Review: Kuretake Ai

 Of all the art trends I see on Youtube, the art subscription boxes remain my favorite, purely because I love experimenting and trying new mediums that I haven’t before. These subscription boxes also have the added benefit, ideally, in that the contents contained within have been curated and tested to work together. This isn’t full-proof, however.
Full disclaimer: I was not provided any free boxes by any art subscription companies; everything was paid for by me, out of my own pocket. My opinions are my own.

Someday I hope to go over the big subscription boxes in detail, but for now I wanted to review and recount what product made me fed up with Art Snacks, in particular. Art Snacks, already, is my least favorite of all the subscription boxes, in no small part due to the fact their included contents often don’t go together, and even worse, they love to provide oversized paint markers that barely work in a sketchbook setting.
That being said, the Kuretake Ai seemed promising – when I received it in the box, I was fairly familiar with other Kuretake/Zig products, and according to Art Snacks, this was a new release at the time. It being straight from Japan, the pen has almost no English on it, so I am at the mercy of Art Snack’s description. According to them, this pen was made to mimic eyeliner and other makeup brushes, thus its claim to fame was its extremely fine brush and compact size, much smaller than any other standard liner or brush pen. I can only suspect the ‘Ai’ comes from the word ‘Eye’ due to its makeup origins, but this is pure speculation on my part.

This pen was a huge disappointment for me.

A photo of some of the swatches I've taken testing various pens, brushes, and fineliners.
A sampling of my pens and swatches. The name of the pen is followed by a colored circle and a colored square. The circle is tested with watercolor, the square with alcohol marker.

I‘m no expert with brush pens, my control over them is clunky at best, but in going over all my collection to double check this review, I swatched 30+ pens across companies, brush and fineliner alike, and this pen is by far the worst of them. Its fine line might be its selling point, but for as fine a line as it produces, its ink takes much, much longer to dry. Even a single stroke seemed to take over a minute to dry, and it by far was the slowest drying pen of mine. This is a huge setback, as being left-handed, a quick drying pen, especially a liner, is indispensable. Already weakened by this, I gave it all the time in the world to dry so I could move on to my tests with Alcohol markers and Watercolor.

Normally when I test pens, I use very light colors. I find if any alcohol marker is going to make a pen bleed, it’s going to be yellow (about the only thing that color is good for), but in this test I used one of my innumerable browns. Only a handful of my other liners failed the alcohol marker test, wherein I repeatedly colored over a small square of ink that had been left to dry. The Kuretake Ai failed, however, giving it a second strike.

It also failed with watercolor, which is far more common amongst the pens I have, as many are actually used for calligraphy where ink is not water resistant. If it were not for the alcohol marker failing and the slow drying ink, I could accept this pen amongst my other none-watercolor safe pens. And besides, there was a failsafe medium that I could

Kuretake Ai Swatch Vs. Other Pen Swatches showing it is not water and alcohol proof
Kuretake Ai Swatch compared to the not waterproof Kuretake ZIG Cocoiro swatch.

always turn to when a pen didn’t play well with alcohol or water: Colored Pencil.

That’s right, this is my first and only pen that seems to hate water, alcohol, and colored pencil, even after it has been allowed to dry – which already, it takes a long time to do. And because of that, there’s simply no use for this pen for me, no redeeming qualities at all, and seeing Kuretake say it’s water and alcohol proof on their site feels like an insult.


Final Kuretake AI Swatch
Final Kuretake AI Swatch, showing smudging with all three mediums.

If you like my review or want to read another artist’s take on this pen, check out Kiriska’s review.

About Klomonx

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