Super convenient for artists on the go, self-moistening water brushes are just paintbrushes with a water reservoir in the shaft: you simply fill up a water brush and get to work. Water brushes are perfect for aquarelle-style painting in watercolor or aquatint. They can be used with watercolor pens and pencils, or with powdered or solid pigment to avoid the mess and hassle of extra tools. They are also a must-have addition to any pocket watercolor kit for plein air painting. Browse our roundup below to find the best brush for you.
1. Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brushes
Pentel’s brushes simply do it all. These blue brushes feature nylon tips that are so durable they can go through the dishwasher. These nicely flexible ends can tolerate a good amount of pressure and aren’t quick to fray, meaning you won’t be bothered by errant bristles so you can effortlessly fill and go. The nib comes to a fine point for making precise lines. They are also easy to use, whether you are a newbie to these tools or a seasoned plein air painter. Simply pour water into the wide-mouth opening and pour out when finished. To release water, squeeze the soft shaft—a perfect amount of water comes out rather than a constant gush that pools on the page. Being transparent, you always know how much water you have left. Most importantly, these brushes seem utterly leak-proof.
2. Faber-Castell Water Brush
Pricier than our top pick, Faber-Castell’s pen immediately charms with its sophisticated, professional look. It is extremely comfortable to hold, featuring a wide, tapered barrel with subtle grip lines; you need to apply only a bit of pressure to squeeze out a small amount of water. The forest green cap fits securely on the end and features grooves designed for sgraffito, should you want to scratch into your painting surface without having to reach for a separate tool. The nylon hairs of the brush are soft and come to a large belly that can hold an impressive amount of water.
3. Caran D’Ache Aquarelle Brush
Caran d’Ache’s water brushes are distinct for the level of control they afford artists. Unlike simpler brushes, these feature a button to push to dispense water. Simply press it quickly for minimal water flow, or longer for more. This 12mm medium-tip brush is equipped with a fiber tip, which is slightly tougher but spongier than nylon—it feels almost like you are working with a marker—and is ideal for getting hard-edge lines or intricate detail work. An easy-to-fill reservoir and stay-put cap makes this a solid pick for painting on the go.
4. Ohuhu Water Coloring Brush Pens
If you aren’t sure if you’ll like the feel of water brushes, try painting with Ohuhu’s. The brand offers a set of six self-moistening brushes including point-tip and flat-tip brush pens in small, medium, and large sizes. Per pen, they cost a fraction of the price of our other picks, making this a smart choice that provides you with a full set of tools for experimentation. The nylon-fiber brush tips keep their shape to ensure precise mark making, but being slightly lower-grade than pricier picks, they may fray faster with regular use.
5. Kuretake Water Brush Set
If you like the idea of a brush set and are willing to spend a little more, we suggest Kuretake’s self-moistening tools. This set features brushes with noticeably different tip sizes, from an extremely fine detailer to a chunky, broad nib. Each is a different color for easy identification. The nylon bristles can hold a good amount of water so you don’t have to keep squeezing the barrel, and each brush can deliver an impressive range of stroke widths depending on how you angle it. We do notice that the tips tend to discolor faster than those of comparable brushes like the top-performing Pentel, but this does not impact the colors of your work.