If you want the best brush possible for your painting, you want a Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sable brush. Period. I’ve painted with these since the 1980s and it’s the only brush I use any more. There are other good brushes out there to be sure, but the Series 7 is the best. It’s the only sable brush we carry for a reason.
So, what’s the catch and why wouldn’t you want one? Mainly, cost. They aren’t cheap. While I think they are an affordable luxury and well cared for you can expect them to last you for years, it is undeniable that you can buy several cheaper brushes for the price of one Series 7. My advice though, is don’t do it. Buy a Series 7 – at least one to treat yourself with. A good place to start is with a round 1 or a round 0. Save the miniature line of brushes for after you’ve tried the long bristles of the round.
The Series 7 was developed in 1866 when Queen Victoria ordered Winsor & Newton to create for her the finest watercolor brushes possible in her favorite size – 7. Thus the series was born. Each brush is handmade by expert brush makers who have over 10 years of experience before they can work on the Series 7 line.
Sable has several advantages over cheaper nylon brushes. First, nylon brushes suffer from tip curl. Over a short time of usage, the nylon distorts and you end up with a curled tip. Nylon brushes are mass manufactured and are not set to hold a particularly sharp point. Part of this is in the manufacture of the brush but also in the material. Nylon simply will not stay set in a shape the way sable can. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, nylon does not absorb paint. This means that the brush does not “load” well with paint. The bristles do more than provide a point for you to apply paint. The bristles hold paint and the more paint it can hold, the longer you can paint without re-dipping and the better you can flow lines and fine detail. For those like us using acrylic paints for miniatures, the fast dry time on the brush is a problem so loading is a definite benefit for your painting.
Sable is a vastly superior material for brushes in these regards. Win
sor & Newton sum this up nicely. “Each brush comes to a crisp point and snaps back into shape during use, with the right degree of spring to allow superior control between the brush and surface. The colour flows evenly and consistently from the point, with enough colour carrying capacity in the belly of the brush to allow flowing gestural strokes.” This spring and flow of a sable brush is key to controlling paint and laying down detail and subtle shading.
The Series 7 come in two variations, an “art round” and a “miniature” variety. The sizes are the same 1, 0, 00, and 000 but the barrels are different. The art round has longer bristles and loads considerably better than the miniature brush. The miniature brush while loading less well, has a very springy and sharp point so it is perfect for ultra precision. Ultimately, which style is best for you depends on your painting style and needs. Myself, I prefer the standard rounds as the points are still extremely sharp and the loading capacity is more important to me for shading and solid base coating. I do reach for the miniature brush when I’m dotting in eyes etc. but for me, the round #1 is 90% of my painting. Try one out and see for yourself!