top of page

What to look for in a watercolour brush

Selecting a Watercolour Brush

If you're learning watercolour painting, and you're not sure what to look for in a watercolour brush, you're in the right place!

I’ll be focussing this post on round brushes, as these are the brush I use most often for painting flowers and leaves.

Firstly, this might sound obvious, but only use a watercolour paintbrush - brushes designed for other paints like oil paints and acrylic paints can't handle or hold the water like watercolour brushes can, so make sure you have the right brush for the medium you're using!

Within the watercolour brush family, you’ll find there are brushes made with animal hair, synthetic brushes and even imitation animal hair- I’ll explain these more below, but remember, just go with what you can afford, and what is good quality within your budget!

You don’t need heaps of brushes either, depending on how big you’re gonna be painting, you probably just need a size 2, a size 6 and maybe a size 12 - you can do a LOT with just a couple of brushes!

When looking for round brushes, make sure they have a pointed tip, and the bristles aren't all over the place/sticking out in all directions - if the bristles are sticking out all over the place, and the brush doesn’t have an obvious point, you’re going to struggle to get a fine point while painting.

To care for your brushes, never leave them in your water jar. Make sure they dry laying down on a dry piece of paper towel or cloth etc, and once fully dry either store them laying down or upright in a jar/jug etc.

Brush Bristles Explained

The bristles on your watercolour brushes are the hairs at the end of the brush, which hold and transport your paint and water.

Broadly speaking watercolour brushes will either be made with animal hair bristles, or synthetic bristles.

What’s the difference?

Synthetic Watercolour Brushes

Well, generally (and I am speaking very generally here - your local art store staff will be a wealth of information, that’s where I learnt everything I know about brushes!) - anywaaaay, generally speaking, synthetic brushes hold less water than animal hair brushes.

What does that even mean?

Well, the more water/paint your brush holds, the less times you need to keep going back and forth dipping your brush into your water jar/palette to get more paint and water!

Synthetic brushes are also generally cheaper, which is obviously a huge plus.

If you’re not keen on animal hair (understandable!) you can always get an imitation animal hair, which is still synthetic, but has characteristics similar to an animal hair brush.

In fact, I stock imitation sable brushes in my kits for this reason - they are great to work with, with lots of the awesome features of a sable-hair brush, without the hefty price tag.

The imitation sable brushes in my kits are kind of a ‘happy medium’ so to speak - they’re absolutely excellent to begin with (I personally use them all. the. time!) and beyond. They are flexible, with a fine point aaaand they hold lots more water than some other synthetic brushes I’ve tried over the years.

Animal Hair Watercolour Brushes

As the name suggests, animal hair brushes use hair from animals! Animal hair brushes have lots of amazing characteristics, but are obviously not vegan friendly, and I must admit, I’m not well educated in the ethics behind them so you will need to do your research.

I can however tell you a bit about them solely from a painting perspective.

Animal hair brushes are generally (again, generally!) more expensive than synthetic brushes.

There are different types of animal hair brushes, made from hair from a range of animals - sable hair brushes being some of the higher-priced, and higher-quality brushes.

I personally have one sable hair brush, which is absolutely incredible and my favourite brush, buuuut I don’t use it very often because it costs me so darn much (I save it for ‘special occasions’, ha!) - it’s beautiful to paint with, but I find that I paint more freely with my less expensive brushes, because I’m less frightened of being too rough and damaging them - so go figure.


Within each type of these categories (synthetic or animal hair) there will be variances - there will be a spectrum of quality and prices! Some animal hair brushes may be less expensive, and/or lower quality, and visa versa with synthetic brushes.

Just remember, your local art store are a wealth of information and can show you a range of brushes available within your budget.

If you've got more questions about watercolour materials, check out my freeee guide below!


bottom of page