Watercolor brushes come in different shapes, sizes and built with different materials. Which brushes meet your needs and budget? Let’s go through this in this article.
The hair used to build the brush is the most important. There are many types as listed below:
Natural animal hair
Many watercolor brushes are made from animal hairs including sable, squirrel, pony and ox hairs.
Sable and squirrel brushes are most commonly used among professional artists for their ability to absorb a lot of water, hold and maintain very fine point at the tip and the spring of the hairs. Among these, the kolinsky sable is the finest and most expensive. Kolinsky sable got its name because the hair is obtained from the tail of the kolinsky, a species of weasel (not really sable). The finest is made from male’s hair only but most on the market are mixed of male and female hairs. Squirrel brushes are slightly lower in price but are still quite expensive. Most of the modern high quality large mop type brushes are made from squirrel hairs. Famous watercolor artists like Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet like to use these types of brushes for both large wash and detail work. Brands like Da Vinci, Escoda, Rosemary all make very good watercolor brushes.
If you would like to avoid animal hairs, there are also many brushes made with synthetic hairs and which very good quality nowadays. They have different characteristic then the natural hairs but are also widely used. Some synthetic hairs have been made to mimic the characteristic of sable hairs; they do hold a lot of water as well. Da Vinci Cosmostop Spin series, Rosemary, Escoda Synthetic, Loew Cornell synthetic are some good synthetic brushes to be considered.
Round brushes are the most widely used among watercolor artists for its versatility. They have a round body that holds adequate paint for painting large areas and have a rounded point (especially good quality round brushes) for painting fine lines for detailed work.
For beginners who will be working on medium size painting, round brush size 8 for large stroke and size 4 for more detailed stroke is sufficient.
Mop is mainly for painting large areas like wetting paper or painting skies. They contain large quantity of soft hairs (usually squirrel or goat hairs) to absorb a lot of water and pigments.
Flat brushes have flat shape and straight edge and is usually rectangular in shape. They are mainly used for painting rectangular objects like walls, bricks, etc but it is also possible to use the edge of the flat brushes to paint small details. Besides, large flat brushes can also be used for large area washes as they hold a lot of water and pigments.
Use 1 inch or larger flat brush for large area wash, 1/2 inch for painting.
Riggers have long and pointed hairs that can hold a lot of pigments. They were originally designed to paint the rigging on boats and that is where the name came from. Nowadays, many artists like to use it for fine details and expressive line work including tree branches, leaves, reflection on the water, etc.