Sable Kolinsky Watercolor Brushes

The 6 Best Watercolor Brushes in 2021

Knowing how to choose the best watercolor brushes can be fun and interesting as long as you have the right information. This article will cover the top 8 watercolor brush sets for specific needs and why. This information suits beginners, professionals, or even those looking for the best travel watercolor brushes. We will also discuss the different types of watercolor paintbrushes, including synthetic and animal hair fibers, and the different shapes and sized brushes for the most common watercolor techniques. Whether just starting out in the world of watercolor paintings, or a pro, we hope you find our guide informative and helpful.

All products are graded based on a score of 1-10 for each selection criteria with 10 being the best.

How to Choose the Best Watercolor Brushes for Your Needs

Rather than opting for the cheapest set of watercolor brushes to start out with, knowing a bit more about these brushes can help you choose the best quality brush for your needs without breaking the bank. Before we dive in, familiarizing yourself with a few commonly used words will help understand how important choosing the right watercolor brush is.

Common Watercolor Terms

  • Snap: The ability of the brush to snap back into a straight point after being curved.
  • Point: Capacity of the brush to hold a point when wet, which is essential to paint finer lines.
  • Spring: How the fattest part of the brush holds its shape when wet, without spreading. This is important for an even application of paint so the brush doesn’t dump color or water all over the paper.
  • Dump: When a brush dumps all of its color and water in one area.
  • Release or Flow: How quickly or slowly the brush releases color onto the paper.
  • Capacity: The amount of water and color a brush can hold at one time. A smaller brush holds less color, while a natural fiber, large brush can hold more.

Synthetic or Natural Hair

Watercolor-specific brushes, whether synthetic or natural, have finer hairs than those used for other mediums. The reason being is that they hold more water, obviously essential for watercolor painting. So, what are the differences between synthetic and natural-fiber watercolor brushes anyway?

Synthetic brushes are more economical than their natural hair counterparts, but there are other benefits to using synthetic brushes including that they maintain their shape, these snap back easily even when wet, and with proper care can last years.

Usually made from sable, goat, ox, hog, or squirrel, natural hair brushes are more expensive, but the right upkeep can last a lifetime, literally. By far, the best watercolor brushes are those made from sable, whereas the most famous sable hair is called “Kolinsky Sable” (not actually a sable, but a weasel) since they live in the Kolinsky area of Siberia, a naturally cold and wet climate that makes their fur sinuous and hardy. Sable hair brushes are usually round-shaped and are the preferred bristle of most professional watercolor painters for their ability to hold not only water but their shape, especially their point.

Flat or square-tipped brushes are usually made from an ox, due to their rough texture, while goat or squirrel is excellent for mop or wash brushes.

Larger wash brushes tend to be made from hog fur because their capacity and release is excellent.

Taking care of your brushes is essential for long-term use. This means cleaning brushes after each use and applying a brush cleaner like “The Masters”, which is my personal favorite brand.

Shape

There are many different shaped brushes used in watercolor painting, but we will only cover the top four basic shapes most commonly used.

  • Round: The most commonly applied brush for watercolor medium for their usefulness in painting fine details and wide areas.
  • Angled: Ideal for washes and details that require a point.
  • Detail: These are finer brushes with less hair that provide more control for painting very fine details.
  • Flat: Mostly used for even flat lines or washes.

Size

Every brush has a number between 0000 to 50, with the smaller the number, the tinier the brush, and vice versa. Basic brush sizes are sizes 6, 2, and 12, which will give you the versatility to paint details and larger areas.

Price

Watercolor brushes can tend to be rather expensive for professional users, who mostly purchase single brushes and can range upwards of $100 for a single brush. For beginners, it’s easy to buy a quality set for around $40.

Our Recommended Products

#1. Best Watercolor Brushes for Beginners – Winsor & Newton Watercolor Brushes for Beginners

Winsor & Newton Cotman Short Handle Brush

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$37.37
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Bristle type – Synthetic
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Shape – Varied
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our Score: 9/10

About the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Brushes for Beginners

This seven pack Winsor watercolor brush set is ideal for beginners due to the variety of brushes contained therein, including two round brushes (1- and 6-inch sizes), two detail brushes (2 and ¼”), one stroke (3/8”), one angled brush (1/8”), and a fan brush (2 inches). The different brushes will allow beginners to practice different techniques from detailed to large applications. Designed solely for watercolor painting, these brushes should not be used for any other medium.

Pros

  • An assortment of brushes allows beginners to run through a range of techniques common to watercolor painting.
  • Sizes provide small enough brushes to hone fine details while preparing the artist to move on to larger wash brushes.

Cons

  • The price might be out of a beginner’s budget.

