The Best Watercolor Brushes of 2022

Satisfy your artistic muse with watercolor brushes that yield beautiful results. Watercolorists from beginners to professionals can hone their techniques with the best watercolor brushes.

By Carol Benton | Updated Aug 31, 2022 12:32 PM

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The Best Watercolor Brushes for Artists of All Skill Levels

Photo: istockphoto.com

When it comes to art projects, successful results depend on the quality of your materials and equipment. Perhaps you engage in watercolor painting as a hobby, or maybe you’re on track to become a professional artist. Either way, only the best watercolor brushes will allow you to produce gorgeous fine lines, washes, and layers of color in your art projects. 

With an adequate assortment of brushes, you’ll be equipped to practice techniques that’ll bring your artwork to life. To help you choose, take a look at the following brush options based on skill level, shape, and size.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Mont Marte Art Paint Brushes Set
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: BOSOBO Paint Brushes Set
  3. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: MozArt Supplies Essential Watercolor Paint Brush Set
  4. BEST FOR PROFESSIONALS: dainayw Watercolor Paint Brushes Set
  5. BEST ROUND BRUSH: Transon Round Watercolor Detail Paint Brushes
  6. BEST FLAT BRUSH: golden maple Artist Paint Brushes Set
  7. BEST WASH BRUSH: Da Vinci Brushes 5359 Set
  8. BEST DETAIL BRUSH: golden maple Detail Paint Brushes Set
The Best Watercolor Brushes Options

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Watercolor Brushes

With a variety of brush types, you can create detailed lines, straight edges, transparent washes, and layers of color. Here, this guide breaks down common types of watercolor brushes and how each may benefit your painting. 

Round

Round brushes are the go-to favorite for many watercolorists. They come in brush sizes ranging from 0 to 24, with 0 being the smallest. 

Small round brushes with pointed tips are favored for detail work. Many artists prefer round brushes made from sable for their ability to hold a pointed shape. Artists use large round brushes (called mop brushes) for washes.

Flat

Flat brushes are measured by the width of the metal ferrules that attach the hairs to the brush handle. They range in size from approximately ⅛ inch to 2 inches, and they serve several purposes for watercolor artists. Some flat brushes are cut straight across at the tip, while others feature an angled tip. 

A flat brush allows painters to produce clean, straight edges or quickly apply a block of color to the surface of a painting. Flat brushes are also useful for washes. 

A filbert brush head is relatively flat, but the tip is oval shaped. Filberts have thick ferrules and fairly long hairs, making them excellent for blending colors and water.

Wash

In their artwork, painters may want to use a wash technique to apply diluted paint, creating a layer of transparent color over a large area of the painting. This technique allows them to build up layers of color.

Mop brushes and large flat brushes work well for washes. Mop brushes are round and come in sizes ranging from ½ inch to 4 inches in diameter. They feature thick sets of loosely attached hairs

Detail

For detail work, watercolorists use round brushes that are tapered to a fine point at the tip. A short brush handle is useful for detail work, as it allows you to control brushstrokes as you work close to the surface of your painting.

If you want a reliable brush for detail work, look for one that snaps back to its original shape. By maintaining its pointed-tip shape, a detail brush will provide long-lasting service.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Watercolor Brushes

Support your watercolor-painting habit by assembling a collection of durable brushes featuring details that provide rewarding results. You’ll want brushes in an assortment of sizes and shapes with the capacity to hold water and paint and release it evenly across the canvas. Consider the properties of natural and synthetic hairs as well as the ability for each brush to retain its shape. To help you make an informed shopping decision, each feature is described in detail below.

Size

Watercolor brushes come in a variety of sizes to facilitate various painting techniques. To specify sizes, manufacturers measure and number various types of brushes in different ways.

Round brushes are sized according to a numbering system on a scale from 0 to 24, with 0 being the smallest. Flat brushes are measured according to the width of their ferrules, ranging from approximately ⅛ inch to 2 inches. 

Mop brushes (used for washes) are measured by their diameters, from approximately ½ inch to 4 inches. Rigger brushes (also called liner or script brushes) consist of long thin sets of hair for calligraphy or painting ultrathin lines.

Natural vs. Synthetic Bristles

Traditional brushes are made from natural hairs, and many artists consider them to be superior to synthetic brushes. The hair for natural-bristle brushes may come from one of the following animals: sable, weasel, squirrel, pony, goat, hog, or ox. Because of their animal sources, natural-hair brushes are more expensive than synthetic brushes.

