Monday, September 13, 2010

A Word On Brushes after about a year of heavy use, my workhorse paintbrushes, a Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniature #1 & #2, need replaced - I trimmed a few stray hairs from the #2 the other day, and a few more popped up in my next painting session. The #1 started showing some strays today.

If you read through any miniature painting tutorial on the Internet, you'll see that watercolor brushes made from Kolinsky sable are the "gold standard" for mini painters - The Winsor & Newton brushes mentioned above are tremendously popular, but lately I hear many people raving about the Raphael 8404's. (Some other possibilities are the Blick Studio Sable brushes and the Escoda Series 1210). The thing I don't understand is that many people act like they are priced as if they were made from spun gold. To make it simple:

- There is no point in buying a Kolinsky sable brush larger than #2. Anything bigger than that, and you're likely just putting down large areas of basecoat. Use one of the brushes from your local hobby shop for that. (I prefer the Army Painter hobby series brushes, but the new line of Citadel brushes are actually pretty decent).

- Go to these websites and create accounts:

Art Supply Warehouse
Blick Art Materials
Art Supplies Online

(Note: I am not affiliated with any of the above stores, I just shop there frequently).

Once you start getting email coupons from these stores, you should be able to regularly get 15% - 20% off, and/or free shipping, on any order you place. This means you should never have to pay more than eight dollars for a Kolinsky sable brush - that's only a couple of dollars more than the synthetic brushes they sell in the hobby shop. (The Winsor & Newton and the Raphael brushes are harder to find at this price, but Art Supply Warehouse does a "70% off brushes" sale several times a year).

Take proper care of your sable brushes - wash them out with a good brush cleaner and cool water EVERY TIME you finish using them, and occasionally give them a wash with conditioner (yes, the same kind you use in the shower - just steal a bit from your wife's bottle, she'll never know). They should last you quite some time. As I mentioned, I got about a year of heavy use out of mine - I would regularly ruin hobby store brushes in a month under the same conditions...


  1. Ahh, but if you order them from online stores you never get to see the brush in real life. I find that very important - making sure it comes to a proper point.

  2. Chris -

    Maybe I've just been lucky, but all the brushes I've gotten mail order have been great - good thing too, because none of the hobby shops in my town carry "high-end" brushes, and there's only one artist supply-type store that occasionally has them...

  3. I believe the W&N series 7 are hand made with someone ensuring proper point during manufacture, so much less to worry about than average brush, and safer to mail order. I've never had a bad one!