Art & Craft

Everything about watercolor brushes

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

Everything about watercolor brushes

Brushes are the magic wands in the world of art. They come in various shapes, nature and price range catering to the diverse needs of the artists.

Of course, there are other alternatives to using brushes with art, but brushes hold the spotlight to the masses.

We will focus on watercolor brushes, discuss their types and shapes, and compare watercolor and acrylic/oil brushes. Finally, we will discuss the pros and cons of using natural and synthetic brushes.

Let’s dive in

Types of painting brushes

· Classification for the shape of the brushes and their purpose.

· Classification concerning the bristle type

  • Classification for the shape of the brushes and their purpose.

Here is a brush shape guide. Let’s break them down one by one.

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

  • Round Brush

 Round brushes have a uniform body and a tapered tip. This is primarily to hold enough water in the body/belly region. The finely tapered tip is to control the flow of paint on the paper. The application of paint is generally a thin fine stroke.

Usage: This type of brush is widely used. It is mainly used to precise details in architectural paintings, Illustrations.

  • Fan brush:

 As the name suggests, the bristles are in the shape of a fan. It is a specialty brush.

Usage: Fan brush is for adding specific grass-like patterns and for tree branches.

In some cases, it can be put to use for blending between two parts of the painting.

  • Stroke brush:

Stroke brushes have long bristles. They are for background washes. 

Usage: Stroke brushes can be put to use to wet larger areas of work and where there is a need for value uniformity in color.

  • Liner brush:

Liner brushes have long bristles, and they have a good snap in general. 

Usage: They are put to use where thin fine details like branches, grasses are in need.

Few watercolor calligraphy artists also find liner brushes suitable for their calligraphy work.

  • Bright brush:

 Bright brushes have shorter bristles when compared to stroke brushes (e). They are best for precise strokes. 

Usage: Bright brushes are for adding textures to rock structures in a painting.

  • Angular brush:

 Angular brushes have their bristles at an angle. The bristle length decreases when going from one end to another.

Usage: Angular brushes are for creating specific patterns. It is an important tool for floral artists, as they make beautiful strokes with paint.

  • Liner brush:

Liner brushes have long bristles, and they have a good snap in general. 

Usage: They are put to use where thin fine details like branches, grasses are in need.

Few watercolor calligraphy artists also find liner brushes suitable for their calligraphy work.

  • Oval brush:

 Oval washes are similar to Stroke brushes except that the bristle ends up in a curve. There are no sharp corners in the brush.

Usage: Oval brushes are for covering large areas like the stroke brush. It can also absorb excess media that has been leftover on the paper.

Dagger brush:

The dagger brush has a fine tip with a gradual curve. 

Usage: Dagger brush is for painting grass strokes; also for bold abstract strokes. The possibilities are endless

Here is one another important brush: The Mop brush.

Mop brushes have a fine tip and a large body/belly. They hold more water than the round brush(a). 

This diverse brush is an excellent tool for artists. The possibilities are diverse, and they are a boon for artists.

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

Classification for the bristle type:

The bristles of the brush can be either Natural or Synthetic. Let us discuss Natural hair brushes first.

Natural hair brushes use Natural hair from Animals.

Here are some common types:

  • Squirrel hair brushes
  • Kolinsky Sable brushes
  • Goat hair brushes

1. Squirrel hair watercolor brushes: These brushes are extremely soft and buttery to work with on paper. They lack snap. They cannot bounce back to the original shape unless they undergo manual reshaping with fingers.

Here is a squirrel hair imitation brush after use, without manual reshaping.

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

    2. Kolinsky Sable brushes: Kolinsky brushes have an excellent snap. They go back to their original shape. They are for fine detailing as well. They are expensive in general.

3. Goat hair brushes: Goat hair brushes are economical. They have moderate water retention capacity and hold good amounts of pigment. They can be ideal for blending watercolors. Here is a goat hairbrush.

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

Synthetic brushes:

Synthetic(man-made) variants are now available for both Squirrel hair and Kolinsky sable brushes as the technology progressed.  

Some imitations can hold a lot of water and have an excellent snap at the same time. 

