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Review: Best Watercolor Brush

While all artists need good materials, finding a high-quality brush should be a top priority for watercolor painters. With rising brush prices, more artists are trying other materials and will experiment with a variety of materials and styles before finding their favorite brushes. Artists who create large works will need much larger brushes than artists preferring small, detailed work.

In most cases, it’s better to select a few good brushes, such as a couple medium-size round and a flat brush instead of trying to collect a full range of sizes and styles. Good quality rounds and flats can provide most of the strokes which specialty styles offer. You can also experiment with different types of brushes to find the types of brushes to suit your painting style best. As a rule, Kolinsky sable hair still claims the highest rank among artist’s brushes although it has become a rare commodity. Synthetic brushes on the other hand have improved tremendously over the years.

This list will help you find some of the best watercolor brushes in 2021 available today based on their ratings and how well they meet the following criteria. Regardless of their material or style, watercolor brushes should have cleanly-trimmed tips, full bristles, and sturdy hardwood handles. The best brands will also have rustproof ferrules fastening the brush to the handle.

Many of these brushes would work for oil paints or acrylics as well, but it’s better not to mix media and to designate individual brushes for one medium only.

Comparing the Best Watercolor Brushes for 2021

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Brush

The Winsor & Newton Series 7 has long been known as one of the best watercolor brushes with a variety of excellent brushes made from natural fibers as well as synthetics. The Series 7 brushes are made of pure kolinsky sable, traditionally the top material for professional brushes with a soft, absorbent body and clean tips; an excellent choice for watercolor painting. The brushes are hand-made with carefully selected and dressed sable hair, sturdy wood handles, and seamless, rustproof ferrule.

The brushes come in 13 sizes, ranging from Number 000 to Number 10 brushes in the standard style, while a miniature style brush comes with much shorter bristles and a range of nine sizes. Because sable is so rare, the brushes can be costly but they last for years with many artists relying on one or two sable brushes for the majority of their work.

Raphael SoftAqua Synthetic Watercolor Brush

A popular artist’s brush, the Raphael Kolinsky brushes are made of high-quality red sable hair and like all sable brushes, these brushes have thick, absorbent tips and hold their shape well. The brand offers several styles of Kolinsky brushes including a square edge, several extra-long brush styles and a pocket brush ideal for traveling. This round brush has a standard fine point making it suitable for a wide range of projects and styles and while relatively expensive, they’re still reasonably priced for pure sable. Plus, Raphael Kolinksky offers a wide range of brushes with 15 sizes, including Numbers 12, 14, and 16, (Unusually large for sable brushes.)

Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Maestro Watercolor Brush

With their black handles and sleek, rust-resistant ferrules, the Maestro brushes offer class and quality. Da Vinci produces a variety of excellent brushes, but the Maestro brushes are the brand’s top brushes. Made of special Kolinsky Red Sable hair, these brushes come in a variety of styles including rounds and flats. The rounds come in sizes up to the Number 24 and the jumbo rounds in Number 50, larger than any of the other sable rounds. They are moderately expensive but still reasonable enough where artists can pick up a few specialty styles made from good quality sable.

Silver Brush Limited SLM Watercolor Brush

While the best watercolor brushes are made of Kolinsky sable hair, these brushes come in a close second with a blend of squirrel hair and synthetic filament. Squirrel hair is highly absorbent and holds plenty of color but softer than sable hair. The brushes come in a good range of styles from the standard rounds and flats to special script and oval wash brushes. The largest rounds are comparable to a Number 24, while the flat brushes range from a quarter inch to one inch in size. They are also fairly inexpensive for brushes made with natural hair making them a good choice for artists looking for a soft brush or a new style to try.

Robert Simmons Simply Watercolor Brush

The White Sable brushes are not actually made of sable hair but rather a high-quality synthetic filament. While some artists consider synthetics inferior in quality others prefer to avoid sable and other animal-based products and let’s not forget synthetic materials have improved tremendously over time. While Robert Simmons produces a variety of brushes including high-quality sable and synthetic blends, these White Sable brushes can match most sable brushes for quality at a significantly lower price. They have excellent body, hold plenty of color and maintain their shape well. Their only real drawback is the white bristles which stain easily. It doesn’t affect their quality (As long as they are properly cleaned), but they also won’t keep their original, pristine white look either.

Virtuous Arts Fine Paintbrush

These Virtuous Arts Fine Paintbrushes are a high-quality paintbrush set designed to give the user fine detail work. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional or an amateur; you will appreciate the versatility and quality of this brush set. It comes as a 20-piece or 15-piece set with round, liner, and flat brushes. The paintbrush features unique handles for a balance and grip. An ideal tool for acrylic or watercolor paint, this brush is specially crafted for creatives looking to hone their painting skills using the very best quality.

