There are many quality manufacturers of artist paintbrushes and of course, a bunch of manufacturers just trying to make an easy buck with poor quality. It takes some experience to know the difference, so I’m hoping to save you some hardship and share my secrets with you.
Some manufactures specialize in brushes for single mediums like watercolor and oil. I’ll steer clear of those for now except for one budget recommendation at the end of this article, because I want to focus on the Best Paint Brush Brands.
When asked what is the best brand of artist paintbrush, and if I had to narrow it down to just one brand, I would recommend the brand that consistently makes a great paintbrush for oil and acrylic mediums, the Silver Bristlon.
Watercolor and gouache are entirely different beasts and have completely different needs. The best brand for watercolor brushes in my experience is the Princeton Aqua Elite.
Both of these brands have excellent competitors, though, so let’s dive into some great options!
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If You’re Short of Time, Here’s My Recommendations for the Best Brand of Artist Paint Brushes
In descending order of preference and quality:
- Silver Bristlon – My Best Recommendation
- Princeton Artist Brushes for Oil and Acrylic OR Princeton Aqua Elite for Watercolor
- Escoda Prado Tame Synthetic
- Richeson Grey Matters Brushes
- Rosemary Brushes
- Winsor and Newton Foundation Series
- Grumbacher Golden Edge Synthetic and Grumbacher Academy Bristle
- Dick Blick Masterstroke Brushes
- Simply Simmons Budget Priced Synthetic Brushes
- Royal and Langnickel Crafter’s Choice
- Royal and Langnickel Soft Grip – Best Budget Set
- Mont Marte Premium Brush Set
What Makes A Good Brand Of Brush?
Do you remember trying to paint in grade school and being so frustrated because you couldn’t get your painting to come out the way you wanted it to? Even the best professional artist will be frustrated by the performance of a terrible brand. I tell my students that the best gift they can give themselves when learning to paint is to purchase quality right from the get-go.
Brushes are basically animal hair or synthetic fibers bound together into a clamp that mounts on a handle.
The two things that are critical are the fibers and how they are bound together. Most often what happens with cheaply made brushes is that the clamp is not sufficient enough and fibers or hairs will fall out as you use it….sometimes if you just get it wet! OR the ferrule is inferior and loosens from the handle so that the whole thing wobbles.
Quality brushes will have a double crimp on the base of the ferrule to prevent loosening, epoxy glued in place, and use a strong metal like nickel or brass.
Application Method of the Artist
A gentle, soft stroke of paint with lots of fine blending will need a very soft hair paintbrush. The very, very best brushes for this purpose are made of sable Kolinski hair. Unfortunately, they are not only expensive, as you can imagine, but they also necessitate the killing of the animal. Nowadays, synthetic sable fibers imitate animal fur so well that it is entirely possible to be super happy with NOT owning a sable fur brush.
Superior brands use high-quality fibers/hairs that spring back into shape as you release a stroke, hold just the right amount of paint and hold their shape after repeated use. How the bristle is designed (like tapers on the tip, staggered lengths, how it is packed tight, etc.) makes a difference in performance.
Some hog hair brushes intended for oil and acrylic are very stiff and coarse. They will allow for thick blobs of paint like this:
This style of paint application is thick and without detail or refined strokes.
If you enjoy this style of painting, you may find that very coarse hair brushes will serve you best.
These are reliable brands that will take abuse and keep on going for years:
- Da Vinci Maestro Hog Hair Bristle Artist Brushes
- Dick Blick Masterstroke Bristle Brushes
- Grumbacher Gainsborough Bristle Paintbrushes
I’ve had some brushes for decades, and I’ve had some become fairly useless after two paintings! I refuse to recommend the latter UNLESS the price is so ridiculously low that you can justify replacing the brush often, or keep it as a ‘cruddy brush’ for scumbling techniques.
Let’s face it, we live in the era of massive knock-offs and imitators trying to make a swift buck. You’ll get just about what you think when buying these brands. For the Best Brands of Artists Paint Brushes, sticking with a long-time reputable brand will pay off in the long run.
Handles are a personal preference. Some artists want a very long-handled brush so that they can stand back from the painting surface and see the brush as it works across the canvas easier, and wield the brush like a baton for strokes and flourishes with thick paint.
Some artists (like me) prefer to stick my face close to the canvas and need a short-handled brush.
I recommend that you stick to your guns and paint the distance from the canvas that feels more natural to you! There is no one perfect way to paint for all people.
What style of a painter are you?
