|10 min read
Here is where I will be keeping a log of all the brushes I try and how well they work. Hopefully this will help you choose a brush if you ever decide to try ink drawing with a brush.
Currently Using: Kalish Series 1 #4
Currently Using: Kalish Series 1 #4
Winsor & Newton Series 7
A superb English brush that keeps its point throughout an inking session and holds a large reservoir of ink. This brush is sized larger than most other brush lines; a Series 7 #3 is comparable to a Cirrus #4. The handle is somewhat heavy, so the point of balance on this brush is different than the point of balance on most others.
To be honest, though, this brush gets a lot of hype which I believe is rather unjustified. I've found better brushes that are less expensive, and I've noticed that the quality of Series 7 tends to be somewhat inconsistent.
Winsor & Newton Cirrus (101)
Also known as Series 16, this brush is a more affordable alternative to the Series 7. The #4 I used kept its point for the most part, but it wasn't able to hold as much ink as the Series 7 #3. I would only recommend this brush to a beginner at smaller sizes, but it's suitable for most anyone. Larger sizes don't come to as fine a point as I would like. The price is reasonable for a Kolinsky Sable brush.
It's worth noting that production of this brush was discontinued in March 2007.
Winsor & Newton Series 707
Not to be confused with the Series 7, this brush is in limited production. (It may have been discontinued, though I don't know for certain.) The hairs are longer than the Series 7 but don't point as well and don't hold as much ink. I'd suggest smaller sizes for beginners , but larger sizes come with a price tag that doesn't really live up to the brushes' performance.
Distributed by the French conglomerate Savoir-Faire. This is a wonderful brush, able to maintain a consistent point and hold a good amount of ink. This brush is sized somewhat larger than most other brushes; an 8404 #3 is comparable to a Isabey 6227 #4. Larger sizes form points just as well, if not better than, smaller ones, and ink flows smoothly and consistently. The 8404 isn't cheap (especially in the US, with trade tarriffs on French goods still in place), but it's definitely a quality brush.
The 8408 is somewhere between a Round and a Rigger in terms of point length. Despite the fact that it forms a point much more easily, it has a different feel for thicker lines than the 8404 (or many other Rounds, for that matter). Excellent for heavy amounts of detail work, though for contours and spotted blacks I would suggest the Raphael 8404. Almost feels "too pointed" to me; this is definitely not for the feint of heart, or for beginners. The 8408 is slightly smaller in diameter than the 8404, though the price tends to be equivalent. Personally I prefer the 8404 but you can't go wrong with either one.
DaVinci Maestro Series 11
DaVinci sizes are a bit smaller than Imperial British sizes. It's an alright brush for practicing or for washes, but it doesn't keep a workable point as well as I would have liked. I found I had to keep re-forming the point after several strokes with my #4. Cost-wise, this brush is cheaper than most, but the drop-off in quality is noticable.
DaVinci Harbin Kolinsky 1526y
Bleh! The hairs on this brush started to fall out shortly after my third test sheet. Even after the brush had been "broken in", the point was really dull and I couldn't get precise detail lines from it. It's relatively inexpensive for a kolinsky brush, but I'd pass on this one.
A good brush from the Israeli manufacturer Rekab, the 013k has good spring with a nice point. The point isn't as sharp or consistent and pointed as the Raphael 8404 or Winsor & Newton Series 7, but it is quite efficient considering its low price. The hairs on the #4 I used needed a little "breaking in" before I got smooth, consistent lines, but once I got that worked out it was alright. The price is excellent, too. A #4 lists for $10, though you might find it for even less than that online.
Distributed by the French conglomerate Savoir-Faire. This brush is an amazing piece of craftsmanship. It balances extremely well, holds a good amount of ink, and forms a point like a spear. It's expensive, no doubt about that, but this brush is worth every penny. Isabey brushes tend to be sized a lot smaller than other brands, so make sure you check specifications to find the size you need. For example, my 6227z #4 is actually smaller than my Raphael 8404 #3. Again, prices in the US may be high due to trade tarriffs on French goods.
I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of this brush. The #4 I tried was quite nice. It balances well and holds quite a bit of ink, and forms a nice point (as long as it isn't super-full with ink). The ink flows from the point pretty evenly too. It's a good brush for a good price at smaller sizes, though larger sizes might give an inexperienced inker fits with point consistency. The hairs don't snap well, and maintaining a fine point with large sizes can be frustrating. Still, considering the $11 price tag I couldn't expect much more than that.
Utrecht Vermeer 221
This is a good brush with a pretty big ink reservoir and nice snap. The hairs didn't point as well as I would have liked, but it got the job done for the most part. I'm not really complaining, as the #4 (which is about the size of the Raphael 8404 #4) I got only cost me $11.
Kalish Series 1
This brush knocked my socks off in terms of its performance. It came to a needle-sharp point and held it throughout my test run. I had heard good things about this brush, made by a tiny manufacturer in Ireland, but I must say this exceeded my expectations. The Series 1 #4 is about the same size as a W&N Series 7 $4, but has a slightly longer point and handle. It balances quite well for a brush its size and holds a good bit of ink too. Best of all is the price. Although it's only available online in the US, the #4 lists for $9.10, making it a superb value as well.
The Art Store 1100R
This brush is labeled "The Art Store"; it's the Blick house brand brush and the only place to acquire one is at Dick Blick retail stores. Blick won't release the name of the brush manufacturer but pretty much all the signs point to Daler-Rowney. The brush itself is good, but the price is unbeatable; my #4 only cost me $4.85. This brush features exceptional spring and a good point consistency, and I would definitely suggest it as a beginner's brush (provided you have handy access to a Dick Blick retailer).
This is a watercolour brush for artsy-fartsy types. The steel handle butts, the weird-shaped brush guard, and the extra-long ferrule don't really do anything except look "artsy-fartsy". The point of balance on this brush is way off for inking (watercolourists call the type of detail work associated with it "calligraphy"), and it's way too expensive to justify using it for that sort of thing.
Escoda Tajmyr 1212
I fell in love with this brush the second I tried it. It snaps so well I would have thought it was a Synthetic at first. It holds a good amount of ink and kept its point for as long as I used it in one session. This is definitely a quality brush, rivaling the performance of some of the bigger-name brushes, with a price tag that's very appealing at only $12.10 for a #4.
Stratford & York 700
I had never heard of this brush, so I didn't know what to expect. I discovered it at an art expo in Adelphi, Maryland, and picked up a #4 just to see how good it was. It has a nice fine point to it and good snap, with a pretty good reservoir. It reminds me a lot of the Art Store house brand 1100R in terms of how it handles. I wouldn't mind using this brush if it was the only thing available; it's a good brush overall.
tedikumaProfessional Digital Artist
I just recently felt the need to collect nice brushes, thanks to some friends. I'm certainly going to come back to this list later one... I bought a really nice Princeton water color brush a few days ago, actually. It was to replace the travel brush I left in Italy that I mentioned on your poll... I'm thinking of ordering a new one from Dick Blick. They have a nice selection.