When deciding on the best paint brush for your watercolor painting, it’s important to consider the brush’s tip material as well as its size and shape. A quality brush will hold a good amount of water, release paint evenly, and won’t shed or split. Among the most popular brushes for watercolor are brushes made with hair from the red sable, actually a species of weasel, not a sable. The very finest hair comes from the Siberian Kolinsky weasel, which has the longest, densest, and most luxurious fur; these brushes can be extremely expensive. But less expensive sable brushes, made from any species of weasel with red hair, are still a great choice thanks to their springiness and ability to hold water. See the best sable brushes below.
1. Escoda Optimo Kolinsky Sable Brush
Escoda’s Optimo line of brushes is a high-end series made from male and female Kolinsky weasel winter coat hairs. The hair in these brushes is cured for extra spring, and they have exceptional water holding ability. The ferrule is impressively triple-crimped to ensure that the brush won’t become loose, and by design, the bristles are seated deep into the ferrule, maximizing the brush’s snap and control. This size 8 round is slightly more pointed than your typical round, making it an excellent brush for fine lines as well as broader strokes.
2. Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Brush
While some round brushes lose their crisp point with heavy use, Winsor & Newton’s famed Series 7 Kolinsky sable brushes will last most users many years. Their springiness ensures excellent control, and they easily snap back into shape during use. Color flows evenly and consistently to the point of the brush, thanks to the dense bristle belly, and doubly crimped ferrules ensure that the brush head won’t become loose. This size 3 brush is ideal for detail work.
3. Da Vinci Brushes Round Shape Set
Art students looking to find a set of brushes on a budget need look no further than this product. This pack, which features five red sable brushes, includes round brushes ranging from size 0 to size 6. Manufactured with certified green processes, each brush has a sustainable wood handle and nickel-plated brass ferrules. Handcrafted by skilled artisans at the da Vinci factory in Germany, all brushes are individually tested to ensure the finest tips.
4. Princeton Aqua Elite Professional Watercolor Brushes
Vegans looking for brushes not made from animal hair should consider Princeton’s Aqua Elite series. This set contains four top-quality brushes that look, feel, and even perform like natural Kolinsky sable hair. They are satisfyingly springy, showcase excellent snap, and have a high water capacity—“thirsty” would be a fitting adjective. Soft and sensitive, their bristles glide smoothly on paper and respond beautifully to gestures fast and slow.
5. Escoda 1240/3 Reserva Series Travel Brush Set
Packaged in a sleek leather pouch with individual holders, this set of three expertly crafted Kolinksy-Tajmyr sable paintbrushes is a luxury pick for experienced watercolor artists. Featuring rounds in sizes 2, 6, and 10, it covers the basics you’ll need for plein-air painting. Each brush features an elegant and ultra-comfortable golden-finished handle that doubles as a cap and a design that provides enough length for control while keeping the brush portable. The brushes maintain their points beautifully and showcase an impressive amount of water retention. Like all Escoda brushes, these feature a triple-crimped ferrule to ensure longevity for years.