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September 2013



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Mini-review of waterbrushes--Part 1

Waterbrush Review, Part I

Like almost everyone else who sketches, I’ve explored using waterbrushes–those plastic brushes with the water supply right in the handle–especially for watercolor journal work or travel.  I've used them on planes, in the car, in hotel rooms, on a mountain, in the desert, by the ocean, in the hottest weather or when it's so cold I hoped the water wouldn't freeze--handy IS the word!  I always have at least one with me, and more often, a selection of sizes! 

Here’s a YouTube video I did on these brushes some time back...you can get an idea of their relative size. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY8d0a8Fgak

Be advised, none of them are very big!  The largest waterbrush is Niji's flat, about 1/2" wide, or Holbein's "large" round which is only marginally bigger than Niji's biggest round brush.  A nice big watercolor with juicy washes is probably not going to happen, if all you have is a waterbrush or two.

The largest round Niji is at the top, the Holbein below it.  As you can see, neither one is very big!  (You can click on the image to see it full size if you have trouble reading the words.)

That said, waterbrushes are convenient, versatile, lightweight, frustrating, niggly, delightful, temperamental, challenging–and honestly not that great for anything larger than, say, 8" x 8".  For REAL painting, I still prefer a good-sized brush and a nice supply of clean water for mixing color and rinsing my brush (even when that “real” painting is still in my journal.) Of course you can  rinse a waterbrush in any handy source of clean water if you’ve got it, which is certainly the fastest way to accomplish that task! 

To change colors with a waterbrush when you don’t have a source of additional water, you need to squeeze fresh water from the handle through the hairs–sometimes repeatedly–and wipe the brush on a tissue–sometimes repeatedly, depending on the strength of the color you’re using.  Given the fact that the largest waterbrush available only holds just over a tablespoon of water, you’re going to run out pretty quickly. 

Some people have good luck just wicking the old color out of the brush by wiping it on a tissue, then perhaps squeezing a bit to force clear water to rinse the rest of the old color out, but by the time I’ve done all that (using either method), I’m liable to get a hard edge on my wash by going back in so late–watercolor is all about timing.

Sometimes I squeeze clean water out into my palette to begin with, so I’ve got a bit to rinse in more quickly.or mix a more generous wash --but that still uses up the very limited liquid available with these brushes.

Still, they ARE very handy for travel and journal work...and I don’t seem to be giving mine up any time soon, so stay tuned for a review of the various brands I’ve tried in Part II!



You can perform miracles with those water brushes, Kate! :)
Always, Rita
Well thank you Rita! Like everything else, it's just practice!


Great review.Thanks for that information Kate....I've heard about these and was going to try and find them over here but I think I'll stick to brushes till I get the chance to travel
Thanks! I end up using them a LOT, but not for a "real" painting...I still like lots of clean water.
I like the Holbein best but wonder if I'll be able to get more. I got two from Laure and have fuzzed up the tip of one already. The Niji seem to be stingy on letting loose with the water. I agree, they are wonderful and a bit of a pain too. I love them though.
It seems to depend on the Niji--some I need to squeeze harder than others. Some work for years and suddenly decide to hang onto their water, too! I haven't had any luck finding a US source for the Holbeins, siiigh. (Besides Laure, that is!)
I find a little sponge is more effective for wiping colour than a tissue. I use a synthetic one and spray it with a little water before going anywhere and it works well. Also I have an Art Kure Chisel tip which is bigger than the others - holds a LOT more water and has bristles 6/16 long and 4/16 wide. The otherone I rate is my Sakura Koi - it's tiny, but the water flow is just right and the tip is nice and springy with a good point. took me a few tries to find these good ones though!
Thanks for the info! At this point I only have the tiny break-down (collapsible) Koi, but have a larger one on order. Hope to try it before Part 2!

I'd never heard of the Art Kure one, where did you get it? I'll try it out!

It came from here http://www.art-kure.com/

I can't see anything on the site about international shipping but they have a contact page - if they don't ship internationally (or want to charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege as I've often found when trying to order things from the USA - $28.00 for two Loew Cornell Brushes being the record!!) and you want to try it let me know - domestic postage was very cheap and I'd be happy to get one sent to me and then forward it on to you- they weigh so little that that shipping to the USA would be very cheap I think.

One thing I have remembered, when I first got the chisel tip it did lose bristles which was annoying but it seems to have stopped doing that now.

The collapsible koi is the one I have - I love mine. I'll be interested to read what you think about the full size.


Интересно. Thank you! :)