#2. Best Professional Watercolor Brushes – Herend Brush Watercolor Brushes Full Set

Herend Brush Full Set for Watercolor (Herend Brush Set)

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$600
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Bristle type – Natural
    • Our score: 10/10
  • Shape – Varied
    • Our score: 10/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our score: 10/10

About the Herend Brush Watercolor Brushes Full Set

Handmade with natural fibers, this 39-piece full set of watercolor brushes are designed with the professional artist in mind. Containing every brush that is needed for the array of techniques used in watercolor painting this is an all-inclusive purchase, and at this price point, can be the last set of brushes ever purchased, with the right care. This set comes with a cloth bag and mesh cover to easily organize each brush and conveniently rolls up for easy and compact transport.

Pros

  • Contains all brushes needed to master each watercolor technique
  • Made of natural hairs and can last a lifetime with proper handling
  • Every major size brush for usual watercolor applications

Cons

  • The price point may be too high for non-professionals

#3. Best Sable Watercolor Brushes – Sable Kolinsky Watercolor Brushes

Sable Kolinsky Watercolor Brushes

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$19.99
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Bristle type – Sable
    • Our Score: 10/10
  • Shape – Round
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our Score: 10/10

About the Sable Kolinsky Watercolor Brushes

Professionals and beginners alike will appreciate the array of round brushes that come in this 9-piece set. Covering sizes 0–16, these brushes allow the artist to paint a full range of styles and the best part is that their bristles are made of Sable with a nickel-plated copper ferrule for strength and longevity. These brushes can not only be used for watercolor, but acrylic, tempera ink, or gouache as well. Although we suggest keeping different brushes for different techniques separate as it prolongs the life of the brush. These sable brushes also come with a practical canvas carry case.

Pros

  • Made of Sable hair
  • Includes all major sizes
  • Price is excellent

Cons

  • We don’t suggest using for any other medium

#4. Best Synthetic Watercolor Brushes – Crafts 4 All Synthetic Watercolor Brushes

Crafts 4 All Artist Paint Brushes

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$12.99
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Bristle type – Synthetic
    • Our Score: 7/10
  • Shape – Varied
    • Our Score: 7/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our Score: 7/10

About the Crafts 4 All Synthetic Watercolor Brushes

For intermediate watercolor artists, this 12-piece set can help you graduate to the next level of watercolor creations. From round to flat brushes in small to large sizes, this set, made from nylon fibers with aluminum ferrules, and a short wooden handle, allowing more control is affordable and easy to use. These brushes can also be used for acrylic painting.

Pros

  • Has a range of brushes to cover most watercolor painting techniques

Cons

  • Mostly for smaller applications

#5. Best Watercolor Brushes on Amazon – Transon Round Goat Hair Watercolor Brushes

Transon Round Watercolor Detail Paint Brushes Goat Hair

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$11.99 (Was $14.99)
    • Our Score: 7/10
  • Bristle type – Mixed
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Shape – Round
    • Our Score: 8/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our Score: 8/10

About the Transon Round Goat Hair Watercolor Brushes

These Transon watercolor brushes are Amazon’s choice for professional watercolor brushes and it’s easy to see why. Made from a mix of goat hair and nylon fibers, this 8-piece set of round brushes contains all basic brush sizes to complete detailed, large or small watercolor techniques. The ergonomic handle and nickel-plated copper ferrules increase stability and reduce shedding.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Made of quality materials

Cons

  • Good only for limited watercolor methods

#6. Best Travel Watercolor Brushes – Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Travel Brushes

Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Brushes for Travel

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$24.99
    • Our Score: 7/10
  • Bristle type – Natural
    • Our Score: 10/10
  • Shape – Round
    • Our Score: 9/10
  • Size – Varied
    • Our Score: 9/10

About the Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Travel Brushes

Including an attractive leather travel case, this 3-piece Kolinsky Sable watercolor travel brush set comprises each brush needed for basic watercolor techniques on the go. Sizes include a 4-, 8- and 12-inch round brush, and an added feature involves the option to guard the tips of the brushes by separating the handle and inserting it into the hollow base for added protection while traveling. A 2-year warranty guarantees this product.

Pros

  • Made of the best quality watercolor fiber, Kolinsky Sable
  • A 2-year warranty is included
  • All basic brush sizes are contained therein

Cons

  • Some customers might like other shaped brushes

Conclusion

This wraps up our guide to the best watercolor brushes. Not only have we discussed how you can identify the best brushes for beginners and professionals alike, but we’ve also shared our recommendations based on needs.

We’ve discussed how you can choose the best watercolor brushes, and why natural or synthetic fibers, along with size, and shape are key deciding factors.

Lastly, we combined our recommendations for use in different situations. So, whether it is a Sable watercolor brush or the best travel watercolor brushes, we’ve covered it all.

Thanks for reading, we hope our suggestions help to choose the best watercolor brushes for your needs easier.

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