Sakura Koi Brush Pen Review: Great For Sketching & Coloring

Last Updated on March 22, 2024 by Masha Eretnova

I’m terrible at lettering and calligraphy but I love painting and drawing. I decided to try something new and I was always curious about brush pens – to me, it sounds like a mix of a brush and a marker!

So I’ve bought 2 sets of Sakura brush pens and I will test them today to write this Sakura Koi Brush Pen Review so you can find some details and real swatches.

Sakura Koi Brush Pen Review
The two sets I got to write this Sakura Koi Brush Pen Review

This article contains affiliate links. It means no extra cost for you but a little commission (2-3%) for me to support my hobby and blog. Thank you!

Sakura Koi Brush Pen Characteristics

I have two sets of Sakura coloring brush pens: A basic set of 6 colors and a Portrait set of 6 colors.

I wanted to buy a 24 or 48-color pack that has all the nuances but the store simply didn’t have it and I was impatient to wait for an online order πŸ™

I also separately bought a black, and light cool gray color for testing. So in total I have 14 colors of Sakura coloring brush pens.

SAKURA Koi Coloring Brush Pens – Watercolor Brush…
  • Bright, Blendable Colors in a Brush: Brush pens for lettering and coloring with no mess
  • Flexible Nib: Brush pen has a flexible tip will quickly spring back to its original shape
  • Non-Toxic: This brush set bears the trusted AP seal and meets ACMI non-toxicity standards
  • Blendable Colors: Water-based ink allows blending with the Koi colorless blender pen or with the a few drops of water with the Koi water brushes
  • High-Quality, Every Time: Our Japanese quality Sakura pens deliver beautiful results every time

My First Impression

Sakura Koi coloring brush pens are indeed amazing for coloring as they have bright, vivid colors in a range of 48 from different shades of gray and skin colors to bold primary colors.

They are safe to use, non-toxic, easy to wash off, have no smell, and are great for students, and beginners.

The Sakura Koi brush pens are popular for coloring, journaling, handwriting, and drawing.

Brush tip

Brush tips are synthetic, rather flexible but not too much.

sakura koi brush pen review tips
Sakura koi brush pen tips

Sakura Koi brush pen Color chart

Sakura koi brush pen Color chart
Official Sakura Koi brush pens color chart made by Sakura brand.

I have 14 colors and these are my swatches. One layer of color, two layers of color, and some attempt for hand lettering (I’m more of a drawing person so forgive me for my calligraphy, this is solely for color testing purposes).

sakura koi brush pen review colors
Colors swatch from the Portrait set
sakura koi brush pen review colors
Colors from the Basic set

I like how you adjust the intensity and darkness with the second layer. But be careful, if you will go over and over one spot the paper will start losing fibers.

The colors appear darker to me than I expect them to be based on the lid color. They dry quite dark as well.


Sakura Koi brush pens are not lightfast at all, they fade pretty fast if exposed to natural light. They’re also not water-resistant or waterproof.

You can make them work as watercolors if you will use a wet brush over the color:

sakura koi brush pen review water soluble
Sakura Koi brush pens’ colors are water-soluble

Blending colors and mixing

Sakura brush pens are stated to be easy to blend but I’m not sure I agree with this. They are quite transparent and I feel like all the edges between blended colors are still visible.

But as they are water-soluble, I think we can try to blend them better using a wet brush.

sakura koi brush pen review blending
I tried to blend and layer them next to each other…

Some colors are transparent and if you are using them to color something they will leave marks and it is impossible to make the finished drawing look cute, I had those with all browns. Yellow seems fine.

sakura koi brush pen review
Quick test drawings I made with Sakura Koi.

I think with Sakura watercolor the results would be better. I’m not getting these pastel shades I hoped for or the light subtle colors I grabbed Portrait set for…The portrait set colors seem too dark when dry for drawing skin.

Read also: Honest Pentel Watercolor Review [12 Colors Set]

Transparency / Opacity

All colors are absolutely transparent. No matter how many layers you will apply over a darker color, the new layer won’t be visible. So only work from light to dark and draw in blocks, placing colors next to each other.

Normally we test opacity over black color:

sakura koi brush pen review transparency
Sakura koi brush pens’ colors are transparent

But I also wanted to share that even though indeed all colors are transparent, darker pigments will overpower more transparent pigments:

sakura koi brush pen review opacity

Thin and thick lines

Yes, Sakura can make thinner lines but they are not as thin as you would expect, so detailed works are probably not the best.

sakura koi brush pen review lines
Lines with all colors I have

Drawing Test

how to draw a capybara
I used a Sakura coloring brush pen (Portrait set) to draw this cure capybara

From what I feel using these coloring brush pens, you are best to use them for:

  • Writing, Hand lettering, only larger scale as Sakura brush pens don’t do nice thin lines
  • Journaling
  • Drawing some small-scaled things like animals, flowers, small illustrations, and food.

They work on watercolor, and mixed media paper, but are best on smooth papers with no texture. They don’t bleed through watercolor paper (I used Canson)

Use them without pressure, the strokes are nice.

The coverage is probably not as good as Sharpie markers but very good. When wet Sakura brushes show all strokes you make and it looks bad, but when it’s dry it looks better.

sakura vs sharpie

Sakura Koi coloring brush pens vs Tombow dual brush pens

Sakura and Tombow are very similar to each other, both water-based, dye-based coloring brush pens. Durability is also the same – both hate direct sunlight and water and are not permanent, unlike many alcohol-based markers. But there are a few differences:

  • The total color range is almost twice as big with Tombow (the biggest sets are Tombow 96 blender pen colors vs Sakura 48 colors)
  • Tombow brush pens’ nibs seem to be more flexible, as they are a little bit longer than
  • The biggest difference is that Tombow is a dual-tip brush pen, while Sakura only has one.
  • Tombow is more expensive than Sakura.

I’m often traveling and lately, I’ve been mostly in Asia, here I see Sakura brand more often than Tombow. It is practically impossible to secure all color ranges of Tombow. So that would be also a difference but a very specific one as it is not related to the US market πŸ™‚

My Verdict

I think Sakura brush pens have the potential for journaling and simplistic drawings, but I think the colors are too bright and dry too dark, or leave marks that aren’t good for coloring or detailed realistic drawings.

They work more as water-based markers with a brush tip for me. Fun to play around but I wouldn’t consider them to be a serious art supply on their own.

However, They do work fantastically paired with a wet brush for watercolor-like paintings! The bigger sets have more value in such cases.

Last update on 2024-07-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1 thought on “Sakura Koi Brush Pen Review: Great For Sketching & Coloring”

  1. This is exactly what I needed to read today Your words have provided me with much-needed reassurance and comfort


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