Brush Information

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Brushes are an investment in your painting process – it pays to look after them.


1. Clean Brushes immediately after use with appropriate cleaner, rinse & reshape.
2. To rejuvenate Brushes between uses, soak in water or solvent in a brush basin which suspends the Brushes without crushing the bristles.
3. Dry brushes in a vertical position with the filling pointing up. When thoroughly dry, store them in a closed container such as a brush carrier or in a ventilated brush box – it will protect against mildue forming and also keep out the insects.
4. Keep Brush handles dry – don’t soak them in water or solvent when cleaning the head.
5. Don’t use watercolour brushes in acrylics or oils and expect them to deliver the same performance afterwards – they won’t.
6. Don’t use expensive natural hair brushes on rough surfaces or they will wear out very quickly. Synthetics are more suited to these surfaces….and less costly.

Most so called oil/watercolour brushes are suitable for both (or all media) depending entirely on the hair type.

Sable – Kolinski
The Rolls Royce of soft hair brushes. Sable, what is it? The real source is the Marten Weasel, generally located in Russia and China. The unique shape of each strand of hair is what makes this hair so great for brush making. Sable hair has a slight swelling towards the tip which holds the individual hairs slightly apart – thus allowing a bunch of hairs to hold more fluid, than hairs which lie flat together.
100% North Asia Kolinski Sable tail hairs provide the ultimate snap and resilience with a needle sharp point. The thicker belly between the root and the delicately end give greater colour holding capacity. This is one brush type which all good watercolourists aspire to. The Arches A2 brush is an excellent example of this brush type.

Sable – Pure
Sable hair is suitable for all mediums. It has excellent spring and when wetted, comes to a sharp point. The colour holding characteristics are legendary. The NEEF 205 and 225 Series are examples of this brush but perhaps the best brush of all for watercolourists is the NEEF Alvaro Castagnet Series 117.

Ox Hair
Ox Hair is selected brown ox ear hair. It is hard wearing and gives good spring, but is not very common in todays market and has largely been replaced with synthetic fibres.

Squirrel Hair
A soft and generally dark coloured hair particularly suitable for watercolour as it carries a lot of water. Squirrel does not offer the spring of Sable but it is not as expensive. A delight to use in watercolour painting. Best examples of squirrel are the wire bound mops such as the NEEF 117 (Red Handled Alvaro Castagnet Mop Brush) and the Arches A4 (Round Squirrel)

Goat Hair
A coarse hair which is fairly soft and flexible. Most often used for applying larger areas of thinner paint.

Until recently all brushes were made from animal hair. That is until the advent of synthetic hair. The original examples were not so good, but the later versions, starting with the NEEF (Robert Wade series of brushes are really quite amazing), in the performance and price. They offer a great point, great spring and precise control. A delight to use and suitable for all media, particularly when brush marks are not required in paint film, They do not carry as much colour as sable or squirrel, but at a fraction of the price offer tremendous value.

Taklon/Squirrel Mix A relatively new development has been the marrying together of squirrel and taklon. Taklon for point and spring, squirrel for colour carrying capacity. This mix gives a superb brush for watercolour in particular at a much lower price than sable. Best ezamples are the Neef 4600, 4880-L and 4400.

Camel Hair
Camel hair is a trade name only and has no connection with camels. Rather it is used indiscriminately to describe soft animal hair of uncertain origin.

Synthetics 95 Series
This has been the most successful of all acrylic brushes. The bristles are stiff and have great snap and amazing control.

The best example is the so called 100 interlocking hoghair blue handle Neef 1150 series. Probably 90 of oil painting is done with hoghair. The bristles leave brush marks in the paint film where required and only the best Chunking bristles (from China) are sellected. An extra long bristle is inserted into the ferrule, formed into a mould and oven heated for a short time – this gives the bristles great spring. All of this quality control enables the interlocking bristles to retain their shape and resilience over many years.


In addition to handle size and hair trye some important brush shapes are listed below. They are by no means all the types available, but are simply the most popular.

Flats – A Flat Ferrule, but with a square end.

Brights – A flat ferrule, square end and shorter length hair than a flat – to make distinct marks.

Filberts – A flat ferrule with a rounded hair end. A versatile shape which gives a softer finish than flats or brights. Loaded with paint it gives a flat finish rather than a bead of paint along the sides as a flat or bright would.

Rounds – Round ferule with round pointed hair. Very popular with tonal painters, as are filberts.

Fans – Fan shaped brushes are great for adding highlights in grass and foliage. They are also good for blending in all mediums.

Riggers – Round ferrule with extra long hair coming to a fine point in sable. taklon, synthetic or combination.

Wash Brush – Also called an oval or sky brush. Flat ferrule with filbert type rounded hair – best example Neef 4600.

Your brushes, well maintained will give satisfaction for many years. So buy the best brushes you can afford for your purpose and clean carefully after use ensuring that all paint is removed from the ferrule and store safely until the next painting session.