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Let's talk about paint brushes

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I've been doing this for a fairly long time, and I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about tools, techniques and so on. I have come to the realization that I don't really know anything about the most important part--my brushes. Is one type/style really any better/worse than another?


Looking at a random sampling from my workbench, I've got some by Loew-Cornell, Liquitex, and Model Master. There's a couple that don't have a maker's mark, but they're red sable. Are all of these 'good' ones?


Also, what does 10/0 mean? I know it's something to do with the size, but that's it.


Educate me, please.

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Are "these good ones"?   No. They're all mediocre brushes at best.   Good brushes are made of Kolinsky Sable, by a very few manufacturers: Winsor & Newton, Raphael, da Vinci, and arguably a co

Nothing to add other than what Cash says, "Life is too short for cheap brushes!"   I also like sizes 1 & 2 for both W&N and Raphael.

There are many things that pull individuals towards one type of brush over another.  Some of this has to do with style, preference on hair length but mostly with the way one paints.   The benefits o

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Are "these good ones"?


No. They're all mediocre brushes at best.


Good brushes are made of Kolinsky Sable, by a very few manufacturers: Winsor & Newton, Raphael, da Vinci, and arguably a couple of others. (I've tried those.) There is a very noticeable difference in durability, point sharpness, and hair snap with a good brush that makes painting easier. Good brushes run about $12-18 and last for years (literally; I have had brushes last as primary painting brushes for more than 2 years). A really good framing hammer costs more than a random cheap hammer, and it's worth the money. The same is true of brushes; especially when the difference is under $10 (usually) for a tool that lasts 10 times a long.


In order of increasing size:


10/0 = Size 0000000000

5/0 = Size 00000

3/0 = Size 000






These sizes are not the result of any standard. Every manufacturer has a different Size 0 (for instance). To compare brushes, you need a belly diameter and hair length. Sites like Dick Blick include those measurements with their brush descriptions.


In general, I'd recommend using the largest brush you can handle. I prefer a #1 or #2, myself, which will carry enough paint to keep the tip from drying out between palette and figure. A good #1 has a point that is as sharp as a 10/0, but is much easier to use.

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 Edit: Yeah, what he said, lol.


I paint most things with a size 1, smaller details with a size 0. I find that the body of a size 2 (or even sometimes a size 1) will block my view of what I'm trying to paint.

Below that, I generally only use the 3/0, and mostly for dotting eyes or lining things. The smaller ones just don't have enough bristles on them to hold a decent amount of paint - acrylic paint, unlike oils, dries fast enough that a tiny dot of it on your brush will dry before you get it lined up to paint.

Edited by Mad Jack
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I wish I could get on board with the W&N and Da Vinci brushes, but the four I purchased (two of each brand) did not survive a handful of paint sessions. I'm not rough with them nor am I tender with the brushes, yet, the brush that is lasting for me is a Citadel brush. Reaper's and P3 didn't last long either.


Did I just have bad luck with the W&N and DV one? Are there any places that guarantees the quality of the brushes? :D

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I love my Da Vonci Maestro brushes (Series 10) #1 for highlighting, shading, and detailing, but I've also become a convert to the Church of Wappel's green handled, nylon #8 craft brushes at 12 for $5) for fast basecoating. The green craft brushes last longer and work better than the more expensive synthetics that I've tried.



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And just as a side note, "Kolinsky sable" as a descriptor doesn't necessarily tell you much about the quality of the brush. Winsor and Newton has 3 grades of "Kolinsky Sable" brushes, and the lowest grade (Cirrus) is far worse than those green craft brushes. And let's not go into the first Games and Gears brushes.


That said, I've also had bad luck with Series 7 brushes forking under load, 'which never has happened to my Da Vinci's. ::(:



Edited by vutpakdi
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Raphael 8404. I read a review that they changed to China for manufacturing, though. ):


I'm waiting on the reviews of WAMP brushes to see if they have enough spring.


I use washes quite a bit, and cheap brushes work fine for them, too!

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Oh, are they not meant for base coating?


You can totally use them for basecoating, but cheap brushes (as long as the hairs aren't falling out) also work fine for basecoating. So it isn't unusual for people to save their more expensive brushes for detail work, since they cost more. I personally use a mid-priced filbert for my basecoating. I've remembering hearing that several of the professional mini painters used their older brushes for basecoating. Wappel uses craft brushes. There is no one right way to do things in art.

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Since I have a variety of brushes I thought I would take a photo or two for you to see some differences among brands. I tried to pick out my newest of each for these photos to show how they look new but some have seen some use.




The top two with the orange handles are my synthetics. These are Raphael Kaerell. I use them for 75-80 percent of my painting. That way I can be messier with them and abuse them without feeling bad about spending too much for them besides most of my basecoating and blending doesn't need a sable brush. I had a size 1 but can't find it as I never use it and may have left it at a friend's house.


The next two down are Reaper's Kolinsky Brushes. 


Then my Raphael's 8404 Kolinsky sable which are a bit cheaper then the Series 7 and for me have behaved quite well. Although I know some painters strongly prefer the Series 7's.


Lastly are my main Series 7's to show you the difference between the miniature series 7's and regular series 7. They are both size 1, as you can see the miniature is quite small and shorter. I like it for freehand and also for tiny details. The regular series 7 I will also use for details and freehand when I feel like it, both work well for me. 


I had some Rosemary and Co brushes but I think I bought the wrong kind as they were super long at some point I mean to try their series 33 again but haven't gotten around to it. And I already gave away the ones I had.


As others have said a good brush will do you wonders for painting and as you can see in the photo each brand sizes can vary. Use what you are comfortable with but consider using larger brushes with good points, generally they will give you better results. 


I hope at least some of this helps.


Edit: Just FYI the two Kaerell's on the top are almost a year old and see the most use the #2 has a bit of a bend at the top but for synthetics have held up very well considering how much I use them.

Edited by Marsya
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