Best Watercolor Brushes in 2021

I absolutely love watercolor paints – the lovely colors, either intensely strong or soft and washy (or both at the same time), the countless techniques, processes and ways they allow me to explore my own creativity, the beauty of the finished paintings, the ease of use and ease of clean up. I pretty much love everything about them, and work with them all the time using the best watercolor paper and paint brushes.

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Table of Contents

I think it’s kind of universal, too – it seems almost everybody I know loves watercolors. However, one of these points is not really universally agreed upon, and that’s the ease of use. To me the simplicity and the freedom are amazing, and I take to watercolors so easily, naturally and intuitively. To others, though, the techniques of watercolor painting are quite challenging.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I believe that it’s not so much the techniques themselves that cause people difficulty, but more so the tools they are using. This is especially true with brushes and paper, where making the wrong choices can make watercolor painting much more difficult and frustrating and much less rewarding.

So I am especially happy to offer this guide to finding the best paint brushes for watercolor painting, which will make your experience with this medium as delightful as it should be. If you’ve had some difficulty with watercolor painting, if you’re still a bit on the fence regarding watercolors, or if you’re new to watercolors and want to have the most productive and enjoyable time possible, finding the best watercolor brushes can make all the difference – so please, read on!

Please note that this is the third part of a three-part series on watercolor painting, and I would love for you to also check out parts one and three:

Spoiler Alert! If you want a little less reading and a little more painting, here are my top choices in both categories:

Overview: Best Watercolor Brushes in 2021

Best Watercolor Brush Sets

  1. Winsor and Newton Series 7 Four Brush Watercolor Set
  2. Winsor and Newton Series 7 Four Brush Watercolor Set

    My Personal Choice for Best Watercolor Brush Set

    100% Kolinsky Sable Hair Brushes for Watercolor Gouache Ink and More - Professional 4 pc Round Watercolor Brush Set Sizes 0 - 1 - 2 - 3


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Da Vinci Deluxe Natural and Synthetic Watercolor Paint Brush Set with Wooden Storage Box
  4. Da Vinci Deluxe Natural and Synthetic Watercolor Paint Brush Set with Wooden Storage Box

    Best Premium Watercolor Brush Set Overall

    Natural Hair and Synthetic Brushes with Wooden Storage Box and Brush Soap, Multiple Sizes, 5 Brushes (Series 36, 991, 5530, 5550)


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Five Brush Deluxe Gift Set
  6. Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Five Brush Deluxe Gift Set

    Best Value Premium Watercolor Brush Set

    Deluxe Gift Set of 5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Princeton Aqua Elite Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Four Brush Set
  8. Princeton Aqua Elite Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Four Brush Set

    Best Value Watercolor Brush Set Overall

    Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4


    Buy Now on Amazon
  9. Dainayw Watercolor Paint Brushes Set
  10. Dainayw Watercolor Paint Brushes Set

    Best Budget Watercolor Brush Set

    5 Pc Real Squirrel Hair Blend Watercolor Brushes (Size: 4/8/12 (round; 14 (flat); 14 (oval)) for Consistent Flow | Artist Watercolor Paint Brushes for Acrylic Painting Oil Canvas Gouache


    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Individual Watercolor Brushes

  1. Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush
  2. Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush

    My Personal Choice for Best Individual Watercolor Brushes / Best Premium Watercolor Brushes Overall

    Round Brush #8


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush
  4. Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush

    Best Value Premium Individual Watercolor Brushes

    Artist Watercolor Round Brush Travel, Size 8, Pure Kolinsky-Tajmyr


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Winsor and Newton University Watercolor Brush
  6. Winsor and Newton University Watercolor Brush

    Best Value Individual Watercolor Brushes / Best Student Watercolor Brushes

    Long Handle Flat Brush, #8


    Buy Now on Amazon

What Should You Look For in the Best Paint Brushes for Watercolors?

In this buyer’s guide we will try to answer some basic questions:

  • What types of watercolor brushes do you need for watercolor painting?
  • What is the best brand of watercolor brushes for painting?
  • What are the best watercolor brushes for beginners?
  • What are the best watercolor brushes for advanced artists?
  • Which synthetic brushes are best for watercolors?
  • What is the best paint brush overall for watercolors?

