Choosing the Right Watercolour Paintbrush

Paint from the heart - but first, find a proper brush

Creativity 5 min read Feb 26, 2020

Good watercolour art starts with the right paintbrush. And picking the right brush, there’s an art to it, too.

So what makes a good paintbrush? Experienced artists say it comes down to, first, the type of hair that the brush is made of and, second, its shape. Either can make or break your painting style.

Brush shapes

Brushes are generally cut in two shapes: there are round tip brushes and then, there’s flat tip brushes.

Commonly used in watercolour painting, round tip brushes are versatile and can be used to produce very intricate strokes. Flat tip brushes, on the other hand, make it easy to produce washes and create strong linear strokes.

Artists might feel differently over these two brush shapes. Give them both a try and get a feel of which one suits you better.

Types of brush hairs (from best to worst)

There are many types of brush hairs that you can find in stores, but here are the ones that you need to know about:

Sable - The best type of brush hair. Kolinsky sable is top tier and can be very expensive. Ideal for more experienced painters.

Squirrel, Ox and Goat - These don’t make good round brushes because they lose shape easily. Some say they’re the next best thing to sable but that, of course, is subjective.

Hog Bristle - These make for good large brushes because they can carry more paint than the average brush.

Synthetic fibers - These are designed to mimic natural hairs and are sold for cheaper prices. They’re also 100% vegan-friendly!

Combination hairs - You guessed it! These are a combination of synthetic fiber and other, more quality hairs, to make for a cheaper alternative to the best brushes you can get.

Camel Hair - An umbrella term for all the cheap brushes out there, these are best avoided.

What to look for in a brush

When looking for a paintbrush, you need to keep three things in mind: performance, resilience, and cost.

Performance - The right brush can enable you to create to your full artistic capabilities. Besides helping you paint better images, it can also make the overall experience pleasant and more comfortable.

Resilience - Your brush should retain its shape, not just after a few uses, but even after many years of good use. A good brush is reliable and is well worth its price.

Cost - Find what suits your budget. But if you’re planning to paint for many years to come, it might be more practical to invest in a good brush now. Check online to find paintbrush brands that have positive reviews and for prices you can afford. But apart from that, you might also want to visit a painting supplies store and see the range of options available.

Ready to try painting? Find the right art class.

If you’re in Melbourne

Like to sketch and paint? Use both media in one masterpiece at by YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub! Start with some ink and then add a splash of watercolour to landscapes, seascapes, and whatever else inspires you in this class.

If you’re in Sydney

Head over to Levee Art Gallery & Studios and check out Botanicals Pen & Wash Workshop, where you will learn how to set up your workspace and master the basics of watercolour painting. You know what they say; learn the rules like a pro, then break them like a master!

Try watercolour painting!
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With Janet Hayes