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Brushes for Watercolor
Watercolor paint brushes typically feature long, absorbent natural hairs, synthetic filaments, or a blend of the two. These brushes traditionally have short handles so artists can work close to the surface and have more control over fine details. High-end watercolor brushes, such as Kolinsky sable pointed rounds, are prized for their ability to hold a fine point, which is useful for detail work. The best watercolor brushes are known for their water-holding and paint-holding abilities, plus their resiliency and spring (the ability to return to their original shape).
The high cost and scarcity of high-quality natural fibers in recent years has encouraged the development of high-performing, lower-cost synthetic alternatives that perform as well or better than natural hair brushes in many cases. Another benefit of synthetic watercolor brushes is that they can also be used with other media.
Blick is proud to offer a wide selection of watercolor brushes in every shape and size from the most respected brushmakers in the world, plus watercolor brushes for kids, classrooms, intermediate students, and beginning artists of all ages and skill levels. These brushes and sets also come in natural and synthetic varieties that offer a more affordable introduction to watercolor painting. Access our Brush Charts for more information on types of paintbrushes, including brush shapes, fiber types, and measurements.
Frequently Asked Questions
What brushes should I use for watercolor painting?
Three characteristics are used to evaluate the performance of a watercolor brush: how much water/color does the brush hold; does the brush have and maintain a sharp point or edge; and does the brush snap back to its original shape.
Traditionally, the best watercolor brushes are made with Kolinsky Sable. Kolinsky is regarded as the best grade of sable hair. Another option is squirrel, which holds more color than sable but has less snap. Camel hair (which is really pony or goat) is a more economical choice.
Today, better quality synthetic-hair brushes and synthetic-sable combinations can be as good, if not better, than many natural-hair brushes. Synthetics are a more durable, and sometimes a more affordable, alternative to natural hair and still provide a high-quality performance.
How do I care for watercolor brushes?
To clean watercolor brushes, rinse them thoroughly in water, then wash them with a mild soap in warm water. Rinse under running water and lay them flat to dry. Once dry, store brushes bristle-end up. Always reshape your brushes before storing to prevent damage to the bristles.