Watercolor Brushes

An expensive watercolor brush does not guarantee a masterpiece or ease of use. More important factors to consider when selecting a brush are the hair or fiber type, shape, and size of the brush in relation to the type of painting you wish to create.


Caring for your watercolor brushes:

  • Cleaning - always rinse your brushes thoroughly with clean, tepid water. If you feel soap is necessary, use baby shampoo, liquid soap or brush soap. Gently work a lather in your hand and then into the tip. Rinse thoroughly and quickly flick the tip of the brush to remove the excess water and reshape the tip. (reword this later)

  • Storing - brushes are best stored vertically. either in a box or a bamboo brush roll. This allows ventilation and protection of the hair.

  • Holding a brush - unless you are working on tight details, you do not want to hold your brush like a pencil. You are looking for a balancing point higher up the handle where it is [loose and] comfortable but you still have control.

  • Other tips -

    • never leave your brush tip down in a jar of water, even if for a few moments. The damage done will be permanent. The brush will lose its shape and the water will loosen the ferrule (the metal collar that holds the brush hairs) from the wooden handle.

    • buy quality materials. fine materials give longevity to your work. inferior paints are guaranteed to fade, cheap paper will yellow and become brittle. scrimping on materials is generally not worth it. With proper care, most supplies will last a long time (which often makes them the most economical to use, after all)


Watercolor Paintbrush Brands:

  • Winsor & Newton

  • Isabey


Paintbrush Material:

  • “expensive watercolor brushes do not guarantee a masterpiece, however. More important factors are the hair or fiber of the brush head, the kind of point, and the appropriate size for the type of painting you want to create.”

  • A simple way to test the quality of a brush is by giving it a “whack test.”

    • wet the brush hairs thoroughly with clean water, the lightly whack the handle against a table edge. A quality brush will snap back to a perfect point, while an inferior brush will flop over and the hairs will splay apart.

  • water retention comparison between brush hair types.

  • “The most prized hairs for brush making come from the Kolinsky, the Siberian, and the Manchurian marten - animals that are indigenous to cold regions. Kolinsky hair is so valued for its resilience and snap that it can cost more per ounce than gold.

  • Synthetic - hold less water than blended or natural-hair brushes. since the brush holds less water the color stays more saturated.

  • Natural - hold the most water. They are excellent for glazing because they are soft and will not lift the previous color.

    • camel -

    • skunk -

    • ox -

    • pony -  

    • goat - ideal for large washes but will not come to a point.

    • squirrel - as springy as sable, but its softness makes it ideal for wash and mop brushes and forms a good point.

    • red sable - taken from the winter coat of the kolinsky weasel, found in siberia. alternative taken from the tail of a small sable found in a limited range across siberia and japan. rare, high quality. expensive.

    • kolinsky sable -

  • Sable/synthetic blend - the best of both worlds. perfect for most techniques.


Paintbrush Size:

  • ‘’as you increase the size of your painting you will also have to increase the size of your brushes. smaller brushes may make you feel as if you have more control, but they often produce paintings that appear tight, labored, lifeless and dry.”

  • #000 (thinnest) #20 (fattest)

  • wash brushes are measured with their actual width


Paintbrush Shape:

        • Round - versatile.

        • Flat - angular.

        • Filbert - flat with a rounded point. useful for blending edges.

        • Cat's tongue - filbert-style brush with a tip

        • Fan - spread-out bristles in a fan shape. foliage, grass.

        • Detail - short, pointed and precise. tight details or retouching

        • Line/liner - long, thin tips.

  • Sword/dagger - wide to thin range of brushstrokes.

    “Thirsty brush” - a brush that has been moistened and then squeezed to remove excess moisture. It is always good for removing spots of color while the paint is still wet or damp. It acts as a sponge, but it is better able to deal with specific, shaped areas and small spots. Gently lay the brush into the area to be removed or softened.