When compared to synthetic brushes, those made from natural animal hair are more absorbent, hold more water and paint, and release the liquid onto the surface of the painting steadily and consistently. They tend to spring back into shape more readily and last longer than synthetic brushes, too.

Modern-day synthetic brushes or synthetic/natural-blend brushes are considered almost as desirable as their natural counterparts. Made from nylon, polyester, and other filaments, they are designed to hold water and paint and release it evenly across the surface of the painting. Synthetic brushes are less expensive than natural brushes, and some are more durable, too.

Many artists prefer synthetic brushes as a vegan choice, as they’re manufactured without harming animals. 

Handle

Watercolor brush handles are generally made from acrylic or wood. They feature crimped metal ferrules that attach the hairs to the end of the brush. Typically made from aluminum or nickel-plated brass, double-crimped ferrules are extra durable. 

Short-handled brushes are made for detail painting when watercolorists want to work close to their canvas. To create intricate shapes and fine lines, short-handled brushes work well. They are suitable for precise work on smaller canvases and pads.

On the other hand, long-handled brushes allow painters to work farther away from the surface. They might want to work standing up and not be so close to the canvas. A long-handled brush is handy for getting watercolor paint onto a large canvas without paying too much attention to detail.

Capacity

The capacity of a watercolor brush refers to how much water and paint it can absorb and hold. Capacity varies according to the size of the brush and the type of bristles. Natural hair offers greater capacity than synthetic bristles because it’s more absorbent.

Painters should look for a large-capacity brush when they want to load their brush with water and/or paint to create long brushstrokes across the canvas. If they return to the palette to reload their brush less often, they’ll get longer, continuous brushstrokes.

Brushes made from sable or squirrel hair feature excellent capacity because of their absorbent nature. For artists who prefer a vegan choice, many synthetic brushes offer good capacity, too.

Point

To paint in detail, use a round brush that tapers to a point at the end. Round brushes come in numbered sizes ranging from 0 to 24—the finer the point, the smaller the size. 

Round sable brushes are prized for their fine points that spring back into shape after use. Round brushes with a blend of synthetic and sable hairs also feature fine points that maintain their shape. 

For an extra-fine point, a rigger brush (also called a liner or script brush) might be best. Rigger brushes feature a thin set of longer hairs to hold water and paint while producing fine-point detail and ultrathin lines.

Snap and Spring

The term “snap and spring” refers to the ability of a paintbrush to snap back to its original shape after being flattened against the surface of a painting. This quality leads to the long-term usability of the brush. It’s important for brushes of all types and shapes but especially crucial for round brushes with pointed tips.

Natural ox hair and Kolinsky sable-hair brushes offer superior snap and spring when compared with other brush hairs. (Kolinsky sable is the hair of a type of weasel native to Siberia and northeastern China.) 

Although natural-hair brushes are desired for their snap and spring, they’re more expensive than synthetic brushes. Modern-day synthetic brushes made from nylon and polyester fibers are designed to provide good snap and spring at a less expensive price.

Flow/Release

As watercolorists work on their art projects, they’ll want the paint and water to flow evenly from the brush. This quality allows them to maintain control over their brushstrokes.

Here again, natural animal-hair brushes have a great reputation, and Kolinsky sable brushes are prized for their flow-and-release capacity. Other natural hairs, including squirrel, goat, ox, and pony (or blends of these), also offer good flow and release.

Because of modern manufacturing processes, many synthetic brushes offer flow-and-release capabilities that compete with natural-hair brushes. Taklon is a synthetic fiber that is processed to mimic the qualities of natural hair.

Our Top Picks

The top picks for watercolor brushes were selected based on quality, versatility, and their ability to meet the needs of artists at every level from beginners to professionals. This list includes many types of watercolor brushes, so you can create dramatic or simple effects. Pull out your favorite easel and begin painting. 

Best Overall

Photo: amazon.com

This versatile set of 15 brushes is suitable for artists from beginners to professionals. Sizes range from a 3/0 rigger brush for ultrafine lines to large-size mop and flat brushes for washes. 

The bristles are made from Taklon filament, a nylon fiber that has been dyed and baked to increase softness and absorbency for enhanced water- and paint-holding capacity and release. Strong aluminum ferrules attach the bristles to the long handles. An attractive zippered case is also included, so painters can take this set of brushes with them while traveling.

Clean with warm, soapy water and gently reshape the brushes after use. Allow the brushes to air-dry completely before storing them in their case.

