🖌 Best Watercolor Brushes in 2023

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jan 14, 2023 •  Guides

I love watercolor paints – the lovely colors, intensely strong or soft and washy; the countless techniques, and ways they allow me to explore my own creativity; the beauty of the finished paintings; and the ease of clean up.

So I am delighted to offer this guide to finding the best paint brushes for watercolor painting, which will make your experience with this medium as enjoyable as possible.

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Top 4 Watercolor Brushes Compared

This is a quick overview of my favorite watercolor brushes. There are more picks below including individual brushes.

My Pick
Premium Pick
Value Pick
Budget Pick
Description:

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

Description:

Best Premium Watercolor Brush Set

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

Description:

Best Value Watercolor and Ink Brush Set

5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8

Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4 sizes - 4, 6, 8, 10

My Pick
Description:

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

Premium Pick
Description:

Best Premium Watercolor Brush Set

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

Value Pick
Description:

Best Value Watercolor and Ink Brush Set

5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8

Budget Pick
Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4 sizes - 4, 6, 8, 10

Table of Contents

Overview: Best Watercolor Brushes in 2022

Best Watercolor Brush Sets

My Pick: 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 be more enthusiastic about this set or Winsor and Newton’s brushes.

Their University series watercolor brushes are the best and 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 on the market today.

Why? Because I worry they will upstage all the other choices, good as they all are.

This basic set is less than a hundred dollars and is the best.

This is the most responsive, expressive, and consistently excellent watercolor brushes for beginners set you can buy for serious students, for any artist on any level, or even newcomers to watercolors or art in general.

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.

The Winsor and Newton Series 7 four-round brush set is my personal choice for the best set of brushes for painting with watercolors, and it gets my strongest recommendation.

Premium Pick: Da Vinci Deluxe Watercolor Brush Set

Premium Pick
Da Vinci Deluxe Natural and Synthetic Watercolor Paint Brush Set

Best Premium Watercolor Brush Set

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 overall presentation feel are nearly enough to recommend this incredible.

Surprisingly low-priced watercolor brush set makes 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 superb.

I have found a few brushes that hold their shape this well, respond with authority and precision to any gesture or movement I make, allow my creativity to flow so effortlessly, or realize that creative vision perfectly. 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 that good.

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. 

Value Pick: Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Hair Watercolor Brush Set

Value Pick
Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Five Brush

Best Value Watercolor and Ink Brush Set

5 Aquarelle Artist Brushes - Assorted Paint Brush Sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8

It has to be said that using natural fibers – even Kolinsky sable fibers – is no guarantee that a brush will be good for watercolor painting.

And this can be true even of costly brushes.

These Rhapsody Kolinsky natural sable watercolor brushes are absolutely amazing to use and exhibit, with a kind of thrilling effectiveness, which is 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 I want to emphasize that this set has a great selection of five basic round brushes of the highest quality and usability, yet is offered at an almost absurdly low price.

Yes, they are more expensive than most sets on the market, but they easily represent the best value I know for brushes at the highest level.

If you are a student who wants to learn watercolor techniques and 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 the best value in a premium watercolor paint brush set.

Budget Pick: Princeton Aqua Elite Kolinsky Watercolor Brush Set

Budget Pick
Also Good
Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4 sizes - 4, 6, 8, 10

Description:

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

Budget Pick
Description:

Best Budget Watercolor and Inks Brush Set

Synthetic Kolinsky Watercolor Paint Brush, Travel Set of 4 sizes - 4, 6, 8, 10

Also Good
Description:

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

The set of Rhapsody sable watercolor brushes above, as amazing of a value as it is, is just too expensive and does use animal products.

Luckily, there is a perfect alternative in the Princeton Aqua Elite synthetic fibers Kolinsky watercolor brush set.

First, they are less than half the price and probably the lowest price set I know that can 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, paint and water retention, and shape retention when working.

These Princeton watercolor brushes are wonderfully responsive and controllable, becoming part of you as you work.

The Rhapsody set above is, I admit, a little better in terms of absolute feeling and flow, but it is a close thing.

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 is a premium synthetic round brush set for watercolors on the market today.

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.

They are a good choice for a student or somebody who wants to learn all 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.

Best Individual Watercolor Brushes

My Pick: Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush

My Pick
Winsor and Newton Series 7 Professional Watercolor Brush

My Personal Choice for Best Individual Watercolor Brushes

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 studio that allows me to drop into the zone and just create more fully.

If I have something in my vision, I know that the Series 7 brushes will respond perfectly to my mind and movements and help me 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 interruption.

They hold so much paint that I can work longer, and they never ever stand out.

Sometimes, in that slightly crazy creative zone, I feel like 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.

