Thursday, 11 August 2011

Brushes.. What’s the Diff?

My recent post about brush sizes made me think and so I ordered a few brushes….

I’ve been using Windsor and Newton series 7 brushes for about ten years. sure I use cheapo synthetic brushes for suicide missions and as dry brushes and stipplers etc, but any “proper” painting has been with the W&N.

You’ll see also from an earlier post that I’ve been using size 0 as my “goto” size, with smaller for more detail. and if you read that post you'll see I went up to a size 1.

This change, and subsequent improvement in my painting, even if it’s only “feel” has led me to re-examine my other “known truths”

You see it was a “known truth” to me that size 0 was the best for basing and general use.

I decided to question my choice of manufacturer and subsequently ordered a 1 and 00 from both DaVinci and Raphael.

the first thing you’ll notice is the size diff.. now there isn't an industry standard for the brush sizing among different manufacturers. you can see this here. (scale is CM)


(top to bottom, Cheap synthetic, Da Vinci, Raphael, W&N series 7)

You can see there's not a lot in it.

The Raphael range is noticeably much larger for the “same” sizing. the davinci is the smallest of the four, and the girth as well as bristle length varies. you can see that all three sable brushes have decent tips, but the synthetic is hooking.

The 00 again show large variance, with the raphael noticably larger.


(top to bottom, Davinci, W&N, Raphael)

in fact when we put the Raphael 00 next to a da Vinci 1…


And when you start using these brushes you notice further differences.

The larger Raphael has a very soft tip, with good spring. it’s long hairs and good flexibility reward a firm controlled use of quite wet paint. my only criticism is that the tip on the 00 isn't as crisp as the others. my conclusion – excellent base and wash brushes, good for all painting if you use the juices technique and use with dilute paint for best performance.

W&N I've used for a long time, and can be considered my baseline. it’s hard to fault these brushes. if you overload them of course they will splay at the tip, and they need to be looked after, but they have good firm spring and hold fluid very well.  the substantial feel of the heavily lacquered handle is something the other brushes don't match as well, and as a result it feels the best constructed of the three.

da vinci brushes seem very comparable to the W&N in both size and feel. as above they feel a little lighter and less substantial through the handle but the bristles are good quality, hold paint well and hold their tips well.

baseline cheap synthetic. utterly horrid. hooking at the tip after 1 use, splaying with minimal water on the bristles. ugh.

Basically, any of the three ranges will reward you, they are all good quality brushes with noticeable differences in size, and between the W&N/Davinci little difference in feel, whereas the Raphael does give you something different. which you choose, would I think be down to personal preference.

I think I’ll be using the Raphael's when I work wet more often, and the more solid brushes for thicker pigments and smaller details.


  1. Humm, nice review.

    I've been using cheap 'n' nasty brushed for years, replacing them as the last one was mercilessly run into the ground! As i'm trying to expand my painting horizons, its probably time to invest in some quality brushes!

    Cheers for the advice

  2. You seriously should, you will wonder how you managed!

    I'd probarbly still suggest the W&N tbh, and you can often pick up online bargains.. I use Ken bromley art supplies for my W&N as they are most often 30% off..


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