There are a lot of different opinions about what makes a paintbrush good for watercolor painting, and a lot of specific factors and qualities you can point to, but to me there are really three specific things I want to see and feel in watercolor brushes:

1: Hold Water Well

There are a thousand different techniques in watercolor painting (yes, I’ve counted them, and there are exactly one thousand), and they pretty much all involve water. Being able to retain water and paint (and allow them to flow easily and controllably) makes a brush much more usable, and you are more successful, with any technique, any style, any kind, or quality of paint.

Many will say that natural brushes are best for this, and while overall this may in fact be true I have found some synthetic brushes – which tend to be a lot less expensive – which are also excellent for holding and flowing water and paint, and some natural brushes that are not so hot.

2: Good Shape and Firmness

If a brush is too firm it won’t respond well to either subtle shifts or more obvious changes in pressure, angle, even speed, and this is not very good when I’m in the zone and suddenly frustrated by the fact that the brush, the paint and the image itself, are not doing what I had in mind. The exact same is true, of course, if a brush is too soft.

With watercolors, maybe with any other medium, a brush that has a great shape and just the right tension, with just the right amount of flex and spring, is a real treasure, and all of the (ok, approximately) thousand watercolor techniques become so much easier and more effective – as does the process of creative expression itself. And, if you find such a treasure, you want these qualities to last – throughout the session and throughout the life of the brush.

3: Feel Good

This may seem a little too obvious to mention, but for watercolors or any other types of paint or painting this is as important as it gets. And while it may also seem a very personal thing, it is surprisingly universal – that is, when I find a brush that really feels good in my hand, solid and natural, with the right weight, thickness and shape, and allows my creative energy to flow through to the paper or canvas unimpeded, that brush is so often known and praised by other artists for these exact same qualities.

And of course we want to find watercolor brushes that are of good quality – that won’t lose its bristles, won’t rust or come loose at the ferrule, won’t shed its own paint or varnish all over my watercolors, and that will last and last. I want to have the feeling that a brush I’ve fallen in love with and really become intimate with will stay with me for a long time.

Back to our original point – the best watercolor brushes will have the specific qualities I’ve just listed, and probably other factors as well, and when they all come together in that perfect brush, well, anything you want to do in watercolor painting – any technique, any effect, any style – becomes so much easier and makes so much more sense. And the whole creative process begins to flow with a kind of inevitable energy and effectiveness.

How Can You Find the Best Watercolor Brushes for You and Your Art?

We may agree that good watercolor brushes can make watercolor painting much easier, more effective and creative, and a lot more fun, but it must be said that selecting the best watercolor brush can be exactly the opposite!

This 500 dollar brush claims, on its Amazon description page, to hold water well. Ok, it’s more than I wanted to spend, but Iva said… But wait, what’s this? This 5 dollar brush also claims to hold water well. And this customer says that this particular brush feels great, is responsive and natural in her hand, but this other customer says it’s like trying to paint with a limp hot dog. Well, fiddlesticks! 

Fiddlesticks? Yeah, I know, but you get my point. As with so many other tools that are so important to artists, it is not always so easy, fun or effective to find the best watercolor brush online. And even in brick and mortar shops, waving a dry brush in the air while listening to an undoubtedly well-intentioned sales clerk is not necessarily much better.

So I am happy to lend my own experience – and, coincidentally, I have also tried exactly one thousand different watercolor brushes, and have found a few in all different price points that are so wonderful to use that I am quite excited to recommend them.

I will list my favorites here, in two sections – the best watercolor brush sets and the best individual watercolor paint brushes – and in each section my recommendations will go from the most expensive to the least. So all you need to do is figure out how much you want to spend, and you can easily find a really wonderful watercolor brush or brush set at that price level.

And at the end of this article, in the Final Thoughts section, we’ll talk a little about two different kinds of brushes – the brush pen and the water brush – unconventional, but a ton of fun to use!

Best Watercolor Brush Sets

Winsor and Newton Series 7

My Pick
Winsor and Newton Series 7 Four Brush Watercolor Set

My Personal Choice for Best Watercolor Brush Set

100% Kolinsky Sable Hair Brushes for Watercolor Gouache Ink and More - Professional 4 pc Round Watercolor Brush Set Sizes 0 - 1 - 2 - 3


I could not possibly be more enthusiastic about this set, or about Winsor and Newton brushes overall. Their University series watercolor brushes are the best and most perfect choice for any student, and these, the Series 7, are the best brushes I have ever used for watercolor, and my own personal choice for any and all watercolor painting.

