The IKEA MÅLA colored pencil set is part of the furniture brand’s healthy collection of arts and crafts supplies for children. Are these chunky, kid-friendly color pencils a good tool for adult artists and enthusiasts? We put the Ikea color pencils through their paces and see they hold up for more exacting use.
Reviewing IKEA MALA Colored Pencils
Vishal: Hello and welcome to the 50th episode of Stationery Test Drive, where we take ordinary tools, like these very ordinary tools today, and we take them on artistic test drives. I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Vishal: And yes, today we have the Ikea Mala Color Pencils. If you have been to an Ikea, you have seen these pencils in the kids section and whether you have kids or not you’ve seen this set and thought, “they look kind of chunky and nice and kind of oversized!”
Samir and Minjal, why don’t you tell us more about these things?
Minjal: When Ikea launched in India, the first store opened in Hyderabad, I remember planning a trip with my parents to Hyderabad just to visit the store.
When I was there I made it a point to first visit the kids section. And they have a very impressive range of stationery objects for children.
Vishal: Well, we’re also children at heart. We’re artists and designers and calligraphers and yes, definitely stationary heads.
I haven’t been to the Hyderabad one but when I went to the one in Dubai they had adult stationery for a while but their kid section has always been around for the last 20 or something years and yes it is a great source for stationery.
Samir: I think a lot of their stationery stuff is for kids for kids or almost toddlers actually.
Vishal: Yes, and we should probably talk about that as well, that yes, these almost look like your platonic ideal of what a color pencil or a crayon would, and they’re these nice, big fat ones compared to any kind of pencil that you get.
You can see all the colors we have here and we’ll get to this in our actual test drives but I can tell you right now that this thing that’s pretending to be a red which is one of these is actually a pink when it goes down and it’s a very waxy and hard one.
But this brown is beautiful, that gray-black is lovely. It’s an unusual set and we made a bunch of unusual things with it.
Minjal, why don’t you show us your test drive, because that’s what we do on this show. I think you’ve used some other tools, but you’re coloring in the lines here. Why don’t you tell us about it?
Lettering with Ikea MALA Colored Pencils
Minjal: A little history behind this quote. Not typography history or color pencil history but I actually started watching ‘Gossip Girl’ very, very late almost a decade after the show ended and I am a Blair Waldorf fan.
And this is something that she says in the show, “Have a little faith and if that doesn’t work, have a lot of mimosas!” I used the Uni Pin fine liner to write the text. And, I filled in the color with the Ikea Mala Colored Pencils.
I usually tend to apply a lot of pressure when I’m using stationery objects. With these particular color pencils, if you use a really light hand you get a really nice background kind of wash but if you apply a little more pressure you can get these really dark shades.
Vishal: Yeah, speaking of washes these are water soluble. Did you try that?
Minjal: I did try that and I didn’t quite like the result.
Samir: Since we are talking about the water soluble part of it, I think we have come across this before with the Koi Brush Pens most recently. And we had a similar problem there, where they are also marketed as a sort of water-soluble things that you can move around with a brush later and we didn’t find it to be that good at it, even though we loved those pens as brush pens.
So, yes I think the whole water soluble color in mediums that are not watercolor is a bit of a gimmick in most cases. And also having said that, the first water soluble thing we tested was the Staedtler Luna and while I didn’t test out the water soluble part of it too much in that video which you can see, I did test it out for the masking tape video and they were actually pretty good at it.
Illustration with Ikea MALA Colored Pencils
Vishal: Right, yes, since we’re talking about throwbacks, there’s several throwbacks to this in my piece. This one is again fine liner, I think we all used fine liners because we just wanted some structure to it, instead of just like going in with these kind of unstructured things.
Unlike Minjal I went for kind of layering things in. So I started with blues or greens and then I went in again over it just like feathering it as I would with a brush pen or whatever.
When I got to that pink red, I’m confused because it looks like a red but it goes down pink, it was deeply unsatisfying to put down and yes, I used it in an area that was also kind of like noodly, so it was even worse. Then I went in with a brush and some water and that kind of did okay.
