Watercolor Materials 101: Brushes

Here’s Part 2 of my Watercolor Materials 101 series! View Part 1 here. When I was new to watercolor, I was totally clueless about brushes to use- I thought they all saved the same purpose. So now that I know more about them, I thought I’d save some of you beginners the hassle by focusing on watercolor brushes for this post.

Honestly, I’m not very big on brands when it comes to brushes so I opted not to specify for this post. I just need kinds that are functional. If you’re just starting out or if you would prefer not to splurge, stick with those brushes you’d often find in bookstores/art and craft stores.


Brush Types



1. Round Brush 
– This type features brushes with a round-ish figure and an often pointy tip. It’s your basic brush that you can use for almost anything. It’s also the most common type of paintbrush and the kind I prefer using the most.


2. Flat Brush
– This type has a square-ish, flat appearance (but with a round handle). It’s good for even washes- excellent if you’re aiming to have solid figure and background colors.


3. Liner Brush
– These brushes are very thin in appearance and have long bristles. They’re good for painting solid outlines and tiny details. Watercolor letterers also prefer using this type for their works because of the brushes’ thin but solid strokes.


4. Fan Brush
– This type falls under the specialty category. It’s not really a common type and is just an optional addition for your set. However, it’s good for blending and creating textures.


5. Water Brush
– This is one of the newest types- an innovation if you may call it. Basically it’s a regular paintbrush (usually round/liner) but what makes it special is its handle is a barrel that opens up to store water. The barrel also unscrews easily so refiling water is a breeze. This brush is perfect to bring everyday because of its portability- come on, no need to bring water with you! I do recommend getting a barrel size of at least 9ml though. Also, take not that this brush may be intimidating at first- sometimes, it’s hard to control the flow of water. I myself still need to work on mastering that.

Examples: Sakura, Kuretake, Pentel Aquash, and Derwent


Bristle Types

Synthetic -Hair Paintbrush (left) and a Natural-Hair Paintbrush (right)
Synthetic -Hair Paintbrush (left) and a Natural-Hair Paintbrush (right)

Natural Hair 

– holds more water, appears to bend more when pressed on a hard surface, frays faster
Appearance: usually brown, bristles have a more coarse texture


Synthetic Hair
– is more firm but doesn’t hold as much water, my personal preference because I like the feel more (it’s easier to control)
Appearance: usually lighter in color, bristles have a smoother, finer texture


Brush Care Do’s and Dont’s

Do clean your brushes. They sell special balms to clean brushes. However, personally I just use soap and shampoo. That works too.

Don’t leave your brushes dipped inside your water jar for very long periods of time. My art teacher would always scold us when we do this back in elementary school. She said it changes the shape of the bristles.

Don’t dry your brushes standing (bristle-side up) as doing so will ruin your brushes. It’ll make the water go down from your bristles to the glue that binds them.

Do dry your brushes flat or hang-them up bristle-side facing down.

Don’t use the same brushes with your watercolors and your acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is harsh on paintbrushes as compared to watercolors.


Basic Brush Kit

There is no “right” brush sizes that you have to have in a basic art kit. It really depends on your art style and what you’re aiming for in watercolor. However, to help out any beginners, I’ll list some of the basic ones I prefer and you can use that as a basis.

Round: 2, 4, 5 or 6, and an 8.
Flat: 6 or 7


Some of my brushes in my kitL-R: Flat Brush (7), Sakura Water Brush (Medium), and Round Brush (5)
Some of my brushes in my kit
L-R: Flat Brush (7), Sakura Water Brush (Medium), and Round Brush (5)


Stay tuned for Part 3 where I’ll be talking about paper!



Kaela is an Illustrator and Graphic Designer who draws inspiration from her quirks, childhood nostalgia, and pop/sub-culture. www.KaelaAnte.com

7 thoughts on “Watercolor Materials 101: Brushes

    1. I’ve little knowledge of makeup brushes! hahaha

      That’s awesome 🙂 It’s always nice to learn new things even if they’re outside your interests.

  1. Very informative and an interesting read. I’ve always wanted to try watercolour but I’m far from an expert when it comes to types of brushes and paint. I guess for someone like me, it’s easier to stick to a basic kit. I haven’t seen a water brush before but it looks pretty neat. =)
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