All about (my) paintbrushes

EDIT: After seeing the replies to yesterday's Warp Report where I had the original question, my approach to brushes is obviously lacking.

Here's what I use to paint my models with. There are lots of brands and types out there, you just need to find what works best for you. Here's what this post is not about... I won't be going over how they're built or how to keep them clean. Only because I don't concern myself with how they're built and I wash them all out with water anyway.

I can tell you that my brushes are like my paints, I use whatever it takes to get the job done and I don't have a specific brand or model I use exclusively.

I do use small brushes though, as small as I can get my hands on without having to order them online. I swing by my FLGS (Game Vault) or a local hobby/craft store and see what I can find. It can be tough sometimes since a lot of stores don't take care of the tips and most brushes are already damaged before I can even get my hands on them.

I think of my brushes as being disposable. I use them for as long as they work and then they get downgraded to something like drybrushing or gluing and then pitched out. I have a heavy hand when I paint, so my brush tips tend to bend much sooner than most do. And I paint lots of stuff as well so they're only going to hold up for so long in my hands.

So let's get right to it then.
Some of the brushes in the pictures have seen better days (their tips are destroyed) and have been downgraded already. I've included them in their original categories though so you can see the variety of brands I use.

Detail work (Top to bottom)
000 American Painter (I think... the markings have rubbed off)
18/0 Loew-Cornell 7000 Round
18/0 American Painter 4350 Liner
Insane Detail The Army Painter
000 Windsor Newton University Series 233

These are for the tiny stuff, things like freehand, line highlighting and adding all those fine details to models. I also use these for painting small areas on models. These are my "work horses" and get the most use without a doubt.

For some reason, I'm not able to find the Windsor Newton brush anymore around my area so I've been forced to find and use other brands these days. As for the Insane Detail brush, the tip is a bit long for my taste, but it gets the job done without problems.

Medium work (Top to bottom)
3/0 American Painter 4650 Spotter
3/0 M.Grumbacher Golden Edge 4620
10/0 American Painter 4650 Spotter
Precise Detail The Army Painter

These are for larger things like painting sections of armour, adding washes to small areas... anything I don't want to put mileage on my Detail brushes with.

I will use my Detail brushes in this category once their tips are shot and I can't use them for fine detail work anymore.

Big work (Top to bottom)
4 American Painter 4000 Round (top three brushes)
3 American Painter 4000 Round

These get used for all my big stuff. Things like base coating a model, adding a wash to everything, painting large surface areas. etc. Anything where I don't need to be careful with my brush strokes.

Odds and ends
I have a handful of other brushes lying around that I use for things like drybrushing, adding glue to bases, etc. They are whatever I can get my hands on and I'll use them until they're destroyed.
This is also the category my brushes go to when they're "destroyed" and can no longer function in their primary role.

There you have it.
If I were to guess, I would say that a brush will last me a little over a month depending on how much painting I'm doing (as opposed to converting). Once they start to deteriorate, I downgrade and pitch them just like I do with my X-Acto blades.

Most of the brushes shown above run around the five dollar range. I don't have any super expansive brushes in my collection. I'm just too hard on them and I can't bring myself to drop tons of money on real expensive brushes. With as hard as I am on them, I'm lucky to get the time I do out of them.

Follow-up Post: Part 1 of caring for your brushes

Additional FTW related links:
Brush Care: What to do, by The Painting Corps
Brush Care: Cleaning by N++ Wargaming

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. By the Dark Gods Ron!!!!
    At least clean them with Windex!

    Seriously though for a long time my stuff was like this until I discovered Brush Soap. Even regular cheap brushes can last longer with this stuff. A worthy investment that will save you dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

  2. I'm a fan of filbert shaped brushes. They make edge highlighting extremely easy for me.


  3. I used to use most of the brushes you do Ron. I would buy them from Michael's, use them for a month, then try to get more brushes when they had a weekend 50% off deal.

    In the long run this costs way too much.

    I bought $100 worth of Da Vinci Red Sable brushes from Dick Blick (it was, I think 11 brushes at the time with their sale + free shipping). I have used only 3 of them now for over 8 months consistently. Every single model I paint I use these brushes - except for glue/drybrushing/damaging activity. These 3 brushes are still _perfect_ and have a fine tip every time I use them. In the end I just needed those 3 brushes so I've sold the other 8. I could have gotten these 3 brushes for $25-$30 had I known how well they would turn out.

    I did invest in the Master's brush soap which has certainly contributed to their longevity. I use the brush soap with the cheaper brushes when I use those brushes for things like priming.

    Finally these brushes have substantially increased the joy I derive from painting miniatures.

  4. Uh after looking at the Dick Blick site for these Filbert brushes... I realize that there are a lot of Da Vinci Red Sable brushes. I am using the Da Vinci Kolinsky Red Sable Watercolor brushes.

  5. You will get a lot more life out of your brushes if you clean them up. I use rubbing alcohol, which is very cheap, and also useful as thinner for paint bottles that are starting to dry out. There are stronger brusher cleaning solutions available, but the fumes can be nasty.
    A little bit of soap - even dish soap - will help keep the tips in good shape too.

  6. Ron, I used to be the same way with brushes. I just bought the cheap stuff as I figured I was not a good enough a painter to justify anything better. About 5 years ago I decided to step up my painting and I invested in a set of Winsor & Newton series 7 brushes. I spent about $75 for 5 brushes. I then bought some brush soap from Michael's. In all I spent less that $100. I was very surprised at how well a quality brush deals with abuse and how good they are when they are cared for. I still have all of those brushes and I use them daily. I have purchased a couple of crap brushes during that time but nothing like I used to do and they are only used for bulking in colors.

    It is well worth the time and money to move to quality brushes.

  7. Oh, Ron. Ron, Ron, Ron....

    There are so many things about your brushes that make me want to cry.

    I haven't used the Da Vinci brushes but as they offer a Kolinsky red sable I will happily give them a conditional thumbs up. I can't tell from the pics what their "full bodied" and "liner" brushes actually look like. The Dick Blick site has a lot of photos but not linked to the specific products. I'd need to see the reservoir and tips to have a real opinion.

    My favorite is still the Raphael - which I do sell but that's not the cause of my bias. I sell them because I think they're the best brush, bar none.

    To the filbert shaped brushers out there doing edge highlights - you can actually do the same with any brush in good shape. Just use the edge, of course ;)

  8. When I decided to "get serious" about my painting, I have to admit I bought into "using anything other than Kolinsky sable is a waste of time" mentality. While sable 0's, 1's & 3's are still my "workhorse" brushes (mostly because I love the paint capacity & "flow" they give) I find myself using synthetic artist brushes a lot more lately - the 10/0 "spotter" brushes are great for details, and the "liner" brushes are great for highlights. The bristles are stiffer so I get better control, and at three bucks apiece I can afford to go through one every month...

  9. @mrjustin: oh I didn't know you sold those. very cool. I shall have to purchase some when my moving house settles down around christmas (right about when I will likely need some new brushes too!)

  10. The LeadHead does cover an important point - even most sable brush owners have a few "throw-away" brushes on hand. From where I'm sitting I probably have two dozen of them, in fact. Any time my local craft store has some that aren't in crap condition (kids mangle the brushes) I pick a couple up.

    I use these brushes for drybrushing, oils, out of the pot speed painting and anything that doesn't involve careful, slow painting.

    @Da_Sub: Yup, I stock the Raphael 8404 at 50% off of MSRP. There's also a comparison of the 8404 vs. W&N S7 brushes in the "Tips & Tutorials" section.


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