Painters need not only excellent paints in a variety of hues, they also need a full selection of brushes to create a variety of paint strokes and surfaces. And all painters have their favorite paintbrush—their go-to brush that’s used in every painting, the brush that ushers them into their creative painting zone. One brush, however, is not enough. Paintbrushes were originally made from the hair of hogs, oxen, sable, squirrels, and other animals. Today artists have also grown to love synthetic brushes for their quality, dependability, and versatility. Oil paint is demanding and corrosive, and high-quality, durable brushes are key tools. The brushes here work well with not only oil paint but also with acrylics, watercolor, and gouache.
1. Princeton Velvetouch 3950 Series
Our top pick is somewhat pricey, but this set is a worthwhile investment for serious artists. These vegan-friendly brushes feature synthetic fibers that will fool you: They’re specifically designed to mimic the qualities of natural sable and occupy the middle ground between soft and stiff, so they are very versatile. This set comes with five brushes: two rounds, a filbert, a spotter, and a shader, arming you with the fundamentals for softening, blending, detail work, and sweeping gestures. The contoured handles are comfortable to hold for extended periods, and the bristles are not prone to shedding.
2. Winsor & Newton Winton Long Handle Brushes
If you love using heavy-body paint, consider these resilient brushes, which feature high-quality hog-hair bristles—yes, the real thing! The coarse hairs are hand set into the corrosion-resistant ferrules for a secure hold, and they retain their shape, even after heavy use. Each brush features a long handle for comfortable use at the easel. This 3-pack features a round, a filbert, and a flat to cover all shape bases.
3. Artecho Paintbrush Set
This set is well suited for artists who focus on miniatures. Included are 15 fine-tipped brushes, including five rounds, five liners, two flats, two spots, and one angled spot liner. Made of nylon, the bristles come to a point and do not shed nor splay. Each brush features a handle with one wider, triangular section that is comfortable to hold and prevents the brush from rolling off tables. Keep these tools dust-free and together in the included case, which doubles as a brush holder.
4. Artify Paintbrush Set
It’s hard to beat Artify’s brush set. The 15 diverse brushes are well made; the brush hairs don’t shed into your paintings and the ferrule holds tight to the wooden handle. The bristles are soft and hold wet and thick paint equally well. They also allow for great control and coverage. This set includes round brushes for detail line work and thick flat brushes for washes. It also has filberts, angular, and fan brushes. Do you hate cleaning your brushes? These are engineered to sit in water for up to 48 hours without deteriorating. Also included are a precision palette knife, a sponge, and a well-designed carrying case that will protect brushes during transport. Light and compact, the case even has a pop-up stand for easy use at home or during plein air painting: grab or swap out brushes as needed, no fumbling around for the right one. If you do a lot of detail work, you may need to augment this set with a few more small round brushes.
5. Silver Brush Limited Renaissance Cat’s Tongue Brushes
Made of pure red sable (aka the hair of a weasel), the brushes in this set maintain their shape and natural spring impressively well. Each is a cat’s tongue brush, whose pointed shape allows you to create a wide range of strokes—from hairlines to wide motions. You can paint entire paintings, whether portraits or landscapes, with these babies! One of the absolute best you can get, these brushes lay down paint just as you intend. The set comes with seven brushes in sizes 1 to 12.