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round and flat 
  • Materials: Wood, aluminum, and nylon 
  • Number of brushes included: 15 
  • Synthetic: Yes 

Pros

  • Dyed and baked for water absorbency and release 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Zippered case 

Cons

  • Some users report that the brushes are too big 

Get the Mont Marte watercolor brushes on Amazon or at Sears.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: BOSOBO Paint Brushes Set, 2 Pack
Photo: amazon.com

Selecting this two-pack of 10 brushes means shoppers get a set of 20 watercolor brushes at a budget-friendly price. The set features round, pointed brushes in different sizes as well as script/liner, filbert, and flat brushes for a variety of watercolor techniques. With this brush set, painters will be able to produce precise detail as well as washes and blending.

The synthetic nylon hairs are designed to spring back into shape after use, and they’re attached to the wooden handles with nickel ferrules. In addition to watercolors, these brushes are suitable for acrylics, face and body painting, nail painting, and more.

For long-lasting use, clean these brushes with mild soap and water immediately after use. Store them vertically with their heads up so that they dry completely. 

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round, flat, pointed, and script/liner 
  • Materials: Nylon, nickel, and wood 
  • Number of brushes included: 20
  • Synthetic: Yes

Pros

  • Suitable for washes and blending 
  • Can be used for acrylics, food and body painting, and nails
  • Comes in multiple colorways 

Cons

  • Should be cleaned immediately after use 
  • Some users report poor quality 

Get the Bosobo watercolor brushes on Amazon or at Sears.

Best for Beginners

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: MozArt Supplies Essential Watercolor Paint Brush Set
Photo: amazon.com

This assortment of 10 brushes equips an aspiring watercolorist to get started on their first projects. Flat, round, filbert, fan, angular, and fine-liner shapes let painters practice a variety of techniques in their art projects. Sizes range from 000 to 12 for precise detail work or washes and color layering.

The brush heads are made from synthetic fibers, and the ferrules are rust-free aluminum. Built for comfort, the smooth birchwood handles are 16 centimeters long. These brushes are suitable for calligraphy or miniature and model painting as well as watercolors. With a see-through case, this set is portable and practical. 

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round, filbert, flat, fine, and angular
  • Materials: Birchwood and aluminum
  • Number of brushes included: 10 
  • Synthetic: Yes 

Pros

  • Suitable for calligraphy and model painting 
  • Rust-free construction 
  • See-through case 

Cons

  • Some users report shedding bristles

Get the MozArt watercolor brushes on Amazon.

Best for Professionals

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: Dainayw Watercolor Paint Brushes Set
Photo: amazon.com

This set of five brushes offers the sizes and shapes that professional artists most commonly use. The three round brushes are in sizes 4, 8, and 12. A flat brush in size 14 and an oval brush in size 14 complete the set. 

The bristles are made from natural squirrel hair along with other hairs. The soft and absorbent squirrel hairs provide superior holding capacity for water and paint with controlled release onto the canvas. Other hairs are blended in to produce more spring and bounce than squirrel hair alone would offer, meaning the brushes snap back into shape after use.

Smooth wooden handles feature a glossy finish and facilitate a comfortable grip for professional artists. The set comes in an attractive black gift box and would make a great gift for professionals and beginners alike.

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round, flat, and oval
  • Materials: Squirrel hair and wood
  • Number of brushes included:
  • Synthetic: No 

Pros

  • Ample water absorbency and release 
  • Durable design 
  • Glossy wood handles 
  • Black gift box 

Cons

  • Limited quantity compared to similar options 
  • Pricey 

Get the Dainayw watercolor brushes on Amazon.

Best Round Brush

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: Transon Round Watercolor Detail Paint Brushes
Photo: amazon.com

Produce fine, detailed effects as well as washes and thick lines with this set of eight round watercolor brushes in various sizes. The versatile set includes round-brush sizes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. 

Natural goat hair is soft and absorbent, making it an ideal choice when it comes to capacity and liquid release. These Transon brushes feature a blend of both natural goat hair and nylon. By blending the two fibers, Transon offers bristles that hold a lot of paint and water while maintaining their shape. 

The natural and synthetic hairs are attached to wooden handles with double-crimped, nickel-plated copper ferrules. A champagne-colored metallic finish makes these round brush handles attractive, and they’re ergonomically balanced to offer a comfortable grip while you paint.

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round 
  • Materials: Goat hair, nylon, and copper
  • Number of brushes included: 8
  • Synthetic: Yes 

Pros

  • Natural and synthetic fibers 
  • Champagne-colored metallic finish 
  • Ergonomic balance 
  • Affordable 

Cons

  • Should not be used with hot water 
  • Some users report shedding 

Get the Transon watercolor brushes on Amazon or at Sears.