I mean I did that in the blacks as well it kind of smoothens it out, it gives it more of a watercolor look. Then I went in on the second layer with the oranges there and then I thought okay let me layer more, so there’s blacks in here, there’s greens and all sorts of things there. So you can get a range of expression that I quite like out of these and they are very nice to hold, let’s just say that.
It’s a really nice thing to hold even if obviously the consistency is not there, but I’m okay with this. If I was picking these up, first of all they’re not cheap. Ikea I know is sort of, kind of cheap for furniture but as people in India especially when you have a vast range of different color pencils you may not buy the IKEA MALA Colored pencils even for kids.
Samir: Yeah, India has a wide range of very, very inexpensive coloring tools.
Vishal: Yeah, this would absolutely not be on my list of things to get.
Samir: No, because for the price of this you would get something that’s kind of a student level or a low grade artist level tool.
Minjal: So, it’s 6 dollars and it includes a sharpener and also a brush.
Vishal: So, that’s about 10 of them, and yeah they’re hardy and they’ll last your kids maybe a year or so because I guess they’ll get thrown around. Samir you need to show us your test drive drawing which I absolutely love.
Comic Illustration with Ikea MALA Colored Pencils
Samir: So I went completely kid-friendly. I mean like both of you I tried it out on scrap pieces of paper, I tried to do the whole water wash thing, that didn’t really work out very well. So I stuck to just using the pencils on their own.
Unlike the two of you I tried to go in the opposite direction and see what happens if you applied them very lightly because I think that they are clearly designed to be applied heavily by kids holding them roughly but I thought let me see what they’re capable of in the other direction.
I really like the kind of very subtle tone that you can get out of them. I also used fine liner, I use the Pigmas rather than the Uni Pins. We have done videos about both of them which you can check them out.
I think these are not the best colored pencils, clearly. What’s good about them when you’re trying to lay out a large area like this is that you don’t usually get color pencils with such a thick gauge.
Vishal: Yeah, the size of the color that you can expose here and then put down is great.
Minjal: The only other larger gauge color pencil that is available in the market now is the Stabilo Woody. And, the pencil size is at least two of the IKEA MALA Colored pencils clubbed together, with a really thick gauge. Those are actually also very expensive, each pencil is 3 or 4 dollars, but that is aimed at adults.
Vishal: Artists and pro level, like the Prismacolors or something.
Samir: I agree that this is not the first color pencil I’d pick up if I wanted to have rich and sort of varied colors but if I wanted to have this very nice, clean, simple almost watercolor look without bothering with the watercolors, this is not a bad option.
It’s almost more of a crayon put into wood in some ways.
Vishal: It’s texturally closer to crayons.
Samir: It is very crayon like but the thing that sets these apart from even good crayons is that crayons would usually give you a very, very textured look when you try to put them down and you rarely get cheap or simple crayons which give you a light coloration.
Here if you don’t put in the pressure you can get this coloration, so yes, there are some things that you can do with this which maybe are not as easy to do with almost any other tool, like even with an expensive color pencil you maybe can’t cover up so much with such a light color.
Minjal: And the other thing is as much as you sharpen these pencils if you want to fill in really small, tiny gaps the tip is never going to become fine enough.
Samir: So it’s good for laying down large areas and washes which is I mean what is designed for, kids are rarely going to go into too much detail.
Vishal: Yeah, which is kind of why I went for a bit of precision to see what I could do and even I couldn’t get all the things, edges perfectly clean. But, I don’t mind, part of it is kind of the the fun of being a kid again.
Vishal: Please go to inkymemo.com where you will find transcripts of some of these episodes, many more stories, newsletters with stories about stationery. So you can find all of that online and we will be back next week with another test drive. Until then, I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Samir: I am Samir. And if you liked water soluble colored pencils you should really check out the Staedtler Luna which we covered quite a while ago and if you like other kid-friendly coloring tools you should check out the Camlin Oil Pastels which we covered at some point.