The Top Four Watercolor Brushes for Masters-in-the-Making

Brushes can be overrated, and at the same time we can’t overlook them since they’re essential for us watercolor painters. I’m going to share the top four watercolor brushes with you today. But not before I vent a little, hope that’s okay 🙂

I’ve made all the mistakes! You know what I mean… like spend $150 for that DaVinci mop brush that I thought would instantly improve my work. It’s probably no surprise that didn’t work. So, I did it again, and again, thinking a premium set of brushes would have my work on the cover of Watercolor Magazine (completely fictionally magazine) next month.

I’m still waiting for that phone call! But, thankfully I ran out of money and no longer can afford those squirrels hairs.

Anywhoo, let’s have a look at my not so expensive brushes and I’m sure you will agree, it’s a minimal selection but they’re damn good brushes and don’t cost a fortune.

Introducing our secret weapons – our handpicked selection of the crème de la crème watercolor paint brushes!

Here are the top picks for best watercolor paint brushes. These are the same brushes we use and stand behind! They meet the criteria which is high-quality, excellent longevity and solid performance.

Best watercolor brush for beginners - Silver #2 quill
Silver Jumbo Wash

#1 Silver Black Velvet Jumbo

The Silver black velvet jumbo is the best large wash watercolor brush for beginners. It is affordable, easy to use and has an excellent quality and longevity. This has been my go-to brush for over 5 years and I opt for it over more expensive brushes in my kit. It’s that good!

Best pointed round watercolor brush for beginners
Princeton Neptune no.12

#2 Princeton Neptune Pointed Round no.12

I would like to point out that the Princeton Neptune #12 is a great brush for beginners. It has a good balance of stiffness and softness. I also recommend the smaller 6 pointed round, because it is very versatile and can be used for smaller details.

The Princeton Neptune #12 is one of my favorite brushes. It has a good balance of stiffness and softness which makes it easier for beginners to get started with watercolor painting, but it’s also great for more advanced painters who want to experiment with different techniques.

Best medium/small pointed round watercolor brush for beginners
Princeton Neptune no.6

#3 Princeton Neptune Pointed Round no.6

You will need a smaller pointed round to handle details such as tree branches, windows, and more. The Princeton Neptune #6 is a great option! I’ll admit it sits most of the time but there’s nothing that can replace it when I need to add some highlights, or delicate line work.

Best watercolor brush for beginners - Princeton 1/2" dagger
Princeton Dagger

#4 Princeton Neptune Dagger 1/2″, or 3/8″

This is probably my favorite watercolor brush. The versatility is just amazing and no other brush can create the type of expressive brushwork as the Princeton dagger 1/2″.

It’s also surprisingly good at adding medium size washes as well. There are many paintings where I only used this one brush.

Many teachers don’t recommend it but I’d say you can’t afford not to have one.

What Kind of Bristles are Good For Beginners? Natural VS Synthetic Blends

  • Natural Brushes – these brushes are made of squirrel, ox and other animal fur. They’re very expensive and don’t always merit the price tag. However, many professionals opt for them because they do absorb a lot of pigment and have a good lifespan if you take good care of them.
  • Synthetic Natural Blends – this is the way to go! Brushes have come a long way the past 10 years and the quality is outstanding. I would never splurge on an all natural brush again. The clear winners here are the Silver Black Velvet and Princeton Neptune series brushes which I mentioned previously. Again, it’s what I use all the time and they deliver everything one could ask from a brush.
Best watercolor brushes for beginners
watercolor brushes

What Size Should I Get?

In short you will be applying large, medium and small washes to create your art. There are times you need to stain, or wet, the entire paper, or paint a large grass field. Then you will need to apply medium washes for smaller areas and subjects. Most paintings require some very small detail work, or highlights so that should be considered as well.

A larger brush will cover more area with less strokes. Meaning you only need to load the brush once and apply the paint versus going back and forth from paper to palette which can ruin a wash.

As you become more familiar with watercolor you will understand that minimal strokes tend to work best. It’s a fast medium and you don’t want to ‘lick’ the painting to death.

Which Paint Brush Brands Are The Best For Beginners?

Brushes can be a tricky subject when it comes to choosing which one you need. There is an endless variety out there and they all have their pros, but let’s focus on two in particular that will work well regardless of experience level or price range!

  • First up: Silver Black Velvet Series paint brushes – these guys start at around $25 USD. They feature very soft bristles that holds a lot of pigment and water. This makes them ideal for washes which are a big part of the painting process.
  • Second up: Princeton Neptune Series – amazing quality and longevity. There are a variety of sizes to chose from but I’ve narrowed it down to three brushes. You will see them below.

How to Choose the Right Watercolor Paint Brush

When starting out in watercolor, it can be hard to know which watercolor paint brushes for beginners work best. There are a lot of different shapes, natural and synthetic bristles, and long and short handles to choose from!

It comes down to experience really. Knowing what the common tasks are will help determine the tools you need. And those tasks can be summed up as washes, details and highlights.

Once you understand this we can look at the common size(s) paper you will work on and that’s probably 11″ x 15″, or somewhere in that range. Knowing the paper size will help a lot in on the exact brushes you need.

Assuming you are working on small, or medium size paintings, stick to the brushes I mentioned in this article. That’s a total of four brushes and it’s plenty to start out with. As you spend more time painting you may decide to get a Mother, or flat along the way. But for now, I’d say keep it simple.

Conclusion and Next Steps

The great debates in the world of watercolor brushes is whether to buy synthetic or natural hair brushes. While many artists agree that natural hair brushes are superior, the truth is that they are not for everyone. The affordability and convenience of synthetic brushes make them a better choice for some people, including me.