Premium Pick: Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush 

Premium Pick
Escoda Reserva Watercolor Brush

Best Premium Individual Watercolor Brushes

Artist Watercolor Round Travel Brush, Pure Kolinsky-Tajmyr

Another superb brush, the Escoda Reserva, is 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, it just lets you know what an incredible value these handmade Spanish brushes are.

They can hold lots and lots of water, have superb flow and responsiveness, hold their shape beautifully when wet and over time, feel great in hand, and are so well made that they will doubtless last as long as any brush on the market.

Suppose I give a slight nod to the Winsor and Newton brushes. In that case, I have to say that I would be delighted 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.

Budget Pick: Winsor Newton University Watercolor Brush 

Budget Pick
Winsor and Newton University Watercolor Brush

Best Value Individual Watercolor Brush / Best Student Watercolor Brush

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.

Budget Pick
Da Vinci Casaneo Synthetic Bristle Watercolor Brush

Round Brush, New Wave Synthetics, Size 8

Then I realized that there wasn’t much point. Yes, some great flat brushes are in the middle range, and the Da Vinci may be slightly better than these Winsor and Newton brushes.

Still, I’m not sure they, or any other more expensive options in this range, are better. 

For very little money, the Winsor and Newton University flat brush series offers 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 hold paint, especially for a basic synthetic brush, and flow with remarkable ease and controllability. They hold their shape and seem to be made to last.

I think that any student who wants to 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, and how crazy experimental you are, and they will serve serious amateur, working commercial and fine artists just as well.

A perfect brush for the money, the Winsor and Newton University series is my choice as the best value in a watercolor brush on the market today.

Try Brush Pens and Water Brushes, too

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 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, remember that these are not serious fine art brushes and are not meant for those who want to thoroughly and effectively study all the different techniques, processes, and styles of watercolor painting.

But these cool brush sets allow for a surprisingly wide range of watercolor effects and capture the spirit and potential of these most expressive and beautiful art forms.

With either one, it is possible, and surprisingly easy, to make stunning and even powerful paintings and illustrations, realizing watercolor’s ability to 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. Excellent!

Wow, I guess I do kind of make them sound pretty serious. But, 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

Set of 24
Set of 48
Description:

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


Description:

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

Set of 24
Description:

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


Set of 48
Description:

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

Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush Pens

Set of 2
Set of 3
Set of 4
Description:

Medium and small point value set

Description:

Large, medium and small point value set

Description:

Large, medium, small and flat point value set

Set of 2
Set of 3
Description:

Large, medium and small point value set

Set of 4
Description:

Large, medium, small and flat point value set

Best Paint for Pentel Aquash Water Brush

Budget Pick
Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor 12 Tube Set

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

I think it’s kind of universal, too – it seems almost everybody I know loves watercolors.

However, one of these points is not universally agreed upon, and that’s the ease of use.

The simplicity and freedom are amazing to me, 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 that cause people difficulty but the tools they are using.

This is especially true with brushes and paper, were making the wrong choices can make watercolor painting much more difficult and frustrating and much less rewarding.

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 also to check out parts one and three:

What Should You Look For in the Best Paint Brushes 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 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 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, style, kind, or quality of paint.

Many will say that natural brushes are best for this.

While this may be true, I have found some synthetic brushes – which tend to be a lot less expensive – 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, or 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 with a great shape and just the right tension, with just the right amount of flex and spring, is a real treasure.

All 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 the life of the brush.

3: Feel Good

This may seem a little too obvious to mention, but this is as important as it gets for watercolors or any other types of paint or painting.

And while it may also seem a very personal thing, it is surprisingly universal – that is, when I find a brush that 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 their bristles, won’t rust or come loose at the ferrule, won’t shed their own paint or varnish all over my watercolors, and that will last and last.

I want to feel that a brush I’ve fallen in love with and 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 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!

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 list my favorites above 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 wonderful watercolor brush or brush set at that price level.

FAQs – Watercolor Brushes

What are the best watercolor brushes for beginners?

If I were starting with watercolors today, I’d choose Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolor brushes because they would aid my learning process immensely. They are very responsive, expressive, and, most importantly, consistent!

What brand of watercolor brushes is best?

Based on my experience, I think Winsor & Newton Series 7 and Da Vinci Watercolor Series brushes are the best. They are the most responsive, expressive, and consistently excellent watercolor brushes!

What are the highest quality paint brushes?

The highest quality paint brushes are Da Vinci Watercolor Series because they hold their shape well, respond with control and precision to any gesture or movement I make, and allow my creativity to flow effortlessly.

I hope my guide has helped you to select your new watercolor brushes, and you will have a lot of fun painting and creating those amazing artworks!

Visit my website – Art Side of Life –  for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, artists’ guides, and much more!

Other articles in the Watercolor, Acrylic, Gouache, and Oils series:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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