your thoughts on synthetic watercolor brushes

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Kris Aaron wrote
on 20 May 2009 10:37 AM

As much as I'd love sable brushes, I don't wear fur so  ... which manufacturer makes the best synthetic watercolor brushes? Which ones and what sizes do you or would you use if you were limited to synthetic? What are the drawbacks to these brushes?

I'm new at watercolor, so the learning curve is immense. Your help is most appreciated!

-- Kris Aaron

Science flies you to the moon.

Religion flies you into buildings.

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on 20 May 2009 1:11 PM

Kris, first let me say what the advantages are with Kolinksy sable brushes. I use a round size 6 for most of my watercolor painting.

Kolinsky sable brushes hold more water than synthetics do, but the real advantage is that these hairs release the water in a tiny stream.. a little at a time and give the user control over washes and glazes.

OK, for the synthetics: they tend to release water all at once - when the tip touches the paper, but manufacturers are aware of this problem and have been busy making brushes that mimic the holding and releasing power of Kolinsky.  Any good synthetic should come to a fine point and not flatten out when wet.

Synthetic brushes I like: Cheap Joes Art Supply makes some great synthestics that use new technology to mimic sable brushes. Their American Journey Interlocked Synthetic should work very well. I have used and like their Scepter Gold II Brushes but these have a combination of synthetic and sable.

Robert Simmons makes synthetics and Stephen Quiller has his own line.

Let me know if that was helpful and if you have any other questions.

www.loriwords.com

 

 

 

 

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on 5 Nov 2010 11:00 AM

The Stephen Quiller brushes are very good.  The company Jack Richeson makes these.  I've also had great success with Rosemary & Co. brushes from England.

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Rhonda Heide wrote
on 5 Feb 2011 7:08 PM

Hi,

Was reading through the threads.  I was given a ton of advice when I first started painting, and took the 'buy the best quality' to the limit and bought the Series 7 brushes thinking they were going to really make the difference.  While I do love their quality, and painting with them is very nice, I find myself reaching more and more for synthetics.

As I kept painting, I felt that I have more control over the synthetic brushes.  Certainly the upside was the lower cost!  I tried almost all of them, but my favorites are the Escoda Prado line.  Very nice body to the brush, the handle is comfortable (and gorgeous,) and they hold up.  They are made in Spain, and the rounds are their 1462 line.  

The Kolinsky brushes are still some of my prized possessions, but Escodas are my workhorses!

Try them, I know you'll love them!

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Bumpa wrote
on 22 Feb 2011 12:18 PM

Kris -- I'm new to Artist Daily but have been painting W/Cs for several years.   I'll grant the benefits of Kolinsky sable, but why buy a Rolls Royce when a Toyota will get you where you want to go.  I use primarily synthetics though I still have a few sables.  The synthetics work very well, my favorites being a 11/2" golden taklon for washes and a Robert Simmons "Goliath" #36 round for the grunt work of the painting.  The Goliath still comes to a very nice point (after 3 years) and can equal the line of a #4 round.  And best of all, should it ever wear out, I can afford to buy another! Highly recommended!  Cheap Joe's and Dan Smith are good resources as are Jerry's and Utrecht.

Don't worry about the learning curve... get in and HAVE FUN with it!

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on 28 Feb 2011 12:29 PM

In looking up info on the Golden Taklon and Robert Simmons brushes, Jerry's Artarama is offering the Golden Taklon brushes at a very good price plus for the next few days has the offer of buy one get one free.

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Jay Babina wrote
on 4 Mar 2011 7:11 AM

The difference between natural and synthetic brushes is scales. Ever see a microscope picture of a hair.? It has scales and that's what holds the water. That's why they hold more water than synthetics. However Synthetics can still be very usable and good in watercolor painting.

   The hair that holds the most water is squirrel. Often called camel hair brushes, squirrel hair is soft and not as springy as the coveted Kolinski sable. Camel hair is not used for brushes. Here's another fact you might like: Kolinski sable is not really sable. It's an animal called a Kolinski - but considered the best of the sable-like hairs for a brush.

 

Manufacturers have done a great job with synthetics and you have to experiment with various brushes and see what they yield for you with watercolor. I have quite a few good sable flats and I always go for them when I paint and I think in watercolor,  a good brush can last forever, unlike oil or acrylic.

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Ken Crocker wrote
on 6 Sep 2011 9:55 AM

I agree with you about wanting to use materials that are not produced by treating animals cruelly. And I'm pretty sure that animals raised for their hair to make brushes are treated cruelly, unless there is oversight. So far, I haven't found any brushes that are manufactured by companies that are monitored for how they treat their animals. I would love to, for I bought a Kolinsky brush before I became concerned and found out what they're made of, and the brush is great. There seems to be some concern in the cosmetics industry, which also uses Kolinsky, but that isn't a help in art brushes.

