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

 

 

Hi I'm the Doodlewash Supply Blogger and offer reviews of various types of art supplies, watercolors, and helpful tips. I approach artistic expression with a light-hearted point of view. I love to see, and support others opening up to, and embracing their creative process with any medium or creative expression. Follow me on Instagram!
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71 Comments
  1. The Leaf Diary 2 years ago

    That’s a very interesting post!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank you! I hope that you find it useful.

      • The Leaf Diary 2 years ago

        Yes I do 🙂 I’ve never used the Koi set before, so it’s interesting to read about it.

  2. memadtwo 2 years ago

    These posts are a great idea, Jessica and Charlie! (K)

    • Thanks Kerfe! Glad you like these. Can’t take much credit as it was Jessica’s wonderful idea…hehe…thrilled to have her posting here!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank you Kerfe 🙂 I hope that you find them helpful!

      • memadtwo 2 years ago

        I do! I have a long list of supplies to try, but your reviews will help me narrow them down…(K)

  3. Thank you, great post, and I love the diaper tip…anybody know what they are called in the uk….and or where they can be bought, I think it is such a fantastic idea.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      I’m glad you like the idea Rebecca. In the UK, do you all call them a nappy? I think any brand would work. I hope you have luck finding them.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      It is a cotton cloth nappy that can be washed and reused, not disposable. All the one’s I’ve seen come in packs of at least 6.

    • Well it as such a good tip, I have bought some ZORB, the fabric in the nappy/ diaper reusable liners, can’t wait to get using it, I think it will save loads in kitchen roll.

  4. Jodi 2 years ago

    such a great informative post. Thank you for sharing. The Koi kit was my very first set of watercolors last May. 🙂

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank you Jodi, I’m glad that you found it informative. How have you like creating and painting with the Koi paints?

  5. beverlydyer 2 years ago

    Nice review. Thanks. Makes me want to head to the Botanical Garden today to field sketch!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Ah yes Beverly! That is fantastic 🙂 Happy sketching to you!

  6. Teri C 2 years ago

    GREAT review Jessica! I have found everything you said about Koi (one of my new favorites for urban sketching) to be absolutely true. The size and portability are almost perfect.
    I have not tried the other set.
    The diaper tip is awesome! Didn’t even realize they still produced cloth diaper. Am I out of the loop or what!
    I am loving these posts.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Hehehe. If you only knew how I scrutinized the diapers available before picking these. I have one for you next time we get together. I’m glad you liked the review 🙂

      • Teri C 2 years ago

        Oh boy, a diaper! Ok, that sounds too weird. Lol
        Hope to be painting with you in April! Somewhere as yet unknown.

  7. Carmel Campbell 2 years ago

    Good post. I have the Koi palette but have not used it. My first palette was the Cotman. I ended up removing the paint and setting up my own colors with Daniel Smith paints. It is a good travel palette.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Hi Carmel, I’m happy you liked the post. I would like to hear how you like the Koi once you take it out for a spin. Happy painting to you!

      • Carmel Campbell 2 years ago

        Jessica, I am not sure if that will happen. I got them about two years ago when I first ventured into watercolor. Although one can never tell 🙂

  8. Jill Holmes 2 years ago

    Fabulous post! Thank you for posting this on Doodlewash, Charlie! <3 <3 <3

    • So happy you like these Jill! Jessica is our resident Supply Blogger on Doodlewash.com now and I couldn’t be more thrilled… Look for these weekly!! 😃

      • Jill Holmes 2 years ago

        Being an unabashed and unashamed art supply junkie, you KNOW that I will love this feature! 🙂

      • hehe… I’m so happy Jessica is here. I don’t play with enough supplies to satisfy the awesome art junkies out there! 😉🎨

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Hi Jill, I’m so happy that you are enjoying the posts!

      • Jill Holmes 2 years ago

        So glad you are doing these! 🙂

  9. Carol 2 years ago

    Such great, in-depth information. My first set was a 12-color Cotman travel pallette, and over time I refilled the pans with better paints. Great size for on the go. I appreciate all the time it must have taken you to gather all the info for this awesome post!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Aww, thank you Carol. Your comment means a lot to me. Knowing that people find these useful, is wonderful. Have palette, will travel, right?!