Oil and Acrylic Brushes
Oil and acrylic paints need sturdy brushes that can handle weightier pigments and assist the artist with a snappy ‘pop-back-into-shape’ after each stroke. The last thing you want is a brush that ends up turning to an angle because of the pressure with your hand and stays locked in that position. Acrylic also needs a well-made brush because it takes more effort to get the paint out of the brush at the end of each session. Any leftover paint in the bristles or hair is going to cause the brush to dry into a splayed-out shape, potentially ruining the brush.
Oil brushes need to be on the soft side in case you want to do some find blending. Acrylic brushes need to be sturdier.
I use a lighter hand and love glazing with thin layers when I paint with acrylics, so I prefer a medium-soft to soft synthetic brushes for my acrylic fine work and stiffer bristle brushes for my first layer of washes or thicker scrubbing paint application in acrylic.
For a more in-depth article on using the best brushes for acrylic, please see my article here. https://verycreate.com/best-brushes-for-acrylic-painting/
Top Brands Worth Every Penny
My favorite brand is Silver Bristlon. It was recommended to me by Carol Marine, the famous creator of Daily Painting. I took a workshop from her and went right home a purchased several of these brushes. I noticed a difference right away! I now have about ten brushes in a variety of shapes and if I’m painting a serious painting in oil, these are the only brush brand that I will use. I love everything about these brushes, and I keep buying more so that I never run out.
The bristles are synthetic with just the right amount of spring, stiffness, and softness to be very versatile and release paint evenly and easily. Cleanup is a dream! The ferrules are double epoxied into the handles and crimped well. The ferrules are made of seamless nickeled brass.
Because they are manufactured so well, I can clean them daily and they last a long, long time. I love how the tips do not fray or splay out of shape with repeated use. The tips feel supple and tight at the same time with finely chiseled tips and points. There is something about the white bristles that I love as well. Silver Bristlon is available in flats, brights, rounds, and filbert shapes.
Princeton manufactures a great line of soft, medium-stiff synthetic brushes and firm bristle brushes in their brush lines as well as soft synthetic brushes for oil or acrylic. The quality is top-notch without an exorbitant price.
and this variety, the Princeton Catalyst, which is slightly softer while still remaining quite stiff. Able to withstand water very well.
3. Escoda Paintbrushes
Escoda brushes are handmade in Spain by this highly respected paintbrush manufacturer. Each brush is superior in construction. Hairs and fibers range from the most expensive sable and fur on the planet to synthetic options. Here, I recommend their Prado Tame Synthetic line for excellent snap and resiliency.
Available in synthetic or bristle hair, these brushes are made to last by the long time artist brush company Richeson. The edges are thin for precise details and control. They are also available in short handles for plein air or travel painting!
Among professional oil painters, Rosemary brushes are the absolute top. I don’t own any because they are made in England and not marketed in the USA. Professional artists rave about the quality though, and just by their many recommendations, I have to mention them here. I placed them lower on the list for lack of easy availability.
They are made entirely by hand in Yorkshire, England, and typically marketed in the USA at art fairs and conventions, if you are lucky enough to attend them!
Other Good Brands To Consider
Winsor and Newton is a long-respected brand of art materials. I rank them in the middle of the quality pack. Their brushes are inexpensive and will last a while, giving good service. This set has a great variety and will take you a long way with a great budget price point.
A long-established brand, Grumbacher has been making artist paints and brushes for over 100 years. They make several series, varying from soft to stiff bristles. A good, reliable brand, I would rate these a high medium quality. The Golden Edge Synthetic is available in single brush purchases of a round, filbert, and flats.
The tips of the bristles are going to spread apart just enough as they age so that getting a chisel or a sharp point will be more difficult than my favorite brand (Silver Bristlon), but still a very good quality brush, especially for creating textures or heavy loads of paint. Their Academy line is their student line, meant for college use.
Dick Blick is a major art supply chain in the U.S.A. and they have their own line of brushes. Their sets and individual brushes are a good quality student grade to professional-grade and priced affordably. I’m happy with my Dick Blick brushes and they compare to my medium quality brushes very well. Check out their entire line of natural hair, hog and synthetic hairs.