At the same time, I am a little reluctant to include them here, at the beginning of the list of best watercolor brushes in 2021. Why? Because I worry they will upstage all the other choices, good as they all are. I mean, this basic set is less than a hundred dollars, and is, well, the best. For serious students, for any artist on any level, for even newcomers to watercolors or to art in general, this is the most responsive, expressive and consistently excellent watercolor brushes for beginners set you can buy.

They are superb in every way, are cheaper than at least one set I’ve included here, and are a supreme bargain any way you look at it. The Winsor and Newton Series 7 four round brush set is my personal choice for best set of brushes for painting with watercolors, and gets my strongest recommendation.

Da Vinci Deluxe Watercolor Brush Set

Da Vinci Deluxe Natural and Synthetic Watercolor Paint Brush Set with Wooden Storage Box

Best Premium Watercolor Brush Set Overall

Natural Hair and Synthetic Brushes with Wooden Storage Box and Brush Soap, Multiple Sizes, 5 Brushes (Series 36, 991, 5530, 5550)


The beautiful wooden storage box and the almost overwhelmingly luxurious feeling of the overall presentation are in themselves nearly enough to recommend this incredible, and surprisingly low priced, watercolor brush set, and make the da Vinci deluxe watercolor synthetic and natural hair brush set an obvious choice as one of the most appreciated and useful gifts you could get for any artist on any level.

But the real draw here is the brushes themselves, and both the Da Vinci natural Kolinsky sable natural hair brushes and the synthetic brushes included in this set are absolutely superb. I have found few brushes that hold their shape this well, respond with such authority and precision to any gesture or movement I might make, allow the flow of my creativity so effortlessly or realize that creative vision so perfectly – and those others that are at or near this level are substantially more expensive.

Yes, I’m waxing a little poetic here, but these handmade brushes are really that good. In fact, I am willing to say that this da Vinci Deluxe Watercolor Paint Brush set is the best watercolor paint brush set I’ve ever found (besides, well, you know – and the da Vinci may be, gulp, just as good…), and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Hair Watercolor Brush Set

Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Five Brush Deluxe Gift Set

Best Value Premium Watercolor Brush Set

Deluxe Gift Set of 5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes


It has to be said that the use of natural fibers – even Kolinsky sable fibers – is absolutely no guarantee that a brush will be good for watercolor painting. And this can be true even of very expensive brushes. Thsee Rhapsody Kolinsky natural sable watercolor brushes are, however, absolutely amazing to use, and really exhibit, with a kind of thrilling effectiveness, why watercolor artists praise and so strongly prefer Kolinsky sable.

It’s not just the materials, though. Rhapsody sable watercolor natural hair brushes are so well formed, with such high quality and perfectly designed tips, that a single brush has almost unheard of versatility, being able to go from a heavy water technique over a large area to the most minute details, without thought or adjustment.

There is so much to say about these wonderful brushes, but the other thing I want to really emphasize is that this set has a great selection of five basic round brushes, of the very highest quality and usability, and yet is offered at an almost absurdly low price. Yes, they are more expensive than most sets on the market, but for brushes at the highest level they easily represent the best value I know.

If you are a student who wants to really learn watercolor techniques and totally understand them, or if you are an advanced commercial or fine artist on a budget, the Rhapsody Kolinsky sable natural hair Watercolor 5 Brush Deluxe Gift Set is as good as it gets, and is my choice for best value in a premium watercolor paint brush set.

Princeton Aqua Elite Kolinsky Watercolor Brush Set

Princeton Aqua Elite Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Four Brush Set

Best Value Watercolor Brush Set Overall

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4


Princeton Neptune Series Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor 4 Paint Brush Set

Neptune Series 4750, Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Paint Brush, 4 Piece Professional Travel Set, Size Round 4, 6, 8, 10


There are maybe two good reasons an artist may not want to purchase the Rhapsody sable watercolor brush set mentioned just above in this list of best watercolor paint brushes: that the set, as amazing of a value as it is, is just too expensive, or that you are opposed to using animal products. Luckily, there is a perfect alternative in the Princeton Aqua Elite synthetic fibers Kolinsky watercolor brush set.

First of all, they are less than half the price, and probably the lowest price set I know that can really be considered of premium quality.

And second, they are amazing round brushes, which offer an essentially natural sable experience with synthetic tips, with the same superb flow, control, retention of paint and water and retention of shape when working. These Princeton watercolor brushes are wonderfully responsive and controllable, and become a part of you as you are working.