In using synthetics, for me the cost in not really the issue. Actually, I would pay more for a reputably-manufactured Kolinsky brush. I've tried a DaVinci synthetic brushes and am pleased with it. 

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Jay Babina wrote
on 6 Sep 2011 10:58 AM

For brush-aholics, I found this interesting brush shoot out that makes for good rainy day reading.

 

http://mito0.20megsfree.com/brushes.html

 

As far as animal cruelty, I don't think there's a person alive who wants to see any animal suffer. But until I read otherwise, I assume animals get a hair cut for their hair and that's it, like sheep for wool. I do like my synthetic flat Robert Simmons brush and use it the most for watercolor.

 

Here's a video on Simmons brushes  ( I have no affiliation with them)

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSvY5U4fWpo

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ChristianRR wrote
on 1 Nov 2011 5:44 AM

Hello, newbie here.

I think you might be wrong. Just think about squirrel hair, for example. It's taken from the tail. A squirrel's tail is its most important  "limb". The existence of the animal depends on it. Do you think the hair for squirrel brushes is collected by smiling grannies with tweezers and a magnifying glass? think again.

Another thing to think about: do you believe that animal rights mean anything in Russia and China, which are probably the biggest providers of hair for paintbrushes, when you consider the value of human rights there?

Finally, it seems that the real Kolinsky cannot really be raised in "farms", and therefore the hair comes from wild animals that are trapped (as in slow, painful death in freezing siberian forests). I have no guarantee regarding this latest assertion, but in any case, paintbrush hair is an INDUSTRY,  and like any other industrial activity involving animals, cruelty is inherent to the business. There is a profound hypocrisy in a person getting all mushy and poetic while painting a natural landscape with his/her sable brush.

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Bumpa wrote
on 1 Nov 2011 8:15 AM

ChristianRR,  I quite agree with you re natural hair brushes.  You give a VERY GOOD reason for using synthetics.

 

Watercolor artists should also consider that with the quality of current synthetics, I'll defy anyone to tell the difference whether a painting was done with natural hair or synthetic brushes.  I've been using synthetics for several years now and the truth is I find them more comfortable to work with, which results  in a more satisfying painting.

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nick-ynysmon wrote
on 15 May 2013 12:59 PM

I’ve agonized often and would dearly, --not a pun please-- dearly love to buy a few tobolsky kolinsy and such. I did once but through my conscience I gave them away. to an artist. now I use only synthetic. I have Rosemaries brushes which are excellent, I also have Jacksons white artica, and  again these are excellent  and recently lashed out and bought some cosmotop spin brushes by Da Vinci,!!!   again one of the best buys I have made. I love having plenty of art stuff, makes me feel secure   LOL

so, these are my choice, but as a reply  above, has said, manufacturers are getting synthetics closer to Kolinsky brushes all the time. Animal cruelty and suffering cannot be avoided however if we buy kolinsky, however we make excuses for ourselves, for me it is unacceptable, but thankfully, we are blessed by some really great synthetic watercolor brushes. and in the end a brush , like paint, will not make a painting, only we can do that.!!!!!

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on 15 May 2013 3:11 PM

Nick—

I can't imagine any of us wanting to have animals suffer. 

If we want to avoid animal cruelty and suffering, we might begin by no longer eating beef, turkey, lamb and chicken—maybe even fish.  And we might want to add to that list eggs and milk. 

In fact, we might streatch a point and add naturally sized watercolor paper to our list of taboos. 

Paul

 

 

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nick-ynysmon wrote
on 15 May 2013 3:23 PM

I am not judging others, having ate meat much of my life until some near twenty years ago. I do eat fish though. and dairy. the only point I wanted to get over was my concern at avoiding unnecessary suffering for the sake of a watercolour brush. I would love the exquisite  texture and feel of a kolinsky, but can anyone convince me  the animals don’t suffer any pain, again I am not judging others.

the synthetics I mentioned are excellent the cosmotop spin, are great as are Rosemarie and Jacksons Artica. I also believe Jax art?  make a good synthetic brush, I forget its name. also Escoda I have heard.

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uujudy Yes [Y] wrote
on 19 May 2013 11:03 AM

Kris,  I love the Loew-Cornell 7020 Ultra Round brushes. These synthetic brushes have a red band around them ( not to be confused with the L-C brushes with the yellow band). They have a perfect point & I find I'm able to control the water very well. I liked the first one so much that I have replaced all my other round brushes with them, one at a time. You might want to try one and see how you like it.

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