Differences between Acrylic/Oil and Watercolor brushes:
  1. Acrylic/Oil mediums and their surfaces are different when compared to watercolors. This requires brushes that are of different tensile strength.
  2. For the paint to blend on the surface, the acrylic and oil brushes need to be stiff and coarser compared to the ones used with watercolors.
  1. Brush usage is different between watercolor and acrylics. Acrylics have high viscosity when compared to watercolors. Watercolors are dynamic, and they have high fluidity.
  2. Synthetic watercolor brushes can be put to use for Acrylic work. But the cleaning that follows after acrylic usage should be impeccable as they are made only to work with watercolors efficiently.
  3. Natural hair watercolor brushes are not advisable for acrylic or oil work.
  4. In addition to this, the brush care and maintenance methods are different for each medium. The acrylic paint can sometimes get into the ferrules of brushes and damage the brush. Hence, cleaning brushes is a must, whereas watercolor brushes can have a longer life by regular rinsing of brushes and a weekly mild soap wash.

Everything about watercolor brushes Ayush paper

Pro’s and Con’s of Natural and Synthetic watercolor brushes

  • Natural hair brushes tend to hold more water when compared to Synthetic hair brushes
  • Natural hair brushes are more fragile, and they tend to damage easily when compared to their counterparts.
  • Synthetic hair brushes are made-to-tackle the possibilities.
  • Natural hair brushes are more expensive when compared to Synthetic brushes.
  • Natural hair brushes’ brush maintenance is more difficult, and the possibilities of the softer variants of Natural hair brushes suit watercolors only.

Synthetic hair brushes bristles are man-made, and they have imitation versions of natural hair.

Watercolor brush cleaning steps:

  1. Always wash your brush thoroughly between each color so that there is no residue pigment and also, of course – this way, you avoid chances of muddy colors.
  2. Change your water often, whenever necessary. 
  3. Wash your brushes once in a week or two – Follow the process given below.

 Process of watercolor brush cleaning: 

A mild soap, two glasses of warm water, and a towel.

  1. Work with one brush at a time. 
  2. Take a mild soap and apply it to your palm.
  3. Gently rinse your brush in the first glass of warm water.
  4. Hold your brush in one hand and gently rub your brush in the other palm with the savior (soap).
  5. You will see pigment specks in the form of colored water emerging from the wet brush.
  6. Wash your brush in the other glass containing warm water.
  7. Repeat the process once more (2 to 6).
  8. Once done, gently squeeze the excess water from your brush; you can use a towel here.
  9. Reshape your brush.
  10. Allow your magic wand to dry horizontally before placing it back in your jar.

Best practices while selecting a watercolor brush:

  1. Choose the type of snap you would need. If you are new to brushes, you might have to try squirrel, goat hair, or any other type before you could conclude.
  2. What suits the other artists might not suit your liking. Hence do your research based on the bristle hair mentioned in the first point and then proceed to the expensive variants.
  3. It is advisable to read the reviews of the brush handle comfort


  1. If you are trying a particular brush for the first time, It is best to go out and choose one as you can check for the handle comfort and obviously – candies look best in their home, and you can pick your comfortable choice.

Best practices for the longevity of watercolor brush:

Before the first use of your brush, make sure that you remove the gum coating on the brush.

This initial coat is done by the manufacturer so that it is easier to have a look at the shape of the brush.

Please follow the steps before you start using your brush:

  •  You can take your new brush and a glass of warm water. 
  • Slowly move your brush in the water gently until the bristles become soft. Repeat this for sometime.
  • Repeat this for sometime until you feel that the bristles are soft.

Now your brush is ready for the first use.

  1. It is advisable to keep separate brushes for watercolors or any medium in general.
  2. Do not rub your brush to the base of the water jar or the painting. This might destroy the brush shape. Gently rinse your brush to remove the pigment of your brush.
  3. Always store the brush with the bristles facing upwards.
  4. Do not allow your brush to soak in the water for a long time in your water jar. This will ruin the ferrule of the brush.
  5. Always wash your brushes thoroughly with plain water after your painting session is over.
  6. Give a mild soap bath to your brush every week or every fortnight.
  7. Reshape your brush every time your work is done.

And yes, your brushes will long Laster than before 

A final word – While there is still an ongoing debate regarding the cruelty associated with Natural hair brushes If you can catch hold of a synthetic imitation brush – go for it!


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