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How to Choose and Buy Watercolour Brushes

Almost invariably when I have a new student arrive for their first session they will unpack a box of paints and brushes that they have either been given or have gone out and bought especially for the course. It's great to see the commitment to learning that this represents but all too often they will have spent a lot of money on brushes that they may never use.
Brushes come in a huge range of materials, styles and prices so start with just a few key brushes and add to them as your painting develops. Personally, I use synthetic brushes, they suit my working methods and I prefer to not use animal hair. You may find natural fibres suit you better but don't assume that expensive brushes are necessarily the right fit for you.

The three brushes I recommend for beginners are -

  1.  A large flat shader with a chisel edge. I use this brush for so many things; laying washes, adding texture, lifting out, tole painting etc 

  2. A medium round with a perfect fine point. A useful brush for finer detail and smaller blocking - if the point is good enough you may not even need brush number three.

  3. A rigger (liner). Excellent for grass, branches and texture. The long fibres hold a lot of colour and you can use the brush on it's tip or on it's side.





The top three brushes are from Rosemary and Co, a family run business in Yorkshire, England. These hand made brushes are high quality and I am very pleased with them. The bottom set were bought in France, the clear handled ones are by Manet and are made in Normandy, they work very hard for me and were not expensive. 

Brushes are an investment - make informed choices based on your own painting experience.

Brushes are personal - don't buy brushes online unless you are familiar with the type and make. You need to feel an actual brush - is it comfortable to use? Is there a spring in the fibres? Does it hold it's point/edge?

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