      • Carol 2 years ago

        Yes, will travel :). I consider myself still a novice and basically self-taught except for a 6-week beginner class at a local high school. Otherwise, I have learned through YouTube, blogs, books, and websites. Even though I might have heard some of the techniques, rules, etc. multiple times before, it is great to have them reiterated until they click on this brain of mine. I love this community of artists who are so supportive and generous with info, and I look forward to your next post 🙂

  10. Fred Wissemann 2 years ago

    I have the KOI kit. It is well designed and color selection is great. I agree that the paints are best suited for sketches.

    Fred Wissemann

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank for you comment Fred, and happy painting to you!

  11. E. Bancroft 2 years ago

    Thanks for a very informative post! I spent so much time just last week trying to decide which palette to buy and was looking for a comparison of these two but couldn’t find one! I did find this thorough review of the Koi
    http://www.stutler.cc/other/sketchbook/sakura_koi_24.html and then I checked to see what one of my favourite sketchers was using and found this: http://jeanmackayart.com/2014/09/18/just-the-basics-2/ In the end, since I am just a beginner, I went with the Koi-24 (which is available in Opus art stores here for C$43 but I got it for C$28 through amazon.ca). I’d like to see a review of the Sennelier travel palette — and btw, Sara Schlijper’s work was done with the Koi (she writes that she wants to get the Cotman). Thanks for this great series!!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      I’m glad that this had some useful information for you. That’s exciting that you have the Koi set. I hope you get a lot of joy in creating with it. I have a Sennelier mini travel set, and it will eventually get it’s day on here 🙂 Happy painting E!

  12. Rob 2 years ago

    I bought the Cottman set. However the watercolor class dictated use of tube paints. Too big and bulky to travel with. Like the extra palette in yhe koibset. Nice tip on the diaper, thanks!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      You’re welcome Rob :). I find that extra palette in the Koi set to be a nice thing. Happy painting 🙂

  13. magedark 2 years ago

    I used the Koi set for a good while, then when I started to use tube paints I removed some of the Koi colors for my tubes. After some time I thought it was far too big, so I got the Cotman one, removed the paints for my own, and now I use that.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      It’s so nice to have options out there! Thank you for your comment 🙂

  14. Teresa Robeson 2 years ago

    Jessica is totally awesome!! I love these reviews after just 2 and look forward to all of them to come! I have a Cotman pan that I’ve never used yet but now I know what to expect. Thank you, Jessica and thanks, Charlie for finding a gem like her to guest post!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Teresa, thank you, seriously! I had the idea to do these posts for sometime, but would talk myself out of doing them. Finally the time was right! It makes me happy to be interacting and sharing with people like this. Have fun creating out there!

      • Teresa Robeson 2 years ago

        Well, I’m glad I happen to be here at the right time! 😀

  15. legacystudioart 2 years ago

    I love the Cotman travel kit! I took it camping with me last summer and it proved to be a great option to document some of our trip! I will say though, I never thought of changing out the paints…LOVE that option! Thanks for the insight!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      That’s so awesome! Three cheers for the camping Cotman kit! Happy painting!

  16. anniedrawsthings 2 years ago

    Love love love my Koi set! Thanks for the review, Jessica! And the cloth diaper tip is fantastic, I will have to look into it!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank you Annie! Another happy Koi painter! Yeah, the diaper has been great ;). Sometimes I paint really wet and the paper towel wasn’t cutting it. I know some people use a roll of toilet paper as a blotter, but I don’t have room for that on my desk. Plus, my desk is in my living room, and I don’t really want a roll of TP hanging out on it all of the time 😉 Happy painting to you.

  17. Kari 2 years ago

    I have both the Koi 24 set and the Cotman 10 or 12.. I found both at my local Michaels! The Koi’s are my only semi-opaque set. I like my Cotman set too because colors come in cool and warm versions. I like the portability of both sets and both have lasted a long time. What a great idea about the cloth diapers! I’m definitely getting those!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Hi Kari, I’m glad you found the diaper info helpful 🙂 I still chuckle a little every time I type “diaper.”

  18. artandmoondreams 2 years ago

    Nicely informative, love the presentation.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

  19. Cathe 2 years ago

    Wonderful post Jessica. My first travel set was the Cotman. I moved into Daniel Smith and made up my own travel kit and forgot about my first one. Recently I pulled it out and found, just as you mention the colors are more opaque. Daniel Smith colors seem more muted to me and the combination of both sets are really nice. I love the brilliance of the Winsor & Newton yellows.

