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Watercolor Brush Types

My Quick Guide to the Various Watercolor Brushes Out There

Here's an overview of the watercolor brush types I use frequently. This should help you get started with descriptions, use and where to buy.

The Blick Hake Brush - Series 292

Blick Hake BrushesFirst let’s talk about the Hake brush. You will need a brush like this for your initial washes on the watercolor surface.

This Hake Brush is handmade in Japan with soft, white goat hair. It is useful for blending watercolors and applying gesso, paste, or varnish.

A hake brush is an oriental-style wash brush on a long flat handle. It is useful for laying in large areas of water or color, for wetting the surface, and for absorbing excess media.

My Hake BrushThe best Hake brushes are hand stitches and though they cost a little more, they are worth it. The metal ferules begin to rust after a while, and they lose hairs on your painting surface.

This is my favorite wash brush. The bristles are soft and won't disturb the surface of your paper. The size will depend on how large your painting is. I have the 1" , 2" and 3".

For initial washes I recommend the 3” brush (depending, of course, on the size of your paper!) And also a 1” brush for smaller washes.

Flat Brushes By Robert Simmons

Flat Brushes are by far the most versatile brush you will use in Watercolor.

Skyflow Flat Wash BrushHere's another good wash brush that I recommend, the Skyflow Flat Brush by Robert Simmons. Do not confuse this with a brush that you can purchase at the local Hardware Store. Its bristles are soft and hold lots of water. The house-painting brushes from the store will scratch the surface of your watercolor paper.

Robert Simmons also has White Sable Flat Brushes which have to correct bristle lenght for watercolor.

White Sable Flat BrushesThe ferrule is more oblong or flat in shape, thereby holding the bristles in a flat formation much like a house-painting brush. The difference is that the flat edge of the brush must come to a very fine chisel edge. In my opinion, this is the most versatile brush made. You can consider each side of the flat part to be a point. Held in one fashion the brush makes a wide flat shape when dragged across the paper. Held in another way, it can make a fine line. When used in a calligraphic way, it is like writing with a calligraphic pen. What else do you need?

In my opinion, this is the most versatile watercolor brush made. You can consider each edge of the flat part to be a point. Held in one fashion the brush makes a wide flat shape when dragged across the paper. Held in another way, it can make a fine line. When used in a calligraphic way, it is like writing with a calligraphic pen. What else do you need?

Robert Simmons pioneered a revolution in synthetic brushes, creating a unique blend of filaments that perform so remarkably like pure red sable that they earn the name "White Sable." Simmons's White Sable brushes offer superb point and spring at a fraction of the cost of red sable.

The original synthetic artist's brushes for watercolor and acrylic are still guaranteed for life — just as they were when Robert Simmons introduced them in 1972.

I recommend a 1/4”, and a 1/2”. I also recommend a 1/8” flat, and Winsor Newton makes one.

The Filbert

Simmons Round FilbertThis is much like the flat brush, but instead of being straight across the end of the bristles, it is rounded at the tip of the bristles. Nice for painting trees in the distance without having them look like boxes. These also run in most sizes. It also will paint (in one stroke) Romanesque windows…you know….the ones with the rounded top.

Robert Simmons pioneered a revolution in synthetic brushes, creating a unique blend of filaments that perform so remarkably like pure red sable that they earn the name "White Sable." Simmons's White Sable brushes offer superb point and spring at a fraction of the cost of red sable.

The original synthetic artist's brushes for watercolor and acrylic are still guaranteed for life — just as they were when Robert Simmons introduced them in 1972.

This is a nice shape for shrubbery when you don't want square edges! The size will depend on how large you paint.

The Rigger and Lizard Lick

Pointed, narrow brush with very long hair. Riggers have round ferrules and large color carrying capacity. Useful for delicate lettering, highlighting, outlining, and long continuous strokes.

This is a lettering brush, but has Rigger Brushbeen used by watercolorists for many years in the painting of grasses and tree branches. However, it is so much fun that you can end up riggering the painting to death! The smaller rigger is so thin that it cannot hold much pigment.

There is another brush that I have found that is much more versatile. It is called a lizard lick and made exclusively by Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. Joe says it can hold so much paint, that you can draw a fine line around the world three times without re-loading.

There are also other manufacturers of a brush like the Lizard Lick.

Blick Studio Sable Extra Pointed Round

Blick Studio Sable Extra Pointed RoundThis is a very special brush that can deliver lots of paint in fine lines. This is the very best brush for fine lines without having to reload with paint ever stroke or two.

 

 

 

 

Escoda Pony Hair Pointed Round Series 1004  

Escoda Pony Hair Pointed RoundEscoda's pony hair brush holds a generous amount of paint, for liberal application of water and color. Their special curing process results in a brush that has remarkable resiliency.

Tapering to a point, this round brush lends itself to sketching, outlining, and detail work. It has a short walnut lacquered wooden handle with a nickel-plated brass ferrule, great for close-up detail work and out in the field.

Escoda pays close attention to detail in the crimping and styling. It's an outstanding brush that you'll use for years to come.

 

Richeson 9000 Series Synthetic Watercolor Rounds

Performance minded super strong filament hair brushes that withstand harsh painting techniques even on rough surfaces. They offer a quick, and flawless brush response coming to a split-proof, extra fine point or a neat hard edge. These brushes feature up to 1" seamless nickel plated ferrules attached to shortblack lacquered wood handles. 

Richeson 9000 Series Synthetic Watercolor Rounds 

Stratford & York Brushes

Stratford and York Squirrel BrushStratford & York brushes are handmade in England but trace their history to southern Germany in 1878. During the 1930's the company moved to Team Valley on the south bank of the River Tyne. Often duplicated but never quite equalled, 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! 

