The Best Watercolor Brushes

CubeCraft 15-Piece Art Paint Brush Set for Watercolors

Our Top Pick for 2016: CubeCraft 15-Piece Art Paint Brush Set for Watercolors
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $24.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Finding a good set of watercolor brushes can be a daunting task. There are many options available but they are not equal. You want to find brushes with bristles that won’t bend, break, or shed. The hair or fibers the bristles are made of will make a big difference in the quality of line, stroke length, and their ability to absorb pigment. The best brushes are made with natural hair but those are often so expensive that they are impractical for all but the most devoted professional artist. There are many other good options that will give you a close approximation of a natural hair brush at a fraction of the cost.

Table of contents

Golden Nylon Synthetic Brushes
Diverse Range Of Brushes
Aluminum Ferrule
Keeps Shape
Sizes 3/0 – 12
Short Handle Natural
Easy To Clean
For Any Level Of Artist
Quality Golden Synthetic Hair
Professional Quality
Ergonomic Handles
Great For Watercolors
Popular Brush Sizes: 0-16
Mixed Synthetic Hair
12 Piece Set

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): CubeCraft 15-Piece Art Paint Brush Set for Watercolors

CubeCraft 15-Piece Art Paint Brush Set for Watercolors Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $24.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Cube Craft 15-Piece Art Paint Brush Set (Cube Craft) is an excellent set of paint brushes that provide a good variety at a reasonable price. They are designed to be used with acrylics, oils, or watercolor. If you choose to use them for watercolor, it is best to only use them with that medium for the life of the brush. Using a watercolor brush with oils or acrylics will leave oil on the bristles, which will interfere with the bristles ability to absorb pigment.

This set includes two filbert brushes, four angle brushes, five round brushes, two flat brushes, one fan brush, and one rigger brush. This provides you with a good variety of brushes in various sizes. Filbert brushes are rounded and can make a narrow stroke when used on their side and a flat stroke that tapers off when used on the broad side.

With four sizes of angle brushes, you’ll be able to create fine tapering lines or sharp corners with ease. Round brushes are the workhorses of the painting world. You have plenty of sizes to work with when you use this set. You also have specialty brushes with the flat, fan and rigger brushes. These brushes will allow you to add variety and detail to your painting.

All the brushes can be conveniently kept in a zippered carrying case. The case can also pop up to be used as a brush holder while you paint. Paintbrush bristles can easily be damaged when not stored properly. They need to be stored in a way that does not bend, flex, or break the bristles. The carrying case provides you with a reliable way to store your brushes.

This case will hold up to extended use while also keeping the brushes in good condition. Make sure that the brushes are dry before you close the case for extended storage. If they are put away while still wet, mold or mildew can begin to grow on them and damage the bristles. This may require you to air dry them with the bristles pointed down. When water is left in the head of the brush it can cause it to swell, resulting in shedding bristles the next time you use the brush.

The handles on these brushes are ergonomically designed to give you a firm, comfortable hold. The ergonomic grip will allow you to make consistent strokes with ease. They are also considered long handle. Long handled brushes allow you to have more freedom of movement when painting. The further away from the bristles you hold the brush, the ‘looser’ the painting will feel. Professional artists prefer a long handled brush because it allows them more versatility when painting.

Synthetic bristles, such as these, are extremely durable. Synthetics also tend to clean out better than natural hair. Keeping your brushes clean is important for their longevity. Most importantly, they leave a clean, smooth stroke so that they can accentuate your technique rather than detract from it. They are also hypoallergenic for those who are allergic to animal hair.

Bristle and head design can make all the difference in the paint brush. Brushes that shed can ruin hours’ worth of work. The Cube Craft brushes are designed to prevent any shedding, thus preserving your time and painting.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): The Art Chest Artist Round Paint Brush Set

The Art Chest Artist Round Paint Brush Set

View it on Amazon for $35.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Art Chest Artist Round Paint Brushes Set is a good quality set of paint brushes that offer nine different sizes of round brushes. They can be used with many mediums other than watercolor such as oil, acrylics, gouache, and tempera. However, if you plan to use them for watercolor, it is best to not use them in other mediums as any oils that are absorbed by the hair may make them less efficient at holding watercolor pigment.

