Best Watercolor Brushes For Artists in 2023

Here is our review of the best watercolor brushes for artists.

The best watercolor brushes hold a good amount of water, have a good snap, and distribute color evenly. They’re also durable and bring you joy when you work with them.

As an artist, I know the feeling of picking a brush only to find out that the quality doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s why I spent a few days searching for the best watercolor brushes to make it easy for you to make decisions.

And I found that the Princeton Heritage Series is the best choice for most artists. The brushes in this series hold water well, have a good snap, and are durable.

But, I’ve also included other great options that might better suit your preferences.

Let’s take a look!

What to Look For When Choosing the Best Watercolor Brushes

Here are a few things to look out for when deciding which are the best watercolor brushes.

Type of brush

Brushes come in many shapes and sizes. There are round brushes that are pointy at the end, making them quite versatile. There are also flat and mop brushes used for washes along with brushes designed for details. We will take a closer look at the different types of brushes in the next section.


Snap refers to how well a brush can snap back to its original shape when bent. This is important because a good snap allows you to move from one stroke to another easily and to use certain techniques. Synthetic brushes usually have a good snap to them. 


Spring refers to how well the brush can hold its shape when using different techniques. A brush with a good spring can remain bent longer than brushes with a little spring.


Capacity or load refers to how much water and paint a brush can hold. A good brush should be able to hold decent amounts of water so you can make longer strokes without having to refill it all the time. Aside from holding water, a good brush should also distribute color smoothly and evenly.

Hair types

There are various types of hair that are used in a watercolor brush. The type of hair you choose would depend on the type of brush you need.

  • Synthetic vs. Natural Hair. Hair type can be divided into two main categories: synthetic or natural. Natural hair holds paint and water well, distributes color evenly, springs back to shape easily, and lasts a long time. However, they’re typically more costly. Synthetic hair won’t last as long and won’t hold paint as well or distribute them as evenly. But, it feels a bit smoother and is more affordable. Unless you’re painting at a professional level, I recommend artists to start off with a synthetic hair brush before you commit to a pricer natural hair brush. You can also buy one or two natural hair round brushes (that you would be using the most) and buy other brushes with synthetic hair.
  • Sable. Sable is considered the best hair for watercolor brushes. It works best with a round brush, has a good snap, and maintains its shape well. Kolinsky sable is considered the best hair available for watercolor brushes.
  • Squirrel. Squirrel hair is a bit softer than other types of hair and not as springy. They’re also great at holding water, making them perfect for mop brushes and for covering large areas. Some brush sets like the Silver Brush Limited Black Velvet Round Brushes use a mix of synthetic and squirrel hair which turns out quite well.
  • Hog. Hog hair is stiff and coarse. They are perfect for flat brushes because they have a lot of bounce and spring. They can carry and distribute a lot of paint and water. Lastly, they’re durable and less expensive.
  • Goat. Goat hair is mainly used in Japanese calligraphy and wash/mop brushes. They’re good at holding water and paint, but they’re not great at forming a good point.
  • Ox. Ox hair has a rough texture that makes it only good for flat brushes. They’re stiff and can be great for creating a dry brush texture.


The last thing to consider when picking the best watercolor brushes is whether you want a short or long handle. Short handles are great for detailed work and for working on smaller canvases and pads. Since the handles are short, you can control your brush strokes a bit better. Long-handled brushes are great when you want to work from further away. They’re great for larger canvases if you don’t want to focus too much on details.

Types of Watercolor Brushes

Here are the main brush types that you should know before picking the best watercolor brushes.


This is the most versatile brush that pretty much all artists use. The brush is round and the tip comes to a fine point. This makes it great for both small details and broader strokes. A small round brush works great for details while a large round brush can be used for washes. I recommend getting at least three sizes of round brushes: small (size 3), medium (5-6), and large (12). This allows you to work on small details and cover large areas. If you plan to buy a more expensive natural hair brush, I recommend investing in round brushes.


Flat brushes have a flat and rectangular tip. They’re usually used in washes and to create linear strokes and stripes. There are other types of brushes that are similar to flat brushes like the filbert and dagger brush. The filbert brush is flat, but the tip is an oval shape which makes it good for blending. The dagger brush is a flat brush that is slanted which makes it great for painting sharp edges and corners.


Mop brushes are large and round which makes them great for washes and blending. They can soak up a lot of water and apply paint across a large area. But, they’re typically more difficult to control.


There are two main types of detail brushes: riggers and spotters. Riggers have longer hair than spotters. They can load more water and paint, and they’re better for line work and larger details. Spotters have short bristles and are great for the smallest details. Keep in mind that quality hair is cheaper in detail brushes (since they don’t use much hair compared to larger brushes) so it might be worth it to get one with natural hair. 

Other Types of Brushes

Keep in mind that there are other types of brushes like fan brushes that are not listed above. This is because you don’t really need it except in special cases. Just by getting the basic types of brushes listed above, you can pretty much create anything you need.

How to Choose the Best Brush For You

For most artists, I recommend starting off with a few basic brushes. Three round brushes of small, medium, and large sizes (sizes 3, 6, and 12) along with a flat brush for washes would be enough for most artists. If you like to work on a lot of details, consider getting rigger and spotter brushes.

