Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Not all Sable is equal : paint brush review

 Not all sable brushes are created equal, at least this is something i've found out after buying a few different brands. 
Let's start with my least favorite which I've already sent to the crap brush graveyard. 

These promise to be great brushes, I mean hey look at the pictures they look awesome! I really liked the fatty handles on them as well.  But They are horrible at painting.. wait, what? Yes they are horrible at doing the job they were designed for. 
In the pictures they are lush and pointing all the while promising to hold a lot of paint and paint a great line.  Well I've found just the opposite. I originally wanted something for my larger projects that would give me a smooth paint job instead what I got is a brush that frays like a mohawk with day old hair spray and bed head.  This is the bad part : the paint is pushed to the outside of the bristles on the canvas/miniature.  So yeah it paints two lines instead of one and well I wouldn't say "line" I would say puddle of paint.   As far as the amount of paint they hold it is pretty much a joke.  So my advice would be to skip them at all costs. 

These are the brushes I ordered for my boyfriend since I kept stealing all the good brushes we had around the house.  Well since the W&N ones I ordered for myself (see above) turned out to be junk I tried out one of his and Oooh Myyyy they are amazing. They are exactly what I wanted those other brushes to be  like.  They hold an amazing amount of paint and they have a nice tip on them which actually can paint detail work.  They are smooooooooth while painting a little pressure will take you a long way. The paint goes on evenly and there are no brush stroke lines just like it should. These brushes will improve your paint jobs because they are made of magic.  I also like these because the bristles are longer than the current ones i've been using and it make it easier to paint the nooks and crannies on miniatures.  A size 0 is the perfect 'paint all' brush it's just small & large enough for most projects.  You can't paint eyes with that size but you should know that already. 
 So of course I had to order more for myself since I have a bunch of big projects coming up. 
I only wish the handle was fatter but I might go out and buy some of those fat pencil grips and stick them on the brushes.  

These are great brushes but they have a high learning curve the short bristles and sharp tips really make you work to get the paint to work with you.  It took me about 2 miniatures and 30+ hours of painting time to really conquer this brush.  I really enjoy the 0 size for all purpose painting but the Kolinsky is going to replace it.  My favorite size is 2/0 for serious detail work.  The sharp tips are wonderful for detail work because the bristles are so short they don't hold much paint and you need to add medium / flow release to your paints to really get the full potential out of these brushes.  I've noticed that my 2nd size 0 brush has softer bristles than my first one (1 year old)  and it's harder to paint details with it. Literally i'm bending the bristles on the mini and no paint is coming off.  So i'm not sure if I will order these again if they are going to continue with the softer bristles.  

So over all i'm going to say that the Raphaël Kolinsky Red Sable Fine Pointed Round  
are the best of the bunch. They are a great price although they cost more than synthetic brushes. If you want the bristles on your brushes to stop hooking/curling stop buying synthetic and get yourself some sable brushes. As far as I can tell Sable brushes don't hook a the ends.  Also get yourself some good brush cleaner and clean after every use or every other use if you are lazy like me. * I've been told in the comments that you should space out your brush cleaning. however I'm notorious for getting paint gunked up in the ferrule and need to clean my brushes after every project if not more.   The Masters soap is awesome, along with pink soap.  The mona lisa brush shaper is great for when you aren't going to paint for a while.  After you clean your brushes dip them in the brush shaper and use your fingers to shape the brush into a nice shape and it will dry stiff and keep the shape until you are ready to paint again. 
Anyways I hope this helped some of you who are wondering what brushes to get. 


  1. Actually, the thing about sable bristles is they are just like hair. It's actually bad to clean them with brush soap after every use. A very well-known and successful mini painter I know told me that she only cleans her brushes with brush cleaner about twice a year, and that's after she's done a bunch of seminars at big cons. She rinses them heavily with water and never rubs them on a rough cloth. She will occasionally shampoo and condition them, which helps preserve the natural oils and keeps the bristles supple. I've started doing this with my sables and they are reacting very well. I tend to do more mass painting (squads and commissions) so I clean mine every couple of months.

  2. Awesome review!!! I always enjoy tips from people who paint far more often than I do and honestly I am not a horrible painting now after a few years of painting but I tend to destroy brushes. =/ I never know what to replace them with as I bounce around brands.

  3. When it comes to brushes, you definitely get what you pay for. Spending 6 or 8 bucks on a brush can have a turbo-boosting effect on your painting skills. I'm proof.

  4. @chaplainaerion That is good to hear about brush cleaning. I however have to clean my brushes after ever project because i'm notorious at getting paint gunked up in the ferrules and then the bristles fray.

  5. Nice review,after 1s and 2s right now...Almost bought the WN too.



  6. Great review. From experience, the sable brushes are superior to the synthetic ones and don't curl/hook at the end.

    I haven't tried shampoo yet, but will try to remember to do so having read @chaplainaerion's comment!

  7. Something to keep in mind is that Windsor Newton makes many different types of brushes.

    The series 7 brushes come in two types, round and miniature round. The miniature rounds are much shorter than the standard round series 7 brushes. I use the standard rounds and I love them. They have a great point and excellent snap.

  8. @Jabber chose your shampoo wisely as most shampoo is horrible for human hair and will strip all the natural oils out and the conditioner is not much better.
    I have long hair and I have to buy olive oil shampoo from the ethnic section and all natural conditioner from Aveno. Avoid anything with SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) in it. especially if you put your brushes in your mouth.. Oh and you don't want to read your toothpaste/soap/shampoo box after reading that link..
    Honestly just stick to Masters brush soap or any other soap that is designed to clean paint brushes.

    @MasterM that is very true, I had forgotten about the round series I will have to check them out next time.

  9. I can't agree more about Masters brush soap. Its a great cleaner.

    What most people do not know is that it can also can be left to dry on the brushes to hold a point and condition.