The Art Gear Guide  

The Art Gear Guide is your one stop shop for the most recent, up to date, honest reviews on all your favourite art supply products. 


Tom Bow Irojiten

Tom Bow Irojiten

TomBow Irojiten Colored Pencil Review 

TomBow is a Japanese company, originally setup back in 1913, from this date on, TomBow have been producing cutting edge art supplies at mid table affordable prices. This may be a stereotypical comment to make, however I don't intend it to be, but the Japanese as a culture are immensely hard working and invest so much pride into their work that the end results are immaculate and TomBow is no exception to this. 

I personally think that in this review of the TomBow Irojiten, I will demonstrate this perfect attention to detail and TomBow's ability to not only make an art product practical and useful for its primary use, but also aesthetically stunning to the point of not knowing whether to create art with them or prominently display them in your home or studio as a focal point. 

I would also like to explain the packaging a little bit, because there is a reason behind the style of packaging that TomBow have opted for. The word Irojiten, is Japanese for "Dictionary of Color", hence the book like format of the packaging. The Irojiten Colored Pencils really are a dictionary of color, sat waiting to be used.   

Irojiten Packaging 

The first talking point of the TomBow Irojiten has to be the absolutely beautiful packaging. I know some of you may not find this relevant, for which I apologise, however, packaging is important for two reasons, the primary being the overall protection of the pencils and then the aesthetics of the packaging making them marketable to those perhaps not as knowledgable as your average colored pencil artist. 

The first thing that is instantly recognisable is the book format the pencils are housed in. There are three sets and in each set there are three volumes, of which I will talk about further on in the review. This book format, for all colored pencil artists is instantly recognisable as TomBow Irojiten pencils. On the same principle, if a customer walked into an art supply store, looking for artist quality colored pencils and was their first time doing so, I think the vast majority of customers would gravitate to the TomBow Irojiten initially on the bases of how the packaging looks. Of course the idea behind the packaging I have already explained. I don't normally reference packaging as much as I am with the Irojiten, however, for these particular pencils, it is a big talking point. 

TomBow Irojiten Sets and Volumes 

The TomBow Irojiten colored pencil range total's 90 colors, however, they are slightly differently to other colored pencil manufactures. There are three sets in total with each set being referred to as a dictionary of color, however they also have names, indicating the type of colours you would expect to find in a particular set. The sets are called Seascape, Rainforest and Woodland

Inside each set, is three volumes, with each volume containing 10 TomBow Irojiten colored pencils. As with the sets, each volume has a name and they are also numbered one to nine. The Volume names are as follows; within the Rainforest set, starts Volume 1 Pale Tone 1, Volume 2 Vivid Tone 1 and Volume 3 Deep Tone 1. The second set, Woodland contains the following, Volume 4 Pale Tone II, Volume 5 Deep Tone II and Volume 6 Light Greyish Tone 1. Finally we have the Seascape set, which happens to be the set I have personally and will be reviewing in this review, Volume 7 Fluorescence, Volume 8 Very Pale Tone and last but by no means least, Volume 9 Dull Tone. 

I know this may at first appear a little bit confusing as they are not lined up in the traditional sense of sets of 24, 36, 48, 72, 120 etc, however, to see the sets in the flesh so to speak, you will see them and fully understand the system TomBow have adapted. 

Irojiten Pencils

Even the individual pencils stand out among my hundreds of gorgeous multicoloured or wood cased pencils, even from a distance, the TomBow Irojiten pencil can be spotted either lone laying on the studio desk or grouped in a jar. 

Each pencil is lacquered with a soft white, gloss and each pencil proudly displays an inch long flash at the end of the white gloss barrel, indicating the core pigment. Perhaps mindfully or completely unintentionally, each pencil, seems to extract the faintest hint of the core color and dabs it throughout the white gloss barrel, the reflective nature of the gloss, makes each individual pencil appear to adopt the faintest hue of color from the end display flash. 

