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Types of Watercolor Brushes

Brush Type What it looks like and
What you use it for
Photo Reviewed Examples
Full Bellied Round I could live without every brush on this list except a round. Rounds are my workhorse brushes. They do everything.
The really great thing about rounds is a good brush flexes with your movements, making it an extension of your arm. It does tiny hair width lines or great fat washes.
A full bellied round holds a lot of water in its reservoir, so strokes are smooth and even for a long time.
Blick Art Full Bellied Round

Escoda Full Bellied Round Squirrel

Blick Art Scholastic Full Bellied Round Ox

Pointed Round A pointed round doesn't hold as much water in its reservoir. It's narrower in width so time painting is more limited. It's used for more precision work. Cheap Joes Pointed Round Nylon

Isabey Pointed Round Sable

Flat Flat brushes do straight lines. They should have a clean very sharp line at the edge. It should be a
razor narrow edge, able to draw long thin lines as well as broad washes.

The brush hair length and width are about the same.

I never use flats because I find they limit the strokes to only one possibility - skinny or wide line. But this is completely a personal painting style.
Rigger
or Liner

Since Isabey invented the liner brush, it's the best example. Sable has a lovely point and holds water. Synthetics are a subtly blunter point and hold less paint.

Riggers are one brush that wears out relatively quickly in my experience, but they're also inexpensive.
Isabey Rigger

Mop Big bushy brush that holds a ton of water. Mops are generally squirrel or goat hair, since those saturate well.
Perfect for hit and miss covering a big area.
Quill Quills are mops that come to a point, making very tiny precise strokes and huge flowing sweeps.

Quill ferrules were originally bird feather quills. A few manufactures still use bird quills instead of plastic. The natural quills are more flexible than plastic, but don't last as long.
Bright A flat that curves slightly in at the edge. Shorter than a regular flat.
Filbert A filbert is an oval edged flat.

I used stiff filberts a great deal when I painted oil portraits, but I don't really see it as useful for watercolorists. The angularity of the bristles limits your shapes.

Cat's Tongue
Fan A fan shaped brush. Used for texturing effects, such as tree tops.
Angle A flat with the edge cut at an angle. Used for very precise architectural painting.
Spotter A stubby little round used for tiny details.
Sumi A traditional Japanese calligraphy brush usually made from limp goat hair. Sumi means ink.
Hake Japanese brush traditionally used dry to move wet washes around. Think feathery little storkes to perfect your wash. Hake are usually made from squirrel or goat.
If you use it wet as many artists do, it will shed hair like crazy!

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