There are many different types of brushes on the market, it can be very confusing for a beginner and even an artist starting a new medium.
So, let us examine the brushes that can be used when painting with watercolour. Watercolour brushes are using made with soft hair or soft synthetic fibers, the are benefits from both types of brushes. Natural hair fibers are not completely smooth, they have scale like structures that gives it a greater water holding capability compared to the smooth synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers are stronger than the natural hair brushes which gives them a longer life or allows the artist to be a little rougher with the brush. Some brands are made of a mixture of synthetic and natural fibers, such as Daler-Rowney’s Sapphire brushes, they are made of red sable and synthetic fibers to get the water holding capacity of the natural hair and the durability of the man made fiber.
A lot of watercolour artists tend to start their painting by laying down a wash. The most suitable brushes for this technique are a hake brush, a mop brush or a flat wash.
I have two of these brushes in my kit, a goats hair hake and a synthetic flat wash. The top wash is painted with the hake and the bottom wash with the flat wash brush. Both have given great even results, the hake brush required one stroke left to right across the paper three times, the flat wash needed a second stroke.
There is also a style of brush that can create a wash as well as some finer details, it is great for creating washes around objects within the painting. A pointed wash or squirrel wash brush has a teardrop style a fine tip to a wider body of hair and usually made of squirrel, though occasionally I have found the odd synthetic one.
The next two brushes are the mainstay style of watercolour painting, a pointed round. I have used two brushes the same size, one a synthetic bristled brush and the other with sable hairs. These brushes come in a large range of sizes from 0000 to a 30, as the brush tends to come to a point it is possible to create small marks with a 30, but with the smaller brush size you will find that there is better control over the finer marks than there is with the larger brush. The natural hair brush generally allows for a longer stroke than a synthetic brush due it its superior water holding ability.
These are the basic types of brushes generally used in watercolour painting; however, there are plenty of others out there that I do not use myself. Which brushes you use will also depend on the style of painting that you do, if you like to paint the fine detail of botanical art for example you will tend to use the smaller brushes; for fluid or larger landscapes will let you use the bigger brushes.
I have purchased most of my brushes in the art store that I work at, you can also access them through their on-line store Arthousedirect