I’ll be honest with you here. I do have a few inexpensive brushes that I use across oil, acrylic and watercolor in some situations. The all-media brushes aren’t going to give you the versatility that you may crave if you stick to just one medium, but if you like to dabble, and don’t want to invest in specific use brushes for three different mediums, then I enjoy using these brushes:
Simmons brushes are remarkably durable for being so inexpensive. I love the huge variety in shapes and sizes …from fans, to flats, angles, rounds, liners and wash brushes, they make it all. The bristles are soft synthetic though, which makes them less useful for scrubbing in paint or creating interesting textures, and it is difficult to get them to keep a point or chisel unless you shape them well to dry. However, for the price, this is my go-to budget brand.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t include Royal And Langnickel in my recommendations, as I use this brand ALL.THE.TIME. The synthetic fibers respond pretty darn good and the price is great. They make all sorts of sizes, shapes and even levels of quality, but I prefer the Royal And Langnickel Crafter’s Choice Taklon Variety because the bristles are smooth and consistent and the handles are ergonomic grip. They aren’t constructed to last years and years, but for the amazing price point and the amount of use you’ll get out of them, this is an excellent choice. They are very soft, though, and won’t do for thick applications of paint.
If I’m trying to teach the grandkids or young teens how to paint realistically, I’ll buy this set for them every single time because they can get good results and details for several uses before the set will need to be replaced. It beats the total junk included with cheap paint sets or kid’s craft sets all to pieces and I can consider them one-time-use if necessary and not break the bank.
I would rate these super great on price point value and medium-low on durability.
A step up in quality, with good variety AND a nice carrying case, is this set also from Royal and Langnickel
I like this brand for beginners because the quality is pretty good but the variety in this set is remarkable. Let’s face it, you’ll need wide bristle hair for scrubbing in an underpainting, soft synthetic hair for glazing and initial paint lay-ins and rounds and liners for detail work. The price is right with this brand and the versatility is definitely a high point to consider. If you are looking for an all-purpose set, this is a great option.
I would rate these fair on price point and lower end quality.
Here’s where things get tricky. If you search google or Amazon, you‘ll soon discover a multitude of brands that look exactly alike. That’s because they are from the same manufacturer from china, who private labels companies to sell the brushes as their own brand on Amazon. Sigh. I’ve bought a few of these, and some of them are actually meh, o.k. Some of them are trash.
And the brand names change ALL THE TIME! It’s kind of a gamble. No. It is a gamble.
You find a brand, it is somewhat adequate for a few purposes, and WHAM, six months later the company has disappeared with a handful of NEW companies selling what looks like the exact thing.
I guess that’s the common issue with selling on Amazon and private label companies. Personally, I recommend sticking with name brands who are thoroughly invested over decades to professional artist use.
I can tell you that I own the Artify 15 piece set and it comes packed with 15 brushes of low to medium quality, a palette knife, two useless sponges and a zippered carrying case that is probably worth the purchase price just by itself. Some of the hairs do fall out, the ferrules won’t last more than a year, but for the price paid, and if you don’t use them heavily, it’s kinda a bargain!
Typically, watercolor brushes are in a class all by themselves. The need of the artist to load massive amounts of water into the brush means that the fibers and shape of the brush have to be dedicated to that purpose.
I typically use brushes made strictly for watercolor unless I’m going to make something casual, like greeting cards, for example, or if I’m teaching first-time beginners. The reason is, I won’t need a superior performance in those situations, and especially when teaching first-timers, I want them to see me using the exact same brush they will be using. No fair using a $75 brush when the student is using a $4 brush!! That’s just discouraging for the student.
For a detailed article on the best watercolor brushes, please go here. https://verycreate.com/best-watercolor-brushes/
An excellent brand for watercolor brushes that won’t break the bank, yet perform outstanding, is Princeton Aqua Elite, as I mentioned at the start of this article.
The synthetic bristles are nearly indistinguishable to Kolinsky Sable, which is saying quite a bit! With watercolor, you need bristles that will hold a heavy saturation of water and release the watery paint in a smooth, reliable and consistent manner.
I own about 8 Princeton Aqua Elite brushes and they are my first choice go-to brushes for watercolor. I often paint an entire painting with just the pointed cat’s tongue brush! (they call it the Synthetic Kolinsky Oval Wash ¾) and in my option, it is the ultimate in versatility for a watercolor brush.
They are affordable, yet high quality.
Princeton also manufactures a line named the NEPTUNE SERIES, which is ideal for super-wet, soupy applications of watercolor paint. They are made of a proprietary synthetic fiber that mimics squirrel fur.
Don’t take my word for it, the user reviews are very high with this brand.
Another wonderful watercolor brand manufacturer is the Raphael Kolinsky Red Sable brush line. This is another leap up in price though, because they are made with real sable animal hair. If the ethics of harvesting animal hair (the animal must be killed to make sable hair brushes) doesn’t bother you, this is a superb brush company, famous the world over for high-quality artist brushes.
My other articles are packed with great information!
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