Used by great masters of the past and some of the world's most acclaimed professionals and accomplished amateurs of today. Come explore the various brushes in their line. At our generous 50% discount you'll find these brushes not only to be a true treasure but a fantastic value as well.

Performance minded super strong filament hair brushes that withstand harsh painting techniques even on rough surfaces. They offer a quick, and flawless brush response coming to a split-proof, extra fine point or a neat hard edge. These brushes feature up to 1" seamless nickel plated ferrules attached to short black lacquered wood handles. 

Other Squirrel Brushes: Arches has discontinued many of its squirrel brushes, but these are a good replacement. World wide there are other manufacturers of squirrel brushes, but the following will do the job as well as any. They are soft, and hold a great deal of water and/or pigment. Washes as well as the dry brush technique are easily achieved with these. They are also kinder to the bank account than sable.

Blick Master Natural Round 

Blick Master RoundEvery Blick Master Natural brush is crafted of pure Kazan Squirrel, formed by hand by the same craftsmen who produce our finest Master Sable brushes. A more affordable hair than Sable, Squirrel has excellent capacity and a tendency to release paint to the surface with more immediacy. We then take it to the next level by giving each brush a "shape-memory" — resulting in a brush that points well the first time you wet it and remembers its shape every time you use it.

Set of 4 — Includes sizes 0, 2, 8, and 12.

Squirrel brushes are softer than the synthetic and sometimes you might just prefer to use them. Of course the mops are made of squirrel hair also, and make a nice addition to your brush collection, as seen below.

Rafael Pure Squirrel Mop - Series 803 

Raphael Pure Squirrel Mop - Series 803For the ultimate in Squirrel Mops….A mop is a round, full version of the wash brush, made of soft, absorbent natural hair. It is useful for laying in large areas of water or color, for wetting the surface, and for absorbing excess media.

Whether you like to work wet or with heavy, fairly dry pigment, these will do the job.

His fine brush is traditionally crafted with the highest quality pure Kazan squirrel hair. Kazan squirrel hair is the finest and softest available. This mop holds the largest amount of water while maintaining a fine point. All sizes are hand cupped in the ferrule and secured with wires to a beautiful wood handle.

This brush will point up for delicate, fine work or it may be used as a mop for broad watercolor wash strokes.

You should have the smallest one and at least one of the larger ones.

Raphael Watercolor Brushes and Sets - A Stroke of Genius

Raphael Watercolor Brush SetsAll of the brushes in this category provide exceptional quality and beauty, stemming from a long tradition of making only the finest. With a rich history dating back to 1793, brushes by Raphael will bring richness to your artwork as well.  

 

 

 

 

Blick Scrubber Brushes 

Blick ScrubbersLet's face it — everyone makes mistakes when watercolor painting! Luckily, these scrubber brushes are all you need to correct those mistakes.

Simply re-wet the area you want corrected, wait a few seconds, then scrub the paper, blot, and re-work.

This type of brush was first designed and executed by Lee Fritch, a watercolorist from Ohio.

The nickel-plated ferrules hold extra-stiff white nylon bristles. Set of 3 — This set comes with sizes 2, 6, and 12.

Of course the bristles won’t stay white for long, as you will be scrubbing staining paint from the surface of your work. Like any other synthetic brush, they absorb some color, but when rinsed well, they do not deposit unwanted color on your paper.

I recommend that you have a #6 and #12 for your collection

Travel Brushes

When traveling in these days of heightened security, some of the long handled brushes (especially the ones with pointed ends) can be classified as weapons. Since brushes are costly, I like to carry them aboard, and the following travel brushes are perfect. As you can see, they un-cap like pens, and when the cap is added to the other end, the handle is more like your brushes at home. If you really need the longer handled brushes, pack them in the checked luggage.

Blick Retractable Travel Brush 

TBlick Retractablehese premier travel brushes are made with only the highest quality Winter Male Kolinsky Red Sable hair.

They are expertly shaped to provide excellent spring, resiliency, color and water-carrying capacity. Made with a compact yet functional portable metal casing. Features a unique mechanism that safely retracts, protecting the delicate brush hair.

DaVinci Maestro Travel Brush 

DaVinci Travel BrushCarry this clever travel/pocket brush with you, and your traveling studio will always be ready wherever you are.

The top of the line, highest quality Winter Siberian Kolinsky Red Sable hair nestles safely in an indestructible case. The case has a vent at the end so your brush will dry perfectly every time.

Escoda Kolinsky-Tajmyr Sable Round Travel Brush - Series 1214

Escoda Travel BrushPop this clever little Escoda travel brush into a pocket or plein air box. It's ready for the road at a moment's notice!

Hidden within its golden chamber resides a regular length, pure Escoda Kolinsky-Tajmyr sable brush. Named after the exact location in Siberia, Escoda Tajmyr sable is unusually resilient, holds sharp points and crisp edges, and has terrific color holding capacity.

As a measure of size, when closed, the #6 brush measures 4" and extends to over 7" when the handle is reversed. The brush handle is black wood with a lacquered finish. The golden brass ferrule crimps a round pointed sable hair that handles delicate details with ease.

Series 1214 — Pop this clever little Escoda travel brush into a pocket or plein air box. It's ready for the road at a moment's notice! Hidden within its golden chamber resides a regular length, pure Escoda Kolinsky-Tajmyr Kolinsky Sable Pointed Round brush.

This is the travel brush that I have and I highly recommend it.

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