Art is love, art is life -- especially in Japan.
It could be the sweeping grandeur of a Hokusai woodblock print from times gone by, or the raw ink lines of a modern-day action manga -- whatever the medium and whatever the audience, there's no denying that artistry in Japan knows no bounds.
Naturally, with such a storied history of art under its belt, what better place to source art supplies for your next creative endeavor than Japan itself?
To that end you'll definitely want to check out Nicker Colour, an art supplies company that has been serving the art community for more than 70 years.
Read on to find out more about Nicker and what makes it so special!
NB: We'll be using the official "Colour" spelling when referring to the company and its products, and our usual US spelling of "color" in general notation.
What is Nicker Colour?
Nicker Colour is a Tokyo-based manufacturer of art materials and other creative goodies. Since its founding in 1945, its wide variety of watercolor paints, poster colors, and acrylic gouaches have garnered praise from casual artists and community figureheads alike -- even Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy (and widely regarded as the Father of Manga)!
One of the main ways in which industry professionals use Nicker Colour's watercolors is background art for Japanese animation (anime). A recent amazing example is the rich, magical scenery shots in Ranking of Kings from the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 anime season!
Trusted by industry legends
Nicker has a longstanding working relationship with Studio Ghibli, makers of animated film classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and 2002's Oscar-winning (not to mention history-making) masterpiece Spirited Away. In fact, its poster colors have been a part of Ghibli's production process for backgrounds and set pieces since at least 1985, when the studio first opened its doors!
Here's some translated comments from Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki himself (made during a Nicker visit to the studio in 2019) that emphasize just how trusted Nicker is in the art and animation industry:
"Whenever we're out of Nicker's poster colors, the going really gets tough. We're always at a loss for what to do without them around."
You can't get a much better endorsement than that!
As many of you can no doubt attest to, the beautiful thing about art is that it's very community driven. Collaboration, education, appreciation -- the importance and joy of interpersonal relationships really take center stage when it comes to creative works.
Nicker Colour obviously is no exception to this community focus, with four active social media channels dedicated to sharing their love of art with people around the world:
Each account makes perfect use of the respective platform's bells and whistles. If you're in the mood for some down-to-earth conversation and engagement, head on over to the team's official Twitter page; if aesthetic appreciation is more your thing, you'll definitely want to give its Instagram account a follow.
A particularly good example of Nicker's community-driven activities is its YouTube account, which posts painting videos and detailed tutorials for the benefit of both budding artists and seasoned veterans.
Nicker Colour has been producing and providing art materials for the community for generations.
Here's a short look back at its journey over the years, with several key moments in Japan's art scene added for context.
|1947||NICKER brand established. Named after parent company Nihonka Tetsu.|
|1950||Nicker Poster Colour hits the market with 40 colors (now 77).|
|1952||Nicker releases Japan's first opaque watercolor paints.|
|1963||Nicker releases Telop Colour 3.5, a gray hue for Astro's boots in black & white anime Astro Boy.|
|1967||Nicker Designers Colour hits the market with 40 colors (now 98).|
|1984||Nicker Acrylic Gouache hits the market with 63 colors (now 93).|
|1985||Studio Ghibli established. Ghibli artists go on to use Nicker Colour paints in their films.|
|1992||Nicker Design Sets for classrooms hit the market. Sets contain palettes, brushes, scales, and other tools.|
|2013||Nicker Colour joins the Nerima Animation Association.|
|2018||Classroom brand fun established. Brand sells Poster Colour and Acrylic Gouache packaged sets.|
|2019||Nicker headquarters moves to Taito Ward, Tokyo.|
|2021||Nicker paints are used in Fall 2021 anime Ranking of Kings.|
What does Nicker Colour sell?
Nicker Colour offers artists a bountiful collection of colors, implements, and other essential materials you'll need to bring all your ideas to life.
Whether you're an intrepid illustrator hoping to create the next Demon Slayer-esque comic book craze, or a passionate painter wanting to capture the beauty of natural scenery on your canvas, Nicker has got you covered.
We'll explore each product category in more detail in a future blog post, but for now read on to get a taste of what you can expect!
Paint is where it all began for Nicker Colour, so it's little surprise that the company offers a vast array of styles and colors to suit whatever artistic situation you find yourself in.
