Koi Watercolor Sketch Box

The Koi Watercolor Sketch Box Travel Pan Sets (Phew!) are light, sturdy, compact and include everything you’ll need for for doing quick sketches in the field.

They’re also affordable, making them a perfect starter set for budding artists.


couple of years ago my daughter, Miss Kate, wanted a set of paints for Christmas, so instead of going for a cheap set of Crayola watercolors, I got her the Koi Watercolor Postcard (24 color) Sketch Box. It was a good choice.

She was 10 at the time and interests change quickly at that age so, while I wanted to get her a quality set of watercolors, I didn’t want to spend too much on what may have proven to be a short-lived phase.

The set includes a wide variety of colors to choose from, it’s very compact, comes with a water brush that fits inside the closed case for a relatively mess-free experience, and at around $20, the price really can’t be beat for a starter set of watercolors.  Most importantly, she was (and still is) a serious budding artist who deserves serious tools.

She loved it and she still uses it.

I was so impressed with her little Sketch Box, especially with its convenience, that when I finally decided that I needed a set of travel watercolors I went with the same set.

Basic Features

Koi Postcard Half Pan Watercolor Sketch Box

The Sketch Boxes come in two sizes; the 18 half pan compact set, which you can see in the main photo above, and the 24 half pan postcard set.

Both sets come in a cleverly designed box that includes everything you need for watercolor sketching on the go.

They have five mixing wells in two sizes molded into the lid and include sponges and a travel-size water brush that fits neatly inside the box. No fuss, no muss… just easy pack and go convenience. I love it!

The Pros

  • Extremely convenient and portable. They’re excellent for travel or even as a quick go-to for sketching in your art journal.
  • Plenty of bright, beautiful and vibrant colors.
  • The colors can be reworked easily after they dry, which isn’t the case with some of my other watercolor options that fit within the same price-range.
  • They play extremely well with other mediums, which makes them nice for mixed media and art journals.
  • Comes with it’s own water brush especially designed to fit into the case, which has a rubber(ish) stopper so you don’t have to empty the reservoir when you take it apart to put it away.
  • The case is sturdy… not “sit it on the ground and drop a boulder on it” sturdy, but what is?
  • The colors look great and behave exactly as you would expect on non-textured or very lightly textured paper and cardstock.
  • Either set is very affordable, so if you feel like slurging on all 24 colors… go ahead!

The Cons

  • On heavily textured and toothy paper, if you use too little water the color goes on thick & gloopy but if you use too much water the pigment separates out and becomes grainy.  This is, in my experience, how most student grade watercolors behave, so it shouldn’t be taken as a bad reflection of the brand.  If you keep these qualities in mind while using them you may find that you achieve some interesting results rather than being disappointed.  Conversely, these qualities can be seen as good thing, depending on what you are going for.
  • The water brush is a just a tad bit cranky about being taken apart. I might be being nit-picky here but it is a pain in the patootie to unscrew it in the car… and yes, I do on occasion work in the car… even while it’s move… of course not when I’m the one driving.

Overall Opinion

The Koi Watercolor Sketch Box Travel Pan Sets (Phew!) are a nice choice for working on the go. They’re light, sturdy, compact, and include everything you’ll need. Mine fits perfectly in a front pocket of my field bag, ready to go when I am.

The watercolors have a fairly high pigment level and come out smooth and vibrant on paper with very little texture, such as cardstock, but  I’m not impressed with how they interact with thicker, toothier paper.  For me this isn’t a huge issue because they are so easily reworked with other media (such as Inktense pencils or blocks) and because I only use them specifically for quick field sketches in my art journal rather than permanent display pieces.

They do look absolutely lovely on smooth paper and cardstock, so even though I haven’t yet, I can see myself using them on Artist Trading Cards.

Also, they are really affordable. I like affordable art supplies!

You can pick them up at Dick Blick for between $15 and $21 depending on which set you get.  If you find them for less, please let me know!

Final Verdict

These are good quality student grade watercolors for new artists or even more experienced artists who want something that’s going to be easy to take along for quick sketches or for working in thier art journals. They aren’t perfect and they won’t behave like artist quality watercolors, so don’t expect them to and you’ll be far happier with the results.

Unless you’re really space constrained, I’d recommend picking up the Postcard set as it’s only $6 more.