    I look forward to more of your reviews, this is such a nice addition to Charlie’s blog!

  20. Author
    Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

    Hi Cathe, and thank you for this comment! So many adventures in paint land out there! 🙂

  21. jellico84 2 years ago

    I have the Koi kit. I love it! I’ve not had a lot of time to use it plein aire since I got it for Christmas. Can’t wait to take it along with my new travel easel on wheels out into the wilds! 🙂

  22. artmeanderings 2 years ago

    I have the 24 set and love it. Picked it up at one of the local art stores, $25-30 range I think. I use it mostly with my urban sketchers group, compact and good traveler. I do wish the water brush was a little better quality. Great review!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 2 years ago

      Hi Daylene, and thanks for sharing your experience with Koi :). I enjoyed reading your bio on your blog. I love that you have rediscovered your creativity and that you are sharing about it! I feel like a little bit of a cheerleader for that discovery in myself and others. It’s great to meet kindred creative spirits!

      • artmeanderings 2 years ago

        Thanks Jessica! Look forward to more of your posts.

  23. kathy704 1 year ago

    This post matches my experience with Koi and Cotman. I’m happy enough with Cotman, and people keep giving me Koi so I keep using it.

    I’m wondering how you wash the cloth when used rather than paper towel for blotting. Do you throw it in the washer with a darks load? The main reason I don’t use cloth is I can’t figure out what the paint would do in a washing machine full of clothes. Or do you hand wash?

    Love this blog!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 1 year ago

      Hi Kathy! I would hand rinse the cloth first and then put it in the washing machine. I wouldn’t wash it with clothes though. Maybe with other dust rags, utility items and things like that. I love using the diaper as a brush wipe, it’s been working out very well. Thanks for your comment and happy painting!

  24. […] The Cotman Pocket set sold on their site, which is their student grade line, looks like it has gotten an upgrade.  A review of the Cotman Pocket Box pre-upgrade here. […]

  25. […] For the most part, I use a mix of Derwent watercolor pencils (Watercolor, Metallic watercolor, Graphitint and Inktense) but I occasionally use my Koi 24-color Water Color Field Sketch Kit. […]

  26. […] fountain pens or twig and chinese ink for the line art, then wash it with watercolor, mixed between Sakura Koi and Winsor & […]

  27. […] watercolor in the form of pans since I started my watercolor journey. My current favorites are Cotman by Winsor & Newton, and Gansai Tambi by Kuretake. I like the practical packaging of the 24 half pans Cotman. So, I can […]

  28. […] mainly still using my old student grade paints which are Pentel Watercolors. Sometimes I also use Sakura Koi Watercolors or mix it with gouache paints for a more opaque result or Finetec for metallic effect. As for the […]

  29. […] mainly still using my old student grade paints which are Pentel Watercolors. Sometimes I also use Sakura Koi Watercolors or mix it with gouache paints for a more opaque result or Finetec for metallic effect. As for the […]

  30. […] of Reeve’s watercolour tubes, I put them on the paper far too thickly, and fell in love anyway. A box of Cotman paints followed. I gained confidence in applying washes and mixing colours, and took the next steps on a […]

  31. […] Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor pack (36 in a pan) […]

  32. […] inside my heart to learn how to paint with watercolors. Later on, I asked my sister to buy me Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors because I’ve heard they are pretty decent paint and they are good for beginners. […]

  33. […] pens in Moleskine Watercolor journals, landscape orientation, approximately 8 x 5”. I was using Koi Watercolors with a waterbrush. Moleskine paper changed and I tried Stillman & Birn Beta Series journals and […]

  34. […] post is the start of a series on travel palettes.  I guess that really started with the Koi & Cotman sets, so onward. Next we have the Grace Art Model 118 18-piece Water Colors Field Sketch Set with […]

  35. […] I use Strathmore or Canson Aquarelle cold press paper for my simpler paintings.  Recently I picked up some Fabriano hot press paper which I really like.  It can take everything I throw at it.  Some day I hope to be good enough to try Arches as I hear that is the very best paper.  Last year I splurged and bought myself Pure Kolinski watercolour brushes.  Sizes 000,0,01 and 9.  I LOVE those brushes.  My paints are Holbein Artists Watercolors, a set of 12.  Owning some Daniel Smith paints is a dream that one day may come true.  When we are on the boat I have a travel set of Koi watercolours. […]

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