The Rhapsody set above is, I admit, a little better in terms of absolute feeling and flow, but it is a close thing, and if you prefer synthetic, or just don’t want to spend more than twice as much, the Princeton Aqua Elite 4 brush travel set is an ideal choice, and a perfect basic working set for the studio or on the go. My choice for best value overall in a premium synthetic round brush set for watercolors in 2021.

Before we move on, I would also like to draw your attention to another great Princeton brush set, this one in synthetic squirrel. While the Rhapsody set is better overall, the way these Neptune series brushes hold and flow water is amazing, and they are a really good choice for a student or somebody who wants to learn all of the different watercolor techniques, or to move effortlessly from one to another while painting. And they’re a little bit less expensive, and an equally amazing value.

Dainayw Squirrel Hair Professional Watercolor Paint Brush Set

Dainayw Watercolor Paint Brushes Set

Best Budget Watercolor Brush Set

5 Pc Real Squirrel Hair Blend Watercolor Brushes (Size: 4/8/12 (round; 14 (flat); 14 (oval)) for Consistent Flow | Artist Watercolor Paint Brushes for Acrylic Painting Oil Canvas Gouache


The natural low-cost choice for natural fiber, without the sometimes extreme cost of sable, is a squirrel, and good squirrel natural hair brushes have been a standard amongst art students and serious watercolor artists on a budget for many years. And to me, the natural choice for a low-priced set of real squirrel brushes is the Dainayw 5 piece set – wonderful brushes and an amazing value.

Sable will allow for a little better control and fine detail, is a bit more responsive to big gestures or subtle nuances in technique, maintains its shape better and longer both when working and after drying, and will last longer overall, but again at a significantly higher price.

Squirrel, on the other hand, will offer all of these qualities at surprisingly high levels, and can easily satisfy even high-level artists with their ability to really respond and capture what the painter sees. They are also known to be excellent for holding and flowing water and paint, and are thus not just great for watercolor painting overall, but for really exploring all of the styles, processes, and creative potential of watercolor as a medium.

If you want the best value in synthetic squirrel brushes, see the Princeton set listed just above, but if you want real and natural squirrel brushes, and want the best you can get at this surprisingly low price level, the Dainayw 5 piece real squirrel hair starter set is the best choice you can make, and my choice for best budget watercolor brush set on the market today.

Best Individual Watercolor Brushes

Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush

Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush

My Personal Choice for Best Individual Watercolor Brushes / Best Premium Watercolor Brushes Overall

Round Brush #8


Now we’re talking! I want to say, right from the beginning, that the Winsor and Newton Series 7 are the finest watercolor brushes I’ve ever found or used, and are my personal choice and regular brush for all watercolor painting.

Yeah, they are expensive, but I can’t think of any other tool in my experience, or in my studio, which allows me to more fully drop into the zone and just create. If I have something in my vision, I know that the Series 7 brushes will respond perfectly to my mind and my movements and help me to fully realize that vision.

The Winsor and Newton Series 7 watercolor brushes go from super-watery washes or large area layering to intense color and fine detail immediately, sometimes with the same brush and without any interruption at all. They hold so much paint that I can work longer, and they never ever stand out in any way. Sometimes, in that slightly crazy creative zone, I feel as if the paint is flowing from my brain directly out of my fingers and onto the paper, like there’s no brush at all. 

Perfectly responsive, controllable and precise, of the best overall quality on every level, with the best design and the best tip shapes and actions, best retention of paint and water, best flex and spring and most effective flow with both large areas or small details, the Winsor and Newton Series 7 watercolor brushes are the most usable, effective, delightful and creatively powerful watercolor brushes there are, and get my strongest recommendation as the best watercolor brushes on the market today.

Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush 

Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush

Best Value Premium Individual Watercolor Brushes

Artist Watercolor Round Brush Travel, Size 8, Pure Kolinsky-Tajmyr


Another superb brush, the Escoda Reserva is actually preferred by some artists even over the Winsor and Newton Series 7. These artists seem sane and normal in every other way, so I can’t just completely dismiss their preferences, can I?

Seriously, though, given that the Escoda Reserva is even considered as comparable to the best-ever W&N Series 7, and is about half the price, just lets you know what an incredible value these handmade Spanish brushes really are. They can hold lots and lots of water, have superb flow and responsiveness, hold their shape beautifully both when wet and over time, feel great in the hand and are so well made that they will doubtless last as long as any brush on the market.

