Detail paint brushes are a handy tool for creating fine lines and tiny brushstrokes. Suitable for use with acrylics, watercolors, gouache, enamel, and oil paints, detail brushes can be used to paint miniatures, models, figurines, nail art, or any other painting project where precision is key. Deciding which detail brush is right for you can depend on a variety of factors such as brush shape, durability, and how it feels in your hand. Detail brushes are available in a range of sizes, starting with the superfine 0000 (less than 1/64 of an inch). Most sets will be a selection of all-purpose round brushes, while some may include flat, liner, filbert, or angular brushes for a greater variability in your brushstrokes. To find the right detail brush set for all your project needs, see our top picks, below.
1. Winsor & Newton Series 7 Watercolor Brush
Winsor & Newton’s Kolinsky sable–hair round brush has every desired quality an exceptional watercolor brush should have: high water capacity, satisfying spring, and a structured tip that retains its shape and hairs. This zero size is not its finest (there are even smaller ones), but it makes for an excellent go-to for details. It’s part of the popular Series 7, which was developed in 1866 to meet the artistic standards of none other than Queen Victoria, and it has remained a favorite among beginner and experienced watercolorists. Not only does this brush deposit color evenly and smoothly—particularly necessary for detail work!—but it also lasts a long time: While some round brushes lose their crisp point with heavy use, this brush has excellent durability and will snap back into shape when wet. Finally, it has a relatively accessible price point.
2. Silver Brush Limited Brushes
The squirrel-and-synthetic brushes in this set have many of the qualities of brushes made from natural hair, but for a fraction of the cost. The natural hair is very soft and excels with glazes, while the synthetic fibers provide structure to shape the tip into a fine point for crisp, even brushstrokes. The handles on these brushes are shorter than traditional ones, which makes it easy to control the amount of pressure you exert. The set includes one each of sizes 1, 2, and 4 round brushes.
3. Princeton Select Artiste Series 3750
If you’re new to watercolors or detailed painting, it might not be the best idea to start with the priciest brush made with the most carefully sourced hairs. We recommend getting a feel for the technique with something reliable yet economical, like this set of five. It comes with rounds in sizes 3/0, 1, and 2, plus medium sizes of 4 and 6. The synthetic bristles are workhorses that offer a good balance between stiffness and flexibility to deliver firm lines. They also retain a good amount of paint and showcase good snap. Once you’ve gained more confidence, level up to one of our other picks.
4. Da Vinci Watercolor Maestro Brush Set
This gift-ready set comes with three exceptional brushes, including a size 0 that is exceptional for miniature painting and an even smaller 5/0. Made of kolinsky sable, they carry an impressive amount of water for their size, so you can lay down lots of paint before dipping into your palette again. The brush heads maintain their tips to consistent points to deliver smooth, non-streak strokes. And the long handles make it possible to hold the brush at length for looser gestural work.
5. Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Miniature Brush Set
No animals were harmed in the making of da Vinci’s CosmoTop Spins, our very favorite watercolor brushes
. Neither too stiff nor frustratingly floppy, CosmoTop Spins hold more water than other synthetics and feel almost as good as sable at a fraction of the price. This set includes the finest of fine brushes in sizes 10/0, 5/0, 3/0, 2/0, for exacting detail work. Their bristles are delightfully springy, resist splaying, and held in place by a nickel-plated brass ferrule.