ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Pens Kuretake Review Main Image

REVIEW: ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Pens

Traditional watercolor and brush are fabulous and convenient, but sometimes you want something even more convenient. Kuretake’s ZIG Clean Color Real Brush fills the need. These are brush pens filled with bright, beautiful water-based dye inks. They provide a rich palette of 90 colors. They are available in sets of many sizes and as individual pens.

Today, I’m reviewing the 90-color set.  Be sure to see the information at the end of the review about my giveaway of Kuretake’s Historic Art kits.


ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Pens – The 90-Color Set

ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Pen Packaging

The set comes in a plastic case. It’s suitable for storing the pens indefinitely, but is a bit flimsy.

ZIG Clean Color Plastic Case Closeup

The case is set up with sections that hold five pens per section.  This makes it easy to keep your pens in order, and keeps them from all shifting around in the box.

The Pens

Single ZIG Clean Color watercolor brush pen

Each pen has a tip with an extremely fine point.

ZIG Clean Color Brush Pen Tip Closeup

The tips are made of individual polyester bristles.

Mark making — dots, dabs, strokes, scumbles or streaks. These pens are great for just about any kind of artwork, including but not limited to, calligraphy, urban sketching, or fine art.

ZIG Clean Color Pen Tip Lid Closeup

The pens have safety caps meeting ISO standards.

ZIG Clean Color Tea Rose Pen

Each pen is labeled with the color name.

The water-based dye used in these brush pens is Xylene free — that means no stink! It disperses easily in water.

They are AP-Certified (Approved Product), which means they have undergone a toxicological evaluation, and been certified by a medical expert as non-toxic and unlikely to be dangerous, or to cause acute or chronic health problems.

The bottom and tip of the pen are color-coordinated to the color of the pen.  The match of pen to actual color is one of the better that I’ve seen, though not totally accurate.

They can be used as pens, or like watercolor. A blender also comes with this set, meaning you don’t need to carry water when traveling.

Kuretake recommends that you keep them out of direct sunlight.

The Colors

ZIG Clean Color Brush Pens Watercolor Color Chart

All the colors are transparent  Some are so light you can barely see them — great for shades of white. Some are dark enough at masstone* that they are opaque, but lighten to transparency with water. *Masstone-the color straight from the pen with no added water.

The mix of bright to dull is good. There are some great flesh tones.

Some care is needed when adding water, because the colors can be diluted to nothing. Fortunately, if you are using decent paper, you can let the ink dry, and simply color over any such accidents. I found this out the hard way.

There is some color shift when you add water. Water-based dyes usually have the most lightening of color from wet to dry. You can control this somewhat by controlling the amount of color and how much water you add.

The ink is not lightfast — water-based dye inks usually are not. That said, a lot of things make a difference, the acidity of the paper, the acidity of the air, how much light, and the list goes on. I scan or photograph all my work, and don’t worry about lightfastness unless I’m making a gift or plan to hang my work on the wall.

How Do I Use ZIG Clean Color Brush Pens?

You can use these brush pens just like any marker type pen, by drawing and coloring on paper.

Or you can add water with a separate brush, and use them like watercolors.

You can mix colors in more than one way.

Touch the tip of one pen to another one, then color to get a gradient effect.

The tips are self-cleaning. You can brush off left-over color on a piece of scrap paper.

You can blend the colors on another surface.

Scribble onto a flat, non-porous surface (plastic, glass, etc), place the paper over it and press down to pick up the color.  You can also add some water to get smoother blending.

The set comes with a blender pen. You can scribble some of the colors you want to blend, then work them together with the blender.

My favorite way is to just add color — not to fill it in, but to create part of a shape. Then I brush with a damp or wet brush, depending on how far I want to stretch the color, and how much I want to lighten it.

Once I’ve blended and lightened the colors to my satisfaction, I let the painting dry. Then I add more color.

I can let dry again, add more color, lift color, and blend  more color. These steps can be repeated as long as the paper holds up.

I think my finished piece looks like someone cleaning out a closet. Or is it only my closets that look like this?


For this example, I mostly used color directly from the pens and only used water where I wanted to soften edges.

With this example, I learned that you can totally wash out the color when you accidentally drop a big glop of water on your painting.

And ugly? I almost cried. That wider area between the two windsurfers on the left, all the way back to the cliff was washed out. But, you know, it’s almost a universal fix with watercolor — just let it dry, and color over it. If your paper is good, you can almost always fix the problem, and these brush pens did a fabulous job.

For this last example, I used all the techniques discussed above, as well as a lot of color-lifting and I did several layers of color, working and blending them together.

Kuretake also sent me three of their Historic Art kits, and I’m giving away two sets at my blog (U.S. only, sorry).  You can find the giveaway here.

ZIG Clean Color Brush Pens – Overall

The Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush pen has a finely tapered tip of individual polyester bristles. They are extremely flexible allowing a wide range of marks and techniques. It takes a little practice to determine how much pressure you need to get the marks and color coverage that you want. However, this isn’t difficult to do, and these pens are good for beginners and professionals alike.

About Kuretake

Established in 1902 at Nara in Japan, Kuretake Co., Ltd. is recognized as a manufacturer of high quality writing instruments, inks and Arts & Craft products.

ZIG, a name coined from the word ‘zigzag’, that represents the fluid back and forth motion of writing, was developed to respond to the need for low-priced, high quality stationery during Japan’s 1970s recession.

Today, ZIG products are a global brand sold in over 80 countries around the world.

You can follow Kuretake for news of their fine products at:



I was given this 90-color set of ZIG Clean Color Real Brush for purposes of this review and three sets of their Historic Art sets. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support the Doodlewash community. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

17 thoughts on “REVIEW: ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Pens

  1. Great review and beautiful sample art! I’ve seen modern calligraphers rave about the bristles… They are more expensive than the Tombow markers so I haven’t bought them yet. I do have their dot markers I use for planners. I wonder if they are the same ink…

  2. Bonjour Sandra, mon premier commentaire, j’aime beaucoup vos parutions, vos explications, vos photos, vous m’avez permis d’acheter de bons produits, ou d’essayer de nouv elles techniques, merci – j’ai essayé d’aller sur vôtre blog, pour m’y inscrire, comme sur une newletter, un abonnement en français, mais je n’y suis pas arrivé, pour être avertei de ce qui se passe sur vôtre blog il faut que je fasse comment ?

  3. Wonder-filled review! And your art, awesome as always! I’ve wondered and contemplated about trying the inks and this seems like a tidy way to give it a whirl. Do you think watercolor sheets and inks are comparable? I’m just leaning how to use them. Thanks for all the time and effort in review, it really helps me broaden (and narrow) a few things🤗

    1. Thank you, Nellie! I don’t think you can do as many techniques with the brush pens as with traditional watercolor, and the pens probably wouldn’t hold up to rougher watercolor paper as well as watercolor brushes. But for convenience and simpler watercolor techniques they are just as good.

  4. These pens look like so much fun to use and to experiment with. For me the final test would be how long each pen lasts because if I only got a few small paintings, I’m not sure I’d be pleased. But I like the way you played with them and got many interesting results. As always, Sandra, an excellent and complete review.

    1. The pens are fairly small, so they don’t hold a lot of ink. On the other hand, a little of the color goes a long way. I don’t think I would use them for large works, but I suspect you’d get more than a few smaller paintings. A lot would depend on how you used them, though.

  5. Hola, Sandra! I just took the long way around your blog looking for the giveaway. I found it! haha haha I do rubber stamping and these are super popular with stampers like me. Awesome review and awesome art, too. You’re very talented, Sandra.

Leave Me A Comment!