Watercolor brushes are different from all other painting tools. There are specific features that make watercolor brushes different from acrylic or oil painting brushes, yet watercolor brushes can be used on any type of painting surface, such as watercolor paper, Yupo, rice paper, or even canvas. Prices range from affordable to expensive, but the best way to start your painting journey is by purchasing the best watercolor brushes you can afford.
Although available online or at local craft stores, I’ve found the best quality brushes online and for great prices. If you are interested in purchasing the best watercolor brush, various factors need to be considered. Here are some of the essential aspects.
There are various types of brushes available in the market, but each has its own set of features. Some are made for professional artists, while others are made for beginners. Therefore, it is essential to understand this difference to make the right decision.
You can choose between different types of brushes, such as natural hair or synthetic brushes, or a blend with each one having a different price range. The type of brush you want to buy will depend on what kind of painting you want to do.
The first thing you should consider when purchasing a brush is its size. It is essential to buy a good-sized brush that fits well in your hand because you will use it a lot. With proper care and use, a good, quality brush can last a lifetime.
The next thing you should look for is whether it is made from natural bristles or synthetic bristles. Natural bristles are durable and soft, and they tend to last longer than synthetic bristles. It is best to buy a good-quality brush with a wooden handle or a plastic handle. However, some brushes have metal handles.
Additionally, the size of the brush head and type of tip is essential. The size of the brush head and the material will determine the amount of paint the brush can store as well as holding a good tip for fine painting.
The best watercolor brush is made from the highest quality materials. Your painting will greatly influence the material and style of the brush you use. For example, if you’re going to a large background, a natural hair flat wash style brush works best such as a 1 ½” or 2” Isabey, Princeton, or Silver Brush. The natural hair moves the paint evenly across the surface rather than lifting it as a pure synthetic would do. Synthetic brushes work in all applications, but do not hold as much paint as a natural brush or even a synthetic blend. When blending edges, a synthetic brush works best. For lifting, a blend or synthetic works best because it not only moves the paint away from the paper, but it absorbs the paint you are lifting. I have one oil paintbrush I use frequently because it is a stiff synthetic and does a wonderful job in lifting paint in a narrow line.
When painting detail or for portraits, both synthetics and natural hair brushes are used. A natural hair brush works best for larger areas such as skin or in creating the hair base color. Synthetic or synthetic blend brushes would be used to create shadow and depth, lifting paint for folds, or detail hair strands or other details such as eyelashes. When choosing your brush, you must consider the kind of painting and application within the painting where it will be used. A good watercolor brush for detailed work will snap back to its original shape.
Most watercolor brush lengths are around 8 inches except for flat wash brushes which are shorter and are made that way to control the paint application across a larger surface. So, make sure that the length of your brush is right. Traditionally, long-handled brushes are used in oil painting to balance the brush and allow you distance from the work. Most watercolorists work close to the painting, so watercolor brush handles are traditionally shorter. The oil paintbrush I use for lifting was long, almost 18 inches, but I cut it down to 8 for better control.
Holding the brush correctly is essential for control as well as avoiding fatigue and the shorter length of watercolor brushes makes this easier. Hold the brush by the handle using your index finger and thumb, like holding a pencil. When using a flat wash brush, you’ll hold it differently, almost grasping it by the end of the handle.
The shape of the brush depends upon the type of painting you want to do and how accurate the final picture is when finished.
A round brush is usually used for painting flowers or other objects with a rounded shape. Rounded brushes also form nice tips if they are natural hair or a blend. A Cat’s Tongue or Oval brush is also good for various uses and will hold a nice tip if they are natural hair or a blend. Flat brushes are good for angular subjects such as rocks, buildings, and similar. On the other hand, if you want to paint something that has a flat shape, then you should use a rectangular or flat brush. Riggers are longhaired brushes used to create long lines.
Conclusion: You should buy the brush which suits your needs the most. I’ve got several brushes in my collection and although I’ve used them all, I have a few that are my go-to favorites. I have Isabey and Kolinsky pure hair brushes that I use for landscapes or large applications. I have Richeson Gray Matters pure synthetic brushes that are great for most applications such as hair in portraits, landscapes, and florals, and Connoisseur Cat Tongues (ovals) which are synthetic blends, and Joe Miller’s synthetic sables and squirrels that work pretty good without paying the price of real hair. How about you? What are your favorite brushes and how do you use them?