The pure brilliant whiteness of the pencils when bunched together in a jar or container with he cores pointed skywards, makes each core appear like a beacon of light, collectively appearing like a string of Christmas tree fairy lights. 

The pencil itself is round, which I know can be an issue for some artists, especially those with slightly tilted desks. Along one side of the pencil; and yes I know they are round and so technically don't have a side, but for the purpose of this review, lets pretend I have redefined shapes; is the TomBow logo along with an alphanumerical code, this code marks the colour classification of the individual pencil. On the opposite side is the color name and another alphanumerical code, followed by the Irojiten brand printed on the end color flash.

Color Palette

The color palette of the TomBow Irojiten range is really quite unique, within the 90 colors included in the total range, they have included a wide range of fluorescent colors, which are surprisingly attractive. I say surprisingly because on occasions were sets have included metallic colors, I have been less than impressed with those, but not so with these. 

However, it is not just the fluorescent colors that are quite special in this set, there is an excellent selection of pastel, earth and aqua type colors available.

Full 90 Irojiten Color Chart 


I personally love these pencils, as I have mentioned in the past, when I am writing about specific information about the pencils, I always go directly to the pencil manufacturer; however, in the interest of research, I read other reviews, comments on Amazon and E-bay from others who have purchased a particular pencil. I have to say that with the TomBow Irojiten, the opinion is really quite mixed. 

TomBow Irojiten Colored Pencil Test 

TomBow Irojiten Colored Pencil Test 

The core is quite hard, but color application is still quite nice, of the 30 set I own, some of the colors lay down better than , for instance, in the test I've illustrated, the pink and purple laid down beautifully but not so much with the orange and green. When it came to the layering test I complete, by the forth and fifth layers, there was resistance, creating a tacky layer.  but after a bit of solvent, you were good to layer up again. Incidentally, the paper I've used to test the TomBow Irojiten pencils on is Derwent's Sketching Paper, which is quite a toothy paper and being made by a pencil company, this paper is in my opinion perfect for colored pencil application. 

There is no getting round the fact that the TomBow Irojiten are not the type of pencil you would embark on a large commissioned piece for. The lightfast rating is not high enough, although when I spoke to TomBow they mentioned that "Volume 2 the Vivid Tones and Volume 7 the Fluorescence colors should be more resistant to light than other Irojiten colors", which as you can gather is not a definitive stance on high lightfast ratings. 


In my original review of the Tom Bow Irojiten, I wrote that the pencils did not come open stock, this was a mistake on my part. I spoke to Tom Bow about this as I do with every review I write, however, I spoke to Tom Bow Europe. So when I asked them if Tom Bow sell the pencils open stock, they said no, which of course is right for Europe but not America. So for those of you living in America, you can purchase the Tom Bow Irojiten open stock, however, for those of us living in Europe, at the time of writing this review, they do not sell open stock pencils. I apologise to those of you who have read my review in COLORED PENCIL Magazine, were of course, we are unable to rectify my mistake and so I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.   

That being said, I personally would recommend that every colored pencil artist, from the highest graded artist to the adult coloring book enthusiast, should definitely, at the very least, own one set of these pencils if not them all. For the adult colouring book market they are perfect but I just can't help but love these pencils, despite the two down sides mentioned regarding open stock and lightfastness.


Pricing for the TomBow Irojiten was incredibly difficult to establish, I normally try to include the Amazon pricing for Australia and only today I realised that for some reason, when I bring up Amazon Australia, it only gives me information for books, music and apps, here in the UK, which is obviously why I haven't been able to get prices for other items in the past. 

For either one of the sets, here in Amazon UK you will be expected to pay approximately £20, which I think it fantastic value. They used to be so much more expensive and in fairness, there are still some places charging £40- £50 for a single set. 

In the US Amazon, it is a similar pricing structure, approximately $25 - $30 for a single set and then Amazon Europe is about €27 per set or a little bit more. 




Spectrum Noir Aqua Blend

Spectrum Noir Aqua Blend

Derwent Graphite Pencil Review

Derwent Graphite Pencil Review