Best Flat Brush

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: golden maple Artist Paint Brushes Set
Photo: amazon.com

Nine flat nylon brushes with oblique tips fill out this set in sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. The nickel-plated copper ferrules are double-crimped, firmly attaching the synthetic fibers to wooden handles. Use these brushes for a variety of art projects, including watercolor, acrylic, oil, ink, and face/body painting. 

Wash these flat brushes with warm water and soap immediately after use. Gently reshape the bristles by hand and store the brushes upright with the heads up. Let them air-dry completely before storing. 

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Oblique 
  • Materials: Wood, copper, and nylon
  • Number of brushes included: 9
  • Synthetic: Yes 

Pros

  • Double-crimped construction 
  • Suitable for watercolor, acrylic, oil, ink, and face/body painting
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Should be washed immediately after use 
  • Some users report issues with the brush shape and poor quality 

Get the Golden Maple  flat brush set on Amazon or at Sears.

Best Wash Brush

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: Da Vinci Brushes 5359 Set
photo: Amazon.com

For final touches or a special effect, the Da Vinci Brushes 5359 Set comes with five round brushes to meet the task. Ranging from sizes 0, 1, 2, 4, and 6, these brushes are suitable for gouache, animation, illustration, rendering, and restoration.

With ample water-holding capacity, these brushes are made for durability with animal hair; sustainable wood; and rust-resistant, nickel-plated brass, all of which are handmade in Germany. 

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Round 
  • Materials: Nickel, wood, and animal hair 
  • Number of brushes included:
  • Synthetic: No 

Pros

  • Handmade in Germany 
  • Suitable for gouache, animation, illustration, rendering, and restoration
  • Water-retaining design 

Cons

  • Some users report poor quality 

Get the Da Vinci watercolor brushes on Amazon.

Best Detail Brush

The Best Watercolor Brushes Option: golden maple Detail Paint Brushes Set
Photo: amazon.com

For expert precision in paintings, this set offers 10 round detailing brushes in sizes 5/0, 3/0, 2/0, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8. With such a variety of sizes, painters will have the right brush for each detailed phase of their artwork.

In addition to watercolor painting, these brushes are great for nail painting, models and miniatures, action figures, and other detailed crafts. The wooden handles are designed with a triangular shape for easy gripping while watercolorists strive for pinpoint accuracy in their paintings.

Synthetic nylon tips are sized for varying levels of detail work, and the set includes plastic tubes to protect the tips of the smallest brushes. Chrome-plated ferrules attach the nylon fibers to the wooden handles. 

Product Specs 

  • Type(s): Fine 
  • Materials: Wood, nylon, and chrome 
  • Number of brushes included: 10
  • Synthetic: Yes 

Pros

  • Suitable for nails, model painting, and other crafting 
  • Ergonomic grip 
  • Plastic protective tubes 

Cons

  • Some users report poor quality 

Get the Golden Maple detail brush set on Amazon or at Sears.

Our Verdict

For a reliable set of watercolor brushes that takes on many tasks, look no further than the Mont Marte watercolor brushes. This versatile set comes with flat and round brushes made with wood, aluminum, and nylon, and the bristles have been dyed and baked for the best absorbency and release. 

Alternatively, for a budget-friendly option, the 20-piece Bosobo watercolor brushes set comes with flat, pointed, script/liner, and round brushes for nails, food and body painting, and even acrylic painting.

How We Chose the Best Watercolor Brushes

We researched the most sought-after watercolor brushes in their respective categories and discovered that the best options are determined by their type, materials, quantity, and other special features included by top brands.

While selecting the best watercolor brushes available, the most popular picks among users were synthetic brushes because of their ample water absorption and release. However, natural brushes are also a viable pick for those looking for durability and eco-friendliness. We included a broad range of brush shapes for different projects and textures including round, flat, angular, oblique, fine, and oval, with each set ranging from five to 20 brushes. 

As for durability, the brush sets included in our list are made with copper, nickel, aluminum, wood, and chrome for long-lasting use. 

FAQs 

Still have questions? Here are answers to a few questions you may have about watercolor brushes. 

Q. How do you use watercolor brush pens?

Use watercolor brush pens as you would use markers or pencils. Dip the tips of the watercolor brush pens in water to dilute the ink to the desired shade.

Q. Can you use the same brushes for acrylic and watercolor?

Yes. Most watercolor brushes will also work with acrylic paint.

Q. How do you store watercolor brushes?

Store brushes upright with the heads up, or store them horizontally when dry. Be sure brushes are thoroughly dry before storing them in carrying cases for portability.