Friday 18 May 2012

Watercolor Brushes

  In this day and age, there is a limitless amount of brands, and types of brushes you can find in the market. However, depending on your budget and location, there might be a certain constraint on what materials you can and cannot buy. Obviously, you could buy materials that your local Art store does not stock through the inter web, but that might require some research.

  Thus, I have compiled a list of different types of brushes that are currently available in the market, just for you.


The Sable brush family can be split into two general types. The first being Kolinsky Sable.

Kolinsky Sable comes from the tail of a species of mink in the weasel family that can be found in Siberia and Northeast China.

Kolinsky Sable is also said to be the best material for both oil and watercolor brushes due to its strength, spring and ability to retain its shape. It's also said that if proper care is given to the Kolinsky Sable brush, it will last for many years.

  Stratford & York brushes (top) are handmade in England, and the skills of their brush makers and the creativity of their brush designers has made them the largest brush company in Europe—making an impressive 15 million brushes a year! 

  These brushes are a cheaper alternative to its more expensive sable-haired counterpart.

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  Other than the beautiful Statford & York brushes, squirrel hair brushes can be split into grey and brown squirrel hair.
 Grey squirrel hair is native to Russia and is highly in demand for lettering and quills. However, supply nearly always falls short. Brown squirrel hair is more readily available. Squirrel hair, however, is not very resilient and is mainly used for scholastic to medium quality brushes.

A hake brush is an oriental-style wash brush on a long flat handle.It can be used for laying in large areas of water or color, and for wetting the surface of your paper.

   Synthetics are man-made of either nylon or polyester filaments. They can be tapered, tipped, flagged, abraded or etched to increase color carrying ability.

  Often, synthetic filaments are dyed and baked to make them softer and more absorbent.

 The advantages of using synthetic brushes are: 
1) They are less prone to damage from solvents, insects or paints. 
2) They are easier to keep clean than animal hair brushes because the filaments don't have animal scale structures to trap paint. 
3) They are less prone to breakage and are durable on many different surfaces.


 These Silver Brushes are a blend of natural squirrel hair and black synthetic filament. Dick Blick describes them as being 'full bodied, with a wonderful snap". Other than watercolor, they can also work with silk painting, inks, dyes, acrylics, and gouache.

  Keep in mind though, that if you use a brush for Watercolor, never use it with Acrylics or oils. Gouache is fine, but I'd rather have different brushes for different mediums.

  I have never used these brushes myself, but they do have mixed reviews on them over at Dick Blick. However, I really do like their sleek appearances and would love to try one of them out in the near future.
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JAPANESE BRUSH (a.k.a. Bamboo Brush):

  Another alternative that I've found for the expensive sable brush is the humble, but extremely versatile, Japanese calligraphic brush. Not to be confused with the hake brush, the Japanese calligraphic brush is much thinner and holds a point very well just like any other watercolor brush.

  The advantage of using a Japanese brush is its capability to hold water/pigment. However, the disadvantage is that it doesn't have much "spring". I would recommend using the Japanese brush when drawing loosely, or when doing a wet-in-wet wash.

  In the past, these brushes were made of hair from wolf, squirrel, weasel and badger. (If you ever find a traditional brush made of wolf hair, buy it, because I guarantee you, it is a brilliant investment.) Today, sheep, dog, cat, rabbit, deer, goat and horse hair is most often used.

  Thus, this is my list of different brushes that can be used for watercolor. Now that you know more about the TYPES, you'll need to find a BRAND. As always, I say you should experiment with different brushes and find what truly suits you and your style.

  Which type of brush do you like best, and why? Leave me a reply in the comments section below.

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