Buyer's Guide

Bring Your Artwork to Life with the Best Watercolor Brushes

Whether you are a budding artist or a craft veteran, you could always do with a new set of watercolor brushes. If you leave your brushes too long, they’ll get hard and worn down. Painting with subpar brushes will make it difficult to bring your vision to life. In fact, watercolor techniques depend on brushes that can glide across the canvas and blend paint seamlessly.

However, so many watercolor brushes are available to buy; it is difficult to know where to start. Luckily, we have provided this buying guide to point you in the right direction.

If you would like to know more, check out the rest of the articles below.

What is a watercolor brush?

A watercolor brush is an art tool used by artists who want to paint in the watercolor technique. These brushes are usually made with natural bristles (hog, squirrel, goat) or synthetic fibers and are known for retaining moisture and releasing it at a steady pace.

Things to consider when buying watercolor brushes

There are lots of things you should consider before purchasing your next set of watercolor brushes. These include:

Capacity

When we talk about the capacity of a watercolor brush, we are referring to how much water the bristles can hold. But, of course, this depends on the materials used to make the brush.

Point

Before you pick up your new watercolor brushes, you should inspect whether the brush comes to a satisfactory point and whether it maintains that point while you are using it. However, many amateurs are often dismayed when their brush dries and fans out. Do not be alarmed; this should rectify itself once you reapply water. If not, then you probably need a better brush.

Spring

The spring of your brush refers to how steady the brush is on your canvas. A word of advice: if your brush does not have enough spring, it will splay when you touch the canvas, sacrificing control and precision. Conversely, too much spring will result in the brush losing pigment and moisture quickly.

Snap

The opposite of spring is snap. If you are buying a new set of brushes, you’ll want them to snap back into alignment with the handle after use. Natural fibers, namely goat or squirrel, offer little snap. On the other hand, Taklon and hog hair brushes are more likely to regain their parallel shape. Although different brushes are better suited to particular styles, you should consider the amount of snap if you are looking to utilize a specific technique.

Flow and release

Equally as important is the rate at which paint releases from your brush to the page. If the brush is high quality, it will offer an even flow, allowing for control and precision. For example, natural hair bristles are excellent for the flow and release of color because of the biological structure of the hairs themselves.

Dump

You should take care to avoid any brushes that release all their load at once. While you may be looking to implement a blotchy technique, this is usually very frustrating for most painters. So instead, check customer reviews to check your brushes won’t dump all their pigment in one go.

Natural or synthetic

There are numerous pros and cons for natural and synthetic brushes. Therefore, you would do well to consider what you want to paint (not to mention bristle shape and arrangement) before deciding between natural and synthetic.

Synthetic bristles are undoubtedly the cheaper of the two brush types. They usually keep a lot of snap and spring when wet. If these brushes are good enough quality, they will hold their point well. That being said, their fibers are more prone to dumping their color load in one go. Admittedly, these brushes won’t last forever, and they are not as eco-friendly as the natural alternative.

On the other hand, natural bristles are much more expensive, though they will last forever if you look after them properly. They also offer unique features that cannot be replicated in synthetic brushes. For example, the natural construction of the bristles allows the brush to absorb moisture and offers a pleasing, steady release. However, no two natural brushes are built the same. As such, it may take you a while to find a brush that compliments your artistic flair.

While natural brushes are usually the best quality, we still recommend having a few good synthetics at your disposal for mixing and scrubbing. In addition, you may object to using natural brushes because they contain animal products, in which case, only a synthetic brush will do.

Customer reviews

If you are buying your brushes online, it is good to check the customer reviews to see what other people are saying about the product. This is the best way to figure out if the brush will suit your style. If you are happy (or unhappy) with your purchase, we recommend leaving your own feedback to help other buyers in the future.

Watercolor brush price range

Like most art tools, watercolor brushes range in price depending on their materials and quality. For example, you can purchase a set of synthetic watercolor brushes for less than $20. However, you can find top-of-the-range brushes for well over $200.

That being said, you should think less about the price of the brush and more about how the brush will serve your artistic style. Sometimes a cheaper brush will do exactly what you need, while the more expensive options won’t yield the same results.

FAQs

What is a water brush?

A water brush is an art tool unlike any other. While it contains bristles at one end (much like a conventional brush), the handle is actually a container that holds water. As you paint with the brush, water is released from the container gradually, allowing for excellent control and precision.

Do watercolors fade?

Whether or not your pigments fade depends on the quality of paint you use in the first place. If you invest in good quality colors, the painting should stand the test of time.

What is the most famous watercolor painting?

Without a doubt, one of the most famous watercolor projects was JMW Turner’s collection of illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy” way back in 1826.

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