If I give the slight nod to the Winsor and Newton brushes, I have to say that I would be completely satisfied nonetheless with these wondrous Escoda Reserva pure Kolinsky sable brushes, which would meet the demands of any artist on any level. They are easily the best value on the market today in a premium quality brush for watercolor paints and painting.

Winsor Newton University Watercolor Brush 

Winsor and Newton University Watercolor Brush

Best Value Individual Watercolor Brushes / Best Student Watercolor Brushes

Long Handle Flat Brush, #8


When I first put together my choices for the best watercolor brushes I know, I included a couple more individual paint brushes in the space between the fairly expensive Escoda above and these silly-cheap Winsor and Newton University watercolor flat brushes, like for example the quite excellent Da Vinci Casaneo Synthetic Bristle Watercolor Brush.

Then I realized that there wasn’t much point. Yes, there are some really great flat brushes in the middle range, and the Da Vinci may even be ever so slightly better than these Winsor and Newton brushes, but I’m actually not sure they, or any other more expensive options in this range actually are better. 

For very little money, the Winsor and Newton University flat brush series offer such a high level of responsiveness and usability, and allow for complete and essentially effortless realization of any intentions or desires an artist might have. They really hold paint, especially for such a basic synthetic brush, and flow with remarkable ease and controllability. They hold  their shape and seem to be made to last.

I have to think that any student who wants to really learn and discover the true nature and potential of various watercolor techniques, but also wants a brush that will be just as useful once those techniques have been mastered, could not possibly do better than the Winsor and Newton University series of watercolor brushes. They will stay with you no matter how high you go, how good you get, how crazy experimental you are, and they will serve serious amateur, working commercial and fine artists just as well.

An astoundingly good brush for the money, the Winsor and Newton University series are my choice as best value in a watercolor brush on the market today.

Bonus: Brush Pens and Water Brushes

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With all of this (semi-)serious talk about brush quality, learning watercolor painting, high level artists, synthetic squirrels and all that, I thought it would be fun to shift gears here at the end and talk about a couple of watercolor paint brush options that are really seriously fun.

I’m talking about the Arteza Real Brush Pens, which are watercolor paint-filled brushes, and the Pentel Aquash Brushes, which are similar but empty, allowing you to fill them with the paint of your choice. 

Now keep in mind that these are not, ahem, serious fine art brushes, and are really not meant for those who want to make a thorough and effective study of all the different techniques, processes and styles of watercolor painting. But in fact both of these cool brush sets do allow for a surprisingly wide range of watercolor effects, and really capture the spirit and the potential of this most expressive and beautiful of art forms.

With either one it is possible, and surprisingly easy, to make really beautiful and even powerful paintings and illustrations, realizing watercolor’s abilities to so magically portray color shifts, blends, washes and light. They can make gorgeous work of large areas, mix easily and effectively, allow for subtle shifts and movements from color to color and from light value to light value, and are equally effective with fine detail work. Really excellent!

Wow, I guess I do kind of make them sound pretty serious. But really what both the Arteza Real Brush Pens and the Pentel Aquash Water Brushes are, more than anything else, is good, clean (or at least easily washable) fun for artists of all ages and abilities.

Arteza Real Brush Pens

  1. Arteza Real Brush Pens 24 Color Set
  2. Arteza Real Brush Pens 24 Color Set

    24 Colors for Watercolor Painting with Flexible Nylon Brush Tips, Paint Markers for Coloring, Calligraphy and Drawing with Water Brush for Artists and Beginner Painters


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Arteza Real Brush Pens 48 Color Set
  4. Arteza Real Brush Pens 48 Color Set

    48 Colors for Watercolor Painting with Flexible Nylon Brush Tips, Paint Markers for Coloring, Calligraphy, Drawing with Water Brush, Art Supplies for Artists and Beginners


    Buy Now on Amazon

Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush Pens

Best Paint for Pentel Aquash Water Brush

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor 12 Tube Set

Best Affordable Watercolors in Tubes Overall / Best Watercolor Set for Students



Thanks for reading this article – Best Paint Brushes for Watercolor Paints in 2021: A Detailed Buyer’s Guide and Review – and again please check out the two other articles in this series, on Best Watercolor Paints and Best Paper for Watercolor Paints. I would also like to invite you to visit my website – Art Side of Life –  for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!

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