A good brush should hold a good amount of paint and water so you can make long strokes and don’t have to keep on refilling the brush. It should also maintain a nice point so you can make nice lines and focus on details. The brush should distribute colors evenly and spring back to shape relatively easily.

Picking the right brush for you also depends on your budget. For most artists, quality synthetic brushes work great and are affordable. You can also consider getting a budget option like the ARTEGRIA Watercolor Brush Set that we will talk about below.

5 Best Watercolor Brushes For Artists

Here are 5 of the best watercolor brushes I found from my research.

1. Princeton Heritage Series

The Princeton Heritage Series is a popular choice among artists and for good reason. The brushes are made with synthetic sable. They can hold a good amount of paint and water so you can make long strokes with ease. They also have a good snap and are durable so you don’t have to worry about replacing them often. Plus they’re also quite affordable even if you have to replace them once in a while. While these might not be as good as natural sable, they’re quite good when it comes to synthetic hair brushes.

One downside I found in my research is that these brushes don’t have the best points. The points work well, but they’re not extra pointy so you might need additional detail brushes if you work on a lot of details.

AffordableNot the best point
Good at holding paint and water
Good snap

2. Princeton Aqua Elite Series 

The Princeton Aqua Elite Series is a great alternative to the Princeton Heritage Series if you prefer softer bristles. The brushes are made with synthetic Kolinsky hair. They’re good at holding paint and water, and they can last a long time. The advantage of this series is that there’s a wider selection of brushes. There is even a travel set which makes it much easier to paint on the go.

The only “downside” with these brushes is that the bristles tend to be on the softer side. I find that it comes down to personal preferences, and you might need some time to get used to the softer bristles if you’ve never painted with one before.

AffordableSoft bristles
Good at holding paint and water
Wide variety of brushes

3. Silver Brush Limited Black Velvet Round Brushes

The Silver Brush Limited Black Velvet Round Brushes are great if you have a bigger budget. These are made with a mix of synthetic and natural squirrel hair. They’re quite popular among artists because they’re great at holding water and have a great point. They’re also quite durable and can last a long time if you take care of them. The set of round brushes comes with sizes 4, 8, and 12 which should cover your basic needs.

The downside with this set is that it’s a bit more expensive than the other recommended options since it uses a mix of synthetic and natural squirrel hair. The brushes also have less snap, but this is not really a deal breaker unless you really want a brush with a great snap.

Great at holding paint and waterA bit more expensive
Great pointLess snap

4. Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Series

The Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Series is another good choice when it comes to watercolor brushes. The brushes are made with synthetic hair, and they have a good snap and good points. They also come with a short handle which makes it better for smaller works and small details. They’re also quite affordable. If you don’t like Princeton brushes, give this series a try.

Some people find that the point of the brushes wears out faster so you might have to replace them from time to time. These brushes also don’t hold as much water, but they still work great for watercolor.

AffordablePoint wears out faster
Good snapDoesn’t hold as much water
Good point

5. ARTEGRIA Watercolor Brush Set

The ARTEGRIA Watercolor Brush Set is an affordable brush set suitable for beginners. These are very affordable and come with a wide variety of brushes. This makes it perfect for beginners who might want to dabble in watercolor but don’t want to break the bank. The quality is quite good for the price when compared to other cheaper sets.

While these brushes are more affordable, the quality won’t be as good as the other recommended options. But, I would recommend this set if your budget is very limited.

Very affordableMore suitable for beginners
Wide variety of brushes
Good quality for its price

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions that people ask when picking the best watercolor brushes.

What size of brush should I get?

I recommend getting small (size 3), medium (5-6), and large (12) round brushes. This would allow you to both cover large areas and also work on small details. You can also get flat or mop brushes if you need to create washes. If you work on a lot of small details and lines, be sure to get a rigger and a spotter brush.

How do you store watercolor brushes properly?

After rinsing your watercolor brush with clean water, you should set it flat and let it dry before storing it (setting it upright would cause water to get into the ferrule and damage/loosen the handle). Then simply place them in a mug (with the head up) or in a paintbrush holder

Which brush type is better? synthetic or natural?

Synthetic and natural hair brushes both have their pros and cons. Natural hair holds paint and water well, distributes colors evenly, springs back to shape easily, and lasts a long time. Synthetic hair does those things well, but not as well. The main advantage of synthetic hair is that it’s more affordable and accessible to most artists. In the end, it depends on what you prefer, but I recommend most artists who are not professionals to start out with synthetic hair. 

Our Verdict

Picking the best watercolor brushes can be a bit confusing and daunting. Hopefully, this article helped you pick the perfect brush for your next painting session.

Most high-quality watercolor brushes hold water well, have a good snap, and are durable. They can last a long time and are a joy to work with.

From my research, I’ve found that the Princeton Heritage Series offers great brushes that are also quite affordable.

I’ve also included other options that might better suit your preferences and your budget.

If you’re looking for watercolor paint, be sure to check out our guide on the best watercolor paints.

Happy painting!

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