The size of the paint brush you use can affect the outcome of your painting. Using a small brush on a large painting can make the painting feel ‘tight’ and too detailed. When using this set of brushes you’ll be able to easily move between brush size. A good rule of thumb is to use the largest brush that can handle the detail you want to create. The Art Chest has put together a good round brush set that can meet most of your painting needs.

Round brushes are the most commonly used brush because of their versatility. They can create a small smooth stroke as well as a fine pointed stroke. They also offer you the ability to work in fine detail such as in painting portraits, animals, and flowers. If you are a beginner, this set will meet most of your needs to start with. For the more advanced painter, a good set of round brushes can provide you a reliable way to work through your painting.

The bristles are made with soft nylon that can hold a good amount of pigment for a synthetic brush. The nylon allows these brushes to glide smoothly across the watercolor paper. The bristles hold their shape well enough to allow you to do fine detail work if necessary. Long bristles, such as these, hold a good amount of pigment, which is what makes them usable in so many different mediums. Synthetic brushes are also hypoallergenic for those that may be allergic to animal hair.

Long, wood handles with a stainless steel ferrule, the portion that holds the bristles on the brush, make these brushes long lasting. The ergonomic design of the handles makes them easy to hold and manage. Long handles give you more options when painting. They allow you paint more freely without creating a ‘tight’, overly detailed look.

These brushes come with a protective starch on them to prevent any damage during transportation. Before using them, be sure to look on the back of the package and follow all instructions to remove the starch. There is a lifetime manufacturer guarantee on all The Art Chest brushes.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Grace Art Water Color Brush Set

Grace Art Water Color Brush Set

View it on Amazon for $7.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Grace Art Water Color Brush Set is an inexpensive set that gives you a variety of sizes from which to choose. It is recommended for watercolor and acrylics, but it would be best to use them for one or the other. Watercolor pigment does not stick well to any brushes that have been used in other mediums.

This set of twelve brushes provides you with a good variety of sizes in round and flat brushes. There are six round brushes and six flat brushes. A round brush is used for the majority of painting as they allow you to work in fine detail if needed. With six different sizes, you should be able to work in as much or as little detail as you would like. Flat brushes are commonly used in washes and for making sharp distinct lines. The variety of sizes provided with this set will allow you to do a moderate sized wash and handle smaller sharp, detailed work.

These brushes are considered a short-handled brush. They are most well suited to the amateur artists. A short handle limits the depth and variety of stroke you can use. However, short handles also allow you to maintain greater control while painting. While a professional may feel limited by them, a beginner would find them better for learning to control brush strokes.

Solid wood handles are easy to grip and control. The ferrule, the piece that holds the bristles to the brush, is made of aluminum so that it won’t rust. A ferrule must be able to handle exposure to water over a long period of time. If they are made with less than a good quality material, they can degrade causing bristles to shed.

A golden synthetic hair is used for the bristles. Synthetics work well for beginning painters because they are durable and wash out easily. For those looking for a good starter set, these brushes will allow you to make even strokes with a good amount of pigment.

Some users have found that these brushes do not hold their shape well. Once the bristles begin to splay, bend, or break you will need to replace the brush. When the bristles get in bad condition, it can begin to degrade the quality of your artwork.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Xpassion Paint Brush Set

Xpassion Paint Brush Set

View it on Amazon for $6.89*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Xpassion Paint Brush Set is a starter set that gives you a good variety of brushes to begin with. If you are just starting to dabble in the art of watercolor, a simple set such as this will help you decide if you want to delve more deeply into the medium.

These brushes can be used in watercolor, oil, and acrylic. If you choose to use them for watercolor, it is best to devote them to that medium. Even the oil from your fingertips can affect the bristles ability to absorb paint. So the oil and chemicals from other mediums will affect the brushes’ ability to effectively absorb watercolor pigments.

