has anyone heard of or experienced them?  After that, I would like to show additional travel palette set-ups.  On with today’s review….

Windsor & Newton Pocket Box set inside of a Koi Field Box, watercolors

Cotman Box Inside Koi Field Box Lid

Today’s swatches are done on Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper. There is a black line drawn in permanent ink underneath and then one on top for comparison.  This is to give you an idea of the transparency of the paint.

Koi and Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolor swatch sample to show transparency

Sakura Koi Watercolor Field Sketch Travel Kits– 24 half pans are very popular paint sets.  They are considered student grade paint.  Half pans sets come in: 12, 18, 24, and 30.  The 24 price ranges is from about $15 to $35, more or less depending on what site you visit.  Last year I got this 24 set on Amazon for about $25.  I just checked and it’s going for about $20.  I saw one site listing a 24 set for over $40- way overpriced, unless you use their coupon.  I have not seen this brand sold at my local art store, only online.  Anyone seen this in their local shops?

The box sets come with a refillable medium tip size waterbrush that breaks down into two parts for storage.  There is a plug on the end that holds in the water when the tip end isn’t attached.  This way you don’t have to dump it out when you pack it up.  There is a removable mixing tray, and a lot of mixing area in this box.  The lid can act as an easel for postcard sized paper or for more mixing.  Little sponges are inserted along the side for dabbing your brush onto, or for blotting your painting.  There is also a ring underneath the box so you can hold it while you are painting. The box feels durable.  It’s approximately 6.2 x 4.5 x 1.3 inches.

Opened Koi Field Sketch box showing mixing tray

The paint is bright and more on the opaque side.  It does not have the luminosity that you will see from artist grade paints. There is a slight to moderate chalkiness. The half pans are small and it would be difficult to do a larger painting with them, but for journal sketching, or small paintings, they would work fine.  I found the pans to be too close together, and I had to pay more attention to where I was putting my paintbrush.  The colors are more pigmented than the Cotman Pocket Box, but chalkier. I would not trust some of the paints in this set to be lightfast or without fugitive qualities.  The Sakura site contains no info on this, but I’ve read on some blogs that there are lightfastness and/or fugitive pigment issues.  But for $20-$25, this is a great deal!

Many Doodlewashers have a fondness for this set.  Check out the great works of Louise Preimeau, Annie Parsons, and Kamisketsa

Koi Field Sketch Box watercolor paint swatches to show transparency

Chinese White, Lemon Yellow, Aureoline Hue, Permanent Yellow Deep, Permanent Orange, Jaune Brilliant, Vermillion Hue, Cadmium Red Hue, Crimson Lake, Quinacridone Rose, Purple, Cobalt Blue Hue, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Yellow Green, Viridian Hue, Permanent Green Deep, Olive Green, Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Grey, Ivory Black

This paint also comes in sets of tubes. There are no pan refills available, you would need to refill by using the tubes.  The Sakura website has a downloadable color chart for all but the 30 set.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Sketcher’s Pocket Box– 12 half pans.  Cotman is W&N’s student grade paint. There is also the Pocket plus– 24 half pans and the Deluxe with 16 half pans, a Field Box set with 12 half pans and a few other similar types of sets.  The Pocket Box is available at local art stores and online.

Open Windsor and Newton Cotman Pocket Box set of watercolors

This Pocket Box includes a tiny brush that looks to be a size 1. No holding ring on the bottom. It’s a great small size- 5 x 2.5 x 0.75 inches. One thing about it to note- the pans and paints stay in place when the lid is closed, but they jangle around inside.  If you were walking with it in a bag or your pocket, it would make noise.  The pans and/or cubes of paint will also fall out if you bend over while holding open, or accidentally tipped it.  With use, the paint inside the pans will stick.  A tiny bit of rubber cement could be used to secure the plastic pans down in the palette, and this way they remain removable.  I don’t find these to be as opaque or chalky as the Koi set, but they aren’t as vibrant.

I see this set fluctuate anywhere from $16 to $25. It seems like people either love or dislike this set.  Most people love the box though, and sometimes buy it just to refill it with artist grade paints.  It is a nice compact and light box.  The colors inside the box may vary.

Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolor swatch sample to show transparency

Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale Hue, Crimson Alizarin, Ultramarine, Intense Blue, Emerald Green, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, China White

Cotman comes in tubes and pans, and refill pans are available for this set. The W&N site provides a chart of the composition and permanence of Cotman paints.

Check out the wonderful works of Doodlewashers using Cotman paints- Jennifer Stout, Adelyn Siew, and Sara Schlijper!

I would paint with either of these sets in art journals or planners.  I keep the Cotman set at work in case I need to bust out a small lunchtime painting of Kauai in my planner.  I have Kauai on the brain.

Open Koi and Windsor and Newton Cotman sketch box sets

I thought this  watercolor tutorial by Ekaterina Smirnova would work well for the sample painting because of the layered mountain effect, and stay my heavy-handed tendencies. The brushes in these sets were not used in these sample paintings.

Koi- minimal paint mixed to get these colors.

Blueridge Moutan painting with Koi watercolors, clouds, mountains

Koi- Juane Brilliant, Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue, Payne’s Grey, Ivory Black

Cotman- Except for the Cobalt Blue Hue sky, I mixed to get these colors.

Blueridge Mountains painting with Windsor and Newton Cotman Pocket Box set, mountains, clouds

Cotman- Cadmium Yellow Hue, Cadmium Red Pale Hue, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue Hue, Burnt Umber.

The Cotman paints flow more freely on the paper and are more translucent than the Koi. I think that bottom cloud is trying to be a flying saucer 🙂

I’ll leave you with this tip- diapers!  I bought a pack of unbleached flat cloth diapers to use as brush wipes and they are my new favorite things.  Beats paper towels for absorbency, and less waste because you can wash and reuse them. They are less likely to blow away in the wind while out sketching.

Cloth diaper used for watercolor brush wipe

Cloth Diaper



Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Art Supply Reviews
  1. iniara 1 year ago

    Love the cloth diaper idea, will have to try that.

  2. […] bonus travel case is made of the same plastic as the Winsor & Newton Pocket Sketch Box and has a large rose gold foil embossed logo. A card declaring “I’m Unique” adhered to the […]

  3. […] Since 2017, also thanks to World Watercolor Month, I’m back at a daily sketching routine. I think I’m a mixed media type. In school, I scribbled with pencil and fountain pen. I also liked crayons. After dabbling a bit on the iPad, the first sketches, I made again, were ink and color pencils. But, I was very fascinated by wet media and soon I bought my first watercolor set from Winsor and Newton. […]

  4. […] consider it essential to invest in professional grade watercolours. I have made the transition from Winsor & Newton Cotman student grade paints to M. Graham professional watercolours the end of 2017. My initial pallet was Prussian Blue, […]

  5. […] was Camlin student grade watercolors, but now I am using Faber-Castell Artist grade watercolor, Sakura Koi watercolors and Staedtler watercolor […]

  6. […] shop was Pentel (student grade). The colours weren’t that vibrant and then I replaced them with Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour series. I loved the result I obtained while using […]

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