Published on Jan 11, 2020

Brush Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

A watercolor artist’s choice of brushes is a very personal thing. Watercolor brushes come in a confusingly wide range of sizes, types and price and some may be more useful to you than others. You will find that if you speak too any professional artist they will have at some point in the past have bought a brush or brushes (seemingly a good idea at the time) then found that years later the aforementioned brushes are still sitting in the studio unused because they have never had cause to use them. This can be an expensive mistake if frequently repeated.

When choosing your brushes you would do well to remember that every watercolor brush should do three important things and it is how well your brush measures up in these areas that separate the best brushes from the rest. Here are the three important benchmarks that every watercolor brush aspires to:

A Great Point

The brush should come to a crisp point, an excellent brush will hold that point during use allowing the artist to create edges and fine detail.


Perfect ‘Snap’ Or Spring

The brush should spring crisply back into shape during use. The right degree of spring allows the artist to have control with an element of ‘give and take’ between the brush and the surface.

Even Flow Control

The color should flow evenly and consistently from the point of the brush and there should be capacity within the belly of the brush to allow the artist to lay down flowing strokes of color.

Most paintings will require two or more of the basic round and flat brushes. In addition, there are a number of specialty brushes that are less frequently needed because they are designed to serve limited purposes, usually some kind of specific texturing effect which the basic brushes handle less effectively.

Brush Shapes

Round brushes have a round full body that holds adequate pigment and taper to a sharp (sable) or near sharp (synthetic) point. A high quality round allows the artist to render a wide range of shapes and effects, holds a good charge of water, wipes up excess paint, and rinses out quickly. The extraordinary flexibility of this brush means it is the instrument of choice for “gestural” painters who want a lot of expressiveness in their brush marks. Rounds come in three subtle variations: the standard round, where the length out is slightly more than 4 times the belly diameter when wet, with a slight flaring in width at the belly, the full bellied round in which the length out is about 4 times the belly diameter when wet, with an exaggerated belly widening in the tuft, and the pointed round in which the length out is usually 5 or more times the belly diameter when wet, without any belly widening in the tuft. The cupping of the brush determines these brush proportions, and some brands tend to one or the other extreme in their “standard” rounds. These variations affect the carrying capacity and flexibility but not the pointing of the tuft.

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