With ten brushes, five round, three flat, and two filbert, you will be able to work in great detail or in broader washes, if you desire. When you are starting out in watercolor, this set provides you with the three most commonly used brushes. With a few extra sizes, you’ll be able to try out different line thicknesses and techniques with ease.

The short handles are made with wood and provide a good solid feel and grip. Short handled brushes are the most practical for beginners that need time to develop brush control. As you gain more experience, you can hold the handle further from the bristles and ferrule to allow your painting to ‘loosen’.

These brushes tend to hold their shape well, even after cleaning and reshaping. Shape is an important feature of a paint brush. A brush that can hold its shape is worth having.

Xpassion offers a 100% satisfaction, money back guarantee on this product. It also has a lifetime warranty. If you aren’t satisfied, you will not lose money on the purchase.

Pre-purchase considerations


Bristles are one of the most important factors when choosing a watercolor brush. The material the bristles are made out of will determine how well they create a smooth line, hold pigment and water, and maintain their shape.

The highest quality bristles will be made of natural animal hairs such as squirrel or hog. However, these types of brushes can start at $50 and go up to $250 or more per brush, making them something you should purchase only if you are a serious professional artist.

There are some good synthetics that can still provide a quality painting tool. The bristles should maintain their shape. For a round brush, this means it should have a fine point every time you pull it across the paper. They should hold a large amount of pigment so that the painting does not look faint, although the amount of water you add will also affect this. Synthetics are also easier to clean as they do not absorb the pigment into the shaft of the hair as much as a natural hair brush.

Handle Length

There are two types of handles, short and long. The longer the handle the more brush control you need and the ‘looser’ the painting will be. Professionals prefer long-handled brushes because it allows them to have freedom of control over the tightness of their strokes.

Short handled brushes are best for beginners. The short handle allows you to maintain control over the brush as you develop more control.


The ferrule, the band of material that along with glue, holds the bristles to the handle, should be made of a material that is resistant to rust or other types of decay. A ferrule experiences heavy exposure to water that can easily break it down if it is made of low-quality materials.

You can extend the life your ferrule by properly caring for your brushes. If possible, brushes should be dried with the bristles facing down. This allows the water to drain away from the ferrule and wooden handle. If you have to dry your brushes with the bristles pointing up, be sure that the brush is completely dry before storing them. If there is water at the bottom of the bristles and in the ferrule, the wood can begin to swell and bristles may begin to shed. The ferrule may also degrade.

Case and Storage

How the brushes are stored can greatly affect their lifespan and effectiveness. Brushes should be cleaned and stored with the bristles in the correct shape. Bristles should not be bent or splayed. If possible, store brushes in a sleeve that allows them to be kept from bumping and tugging out the hairs of other brushes.

Before prolonged storage, be sure that all brushes are completely dry. If your brushes do not come with a case, it would be best to find a hard case that can keep them from being smashed or bent when not in use. A hard pencil case or art specific case would work well. A good case can allow you to enjoy painting even while you travel.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Watercolor is a fun medium that allows you to see quick results. The quality of the materials that you use can greatly affect your artwork. A good set of brushes that has a variety of brush types will let you experiment with painting effects. If you already have a set and are looking to expand it, keep in mind what types of brushes – round, flat, or filbert – that you use most often. You can expand your collection to include different sizes of your favorite brush type or you can take a step to creating more professional painting results with high-quality brushes.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!


  1. Joe Cartwright, Buying Watercolor Brushes,, October 28, 2011
  2. Mary Ann Boysen, Watercolor Brush Types,
  3. Michelle Morris, How to Choose Good Mid-range Watercolor Brushes (And Where to Buy Them Online),
  4. Sandrine, Fine Art Friday: Types of Watercolor Brushes,, November 29, 2013
  5. Thaneeya, Paintbrushes for Watercolors,
  6. Watercolor Brushes: Know Your Tools!,

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