The Best Watercolour Brushes for Beginners


This is my no-nonsense quick-start guide for beginners looking for great brushes. The wonderful thing about watercolours is quality doesn’t mean expensive. There are a range of options for every artist, whether you’re on a budget, want to use synthetic fibres, or want to splash out on a longer-term investment. These are my top three best watercolour brushes for beginners, in each category.

Your Essential Core Brushes

Build your kit around a few key brushes. As you begin to find your confidence and unique painting style, you can branch out into other watercolour brush shapes that suit your artistic needs.

I always recommend beginners start with three sizes of round brushes. These are the most versatile shaped brushes and can tackle detail work as well as large washes. I paint daily, and round brushes are what I use 90% of the time.

I paint more detailed work; I, therefore, suggest those who want to paint like me choose smaller brushes. Choose from size 2, size 4, and size 6. If you can afford it, add a size 0 and a size 8 round brush. However, you’ll be able to tackle almost every painting with just a size 2, 4 & 6 round brush.

The Best Watercolour Brushes on a Budget

There’s no shame in taking a measured approach to a new hobby; after all, as a beginner, you’re still figuring out the ropes. The best thing about watercolours is that they are accessible, and you can find amazing tools without incredibly high price tags. Synthetic brushes are the least expensive place to start, although Pro Arte has a very inexpensive line of pure sable brushes that might also pique your interest. With so much choice, the real problem is filtering out the wheat from the chaff; and I promise these brushes won’t lead you astray:

Jackson’s Art, Studio
Synthetic Brush
Pro Arte, Pure Sable Brushes, Series 3
Escoda Versatil,
Series 1548

Investment Brushes that will Grow with You

Every recommendation I make on this site is made to suggest a tool that won’t hold you back. Learning is hard enough as it is, without a brush shedding on you, or a paint appearing to be chalky. Beginners are in a particularly vulnerable stage, as you won’t have the experience to tell whether it’s your technique or your tools letting you down.

Having said that, some tools can really make your life easier; and actually can improve your work and painting experience. These are my all-time favourite brushes, that I’ve used for years and you won’t outgrow them. Keep them well, and you’ll have them for years to come.

Winsor & Newton,
Series 7
Escoda Reserva,
Series 1212
Silver Brush, Black Velvet, Series 3000s6

Incredible Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic watercolour brushes used to have a bad reputation; watercolour artists want their brushes to hold as much water and pigment as possible, to prevent them from continually having to reload their brushes. Synthetic brushes are made from plastic, and the early versions left much to be desired; plastic isn’t absorbent and frequently dumped paint.

However, this is no longer the case! Technology has come a long way, and now several excellent synthetic brushes can rival the best Kolinsky sable. If you do want an animal-free art practice, it’s worth knowing that animal products can be found in some paints and papers. If you want to learn more, I’ve put together my best animal-free recommendations for you.

Jackson’s Art, Studio
Synthetic Brush
Escoda Versatil,
Series 1548
Princeton Heritage,
Series 4050

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