Here's a sneak peek at the types of paint that await!
- Poster Colour
Contains arabic gum and is easy to handle.
Number of colors available: 77
- Acrylic Gouache
Smooth, even color spread for a wonderful matte finish.
Number of colors available: 93
- Designers Colour
Premium pigments that blend well and produce amazing hues.
Colors available: 98
- Painters Gouache
Opaque watercolors made with gum arabic of the highest quality.
Colors available: 13
(Descriptions have been adapted from those on the official Nicker website.)
What is an artist without their tools?
Paint and paintbrushes obviously go hand in hand, so it makes perfect sense for the Nicker Colour store on ZenPlus to offer both.
Brushes come courtesy of Namura Taiseido, a renowned brush manufacturer in Tokyo that has been in business since 1940 -- so you can be sure you're getting professional craftsmanship and quality.
#3: Comic book supplies
Nicker doesn't just sell paints and paintbrushes. In what is yet another example of its focus on the art community as a whole, the company also carries a generous range of essential tools and materials for comic book illustrators as well.
From inks and color markers, to Kent paper and manga screens -- if you're big on art, but are more into VIZ than Van Gogh, then Nicker's collection of manga and comic book supplies will be right up your alley.
#4: Box sets
These sets are especially handy for students in a classroom setting or artists just starting out on their professional journeys. They provide a nice selection of the most essential goodies available at Nicker -- be it in terms of paint, brushes, comic book supplies, or a combination of all three.
Definitely the way to go if you're ever feeling a little overwhelmed at all the choices available!
Paint in practice
Who better to attest to the quality of Nicker Colour paints than professionals that use them on a daily basis?
Explore a variety of Nicker use cases and find out what its ambassador artists have to say about its products. We've included a sample of their works for reference as well.
Murals and public art
When you're creating art for the outside world, the final product isn't just subject to public review -- it's also at the mercy of Mother Nature herself. Understandably, that means the colors you use in your work need to be as resilient and as striking as possible.
Ken Sobajima -- whose portfolio includes public art for local governments, universities, and even Japan Railways -- is of the same view:
"[Nicker] is powder, it has a rough feel to it. As a whole, each colour is crisp and strong. That's why a lot of people who are new to my work think that they are traditional Japanese paintings. Because it has the same kind of rough texture. I paint all my paintings with black as a base. Even then, the coverage of the other colors is so strong that the base doesn't show through."
Calligraphy and typography
Lettering obviously requires brush strokes to be as precise as they can be, so it's important that the paint you're using has a nice amount of give.
Calligrapher and typographer John Williams -- whose designs have graced UK postage stamps, museum posters, and even the cover of TIME Magazine -- praises Nicker Colour watercolors for this very reason:
"Poster Colour is beneficial for beginners. As it is softer than normal gouache, one can control the paint easily. In my calligraphy seminars, all the students practice with Poster Colour instead of gouache because of ease of use."
Landscapes and backgrounds are a delightful blend of colors, shapes, and shadows, so the importance of fluidity when painting them is paramount.
Freelance artist Hideaki Kita has experience in Japanese anime as well as regular painting (he often uses Shonan, a picturesque coastal region in his native Kanagawa Preferecture, as a subject) and couldn't agree more:
"Nicker is the most used paint for anime backgrounds. I think it's easy to dissolve in water and to be applied. Maybe it's because arabic gum is used in it. The spread of the paint is also just right when the paper is wet."
Be the best artist you can be
If you're a budding background illustrator, a veteran of visual aesthetic, or simply an art aficionado, Nicker Colour's watercolors and art supplies are definitely worth adding to your toolset.
With glowing reviews from industry professionals and an approach to business that is undeniably community focused, Nicker is a brand you can truly trust to help you be the best artist you can be.
Tap or click the button below to browse the Nicker Colour store on ZenPlus and get your road to beautiful artistry underway!
Over to You!
What's your favorite art style in anime and manga?
What challenges have you faced in illustrating and painting?
Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)! We'd love to hear from you!
ZenPlus is your one-stop shop for all things Japanese. Check out our Toys, Hobbies & Games section for all the anime and manga merch you could possibly imagine!
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Thanks for reading!