For years watercolor brushes were always a mystery to me – why were some so expensive while others to inexpensive and was there really a difference? Well, the answer is there is – but it all depends on what you are looking for.
So here's a quick sum up of the difference. Most watercolor brushes fall into 3 categories Synthetic hair, natural hair, and a combo of both natural and synthetic.
Synthetic hair tends to be cheaper than natural hair brushes – and are known for maintaining an excellent point while painting – due to the stiffness of the brush. However, their ability to absorb paint and water isn't as good when compared to natural brushes.
Natural hair brushes are more expensive – and can feel a bit “limp” when using them. But – their absorption of water and paint is astounding! If you've ever watched someone painting and thought – “How are they not refilling their brush yet with more paint?” Or “Wow that paint stroke is so smooth and fluid?” Well, chances are that artist is using a natural brush or a combo brush of both natural and synthetic.
So that's a quick sum up of the difference… Now let's talk about the brushes I like.
SYNTHETIC ROUND BRUSHES
If you've been following me for some time now – you know these are a brand of brush that I love. Grumbacher round brushes have an awesome point especially in the larger sizes such as the 12 and 14. They give me alot of control when using the brush as well as descent amount of absorption. I currently have these in sizes 0000, 00, 0, 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 14 Round Brushes. Since round brushes will be primarily used while painting – I like to have a wide variety available to me. But if you are trying to stay on a budget – sizes 0, 3, 6, and 12 or 14 would be good sizes to purchase and cover all your bases when painting.
These aren't my favorite brushes – but I'm including them because of the price. My first real set of round watercolor brushes were these. I was stoked to not have the “kid” watercolor brushes anymore from the craft store. While these are good quality – when compared to the Grumbacher and the other brushes I will be mentioning – it's just an entirely different world. But if you are tight on budget – these are a recommend for me. For the price they are really great and won't kill your wallet to much. You can also buy them in set and use coupons from Michael's Craft store to get the price even lower. I would try and get the same sizes as the one's I listed above.
NATURAL/SYNTHETIC ROUND BRUSHES
Currently these are my favorite brushes I own – thanks to a tip from one of you. ;) They are a synthetic natural hair combo made with squirrel hair and synthetic bristles – which holds a nice point but also absorbs a good deal of paint. If you can only purchase one set of artist grade brushes – I'd try and get your hands on these plus some smaller size round brushes from either Winsor and Newton or Grumbacher.
NATURAL ROUND BRUSHES
I actually just got in the mail recently a natural hair squirrel brush. I'm gonna hold my thoughts on it until playing around with it more – but do know it cost me a pretty penny. So – I want to really play around with it before making my final thoughts.
OTHER BRUSHES I OWN
I also own a 1in flat brush also known as a wash brush and a size 4 filbert brush both from Grumbacher. The flat brush is great for flat smooth washes without any streaks – such as backgrounds or tinting your paper. The filbert brush is great for blending colors together. I prefer mine in a size 4.
This is the most expensive brush I own – and while I don't use it often when I need it – it's sooooo helpful. This brush is great for really large washes that cover an entire page as well as for wetting your entire paper for stretching. Most larger brushes I've used have quickly lost their hairs or left weird streak marks on my papers – this brush rarely shreds and leaves nice smooth wash strokes.