IRKA Watercolor Pencils Review

Visual Appeal
Overall Ranking

IRKA Watercolor Pencils

48 count pack

wax core

hexagonal barrel



Nice Color Variety

Core is Plenty Tough

Deep Color Tones Possible


Can be Tough to Blend

Somewhat Flimsy Packaging

Check Current Prices on Amazon


IRKA Watercolor Pencils Review

Last updated by Brandon F. on September 1, 2023

One of our readers recently sent us a set of these to review.  Honestly, we had never heard of IRKA up to this point and we are always looking to try new colored pencils so we happily accepted!  Upon inspection, these are re-branded AIHAO Sweet Secret Colored Pencils. Rebranding pencils from a manufacturer is pretty common and many of the very large pencil companies do this so there is no need for concern and it would be somewhat odd if that wasn’t the case!

Visual Appeal – 3.5/5

For being a 48-pack set, there is a pretty good variety of colors.  In particular, there is a nice representation of greens and blues as well as several pencils with a refreshing orange tone.  The core is somewhat hard, so color application is governed by how hard you push down.  

If you gently push down you aren’t going to get much color but with a harder application, the tones are quite deep and vivid.  This stood out in the brighter colors such as the oranges and yellows.  We didn’t see quite the level of deep blacks and browns you get with some of the softer pencils on the market, but that is pretty typical of the harder wax cores.

In regards to color manipulation, it was a very slow process when water was applied.  It might be a bit TOO slow for our liking.  The color intensity was somewhat difficult to spread with water and non-existent without water.  You can achieve successful blending after several passes but this might be a bit too much work for some. 

While researching we did notice that there is a “watercolor” variety of AIHAO pencils while the set we received is simply labeled “colored pencils”.  We aren’t sure if there is a difference between the two and further research would need to be performed, but this could explain the relative difficulty in blending with water.  The positive in this is that it means you have plenty of control when you do blend and you shouldn’t have to worry about overshooting the color or depth you are aiming for.

Usability and Durability – 3.5/5

As mentioned above, the lead is relatively hard but the application is quite smooll considering.  We didn’t experience the grainy feeling you sometimes get with harder cores.  Also as discussed earlier, the application can be a bit laborious when you are applying blending techniques, and if you are anticipating trying to spread color using water be prepared to have to work at it for a while. 

The hard core makes it easy to do light passes in areas you only want to add a subtle color.  When sharpening, it wasn’t too difficult to form a good point and the point seemed to be tough enough to handle moderate to aggressive application pressure without breaking.

Packaging and Presentation – 2.5/5

The pencils themselves are quite bare.  The hexagonal barrel is color-matched to the color of the core.  Silver lettering is stamped on the outside that designates the brand and model type.  The case it comes in is a cheap plastic flap that is quite flimsy and makes it easy for pencils to stack up on top of each other when opened.  IRKA did add a nice touch in including a dozen coloring pages and a water brush to help you get the hang of using them, however.

Cost – 3/5

These pencils are currently online in the mid-ranged price tier.  There are a lot of colored pencils that fall in this tier, so they are definitely up against a lot of competition.  There are some high points and low points for these pencils.  So, at their price point, they are sort of “middle of the road” for us.

Overall Ranking – 3.5/5

This watercolor pencil set honestly acts a bit more like a traditional colored pencil than watercolor, but in this case, that isn’t a bad thing necessarily.  There is a nice color variety out of the box and color application can be easily controlled, with heavy hand pressure resulting in an impressive and vivid tone that rivals many of the premium brands on the market.  However, blending, particularly when water is applied, is a bit too difficult which means that you are going to have to make at least a couple of passes to likely get the color depth you are looking for.

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