Best watercolor brushes for beginners, travelers, and more

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Sometimes, all it takes are a few unruly watercolor brushes to make you realize it’s time for an upgrade.

After all, no one wants to deal with split bristles and misshaped brush tips after just a few watercoloring sessions! Trust me, this happens more often than you may think.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best watercolor brushes for all skill sets and budgets, including some pretty neat options for watercolor painters on the go!

For additional guidance, we’ve compiled tips and resources for watercolor, as well as a full watercolor beginners guide.

Affiliate disclosure: Articles on Tiny Workshops may contain affiliate links.

Best student-grade
Best pro-grade
Best travel set
Best water brush pens
  • Description:

    Pentel Aqua water brush pens are all the rage among hobbyists due to their low cost and convenience.

Best student-grade
Description:

Beginners seeking excellence on a budget will find a perfect match in these Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor brushes and sets.

$22.99 ($22.99 / Count)
Best pro-grade
Description:

Artists with high expectations ready to invest in first-rate tools can find reliability and top performance with Winsor & Newton’s Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes.

$28.79
Best travel set
Description:

These portable watercolor brushes have high-quality synthetic bristles that replicate Kolinsky hair, providing precision for detail.

$61.34 ($61.34 / Count)
Best water brush pens
Description:

Pentel Aqua water brush pens are all the rage among hobbyists due to their low cost and convenience.

$19.50
12/09/2023 04:35 pm GMT

Best watercolor brushes

Best watercolor brushes_Feature image
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Cherry-picking the best watercolor brushes from all of the options out there is already overwhelming enough.

So, to make life easy, we’ve kept our list sweet and simple, including the best watercolor brushes for all walks of life, all with one main characteristic in mind: quality.

However, remember that while you can’t go wrong with a set of high-quality watercolor brushes, personal preference always plays a big role. That said, be open to experimenting and see what works best for you!

Looking for alternatives to standard watercolor brushes instead? Give watercolor pencils a shot!

Best student-grade watercolor brushes

If you’re entirely new to watercolor, wiggling your way into the craft with more straightforward, budget-friendly tools is expected.

The good news is that while versatility may be harder to come across, lots of brands sell affordable, high-quality beginner watercolor brushes that will do more than the trick when getting started.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Brushes

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Brushes_best watercolor brushes

Beginners seeking excellence from the get-go will find a perfect match in these Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor brushes and sets.

Designed to meet the demands and needs of every painter, beginner or advanced, these watercolor brushes feature a blend of high-quality fibers of varying consistencies to provide strength, spring, and superb color retention.

I love that this line has a wide range of brush tips and styles to choose from. This makes learning more exciting for newbies who want to hone their technique and dive into specific themes.

You can purchase these brushes individually or in sets; prices may vary slightly depending on where you buy them. Note that currently, Blick is only selling this product within the US, but Amazon offers more delivery options.

Princeton Neptune Series 4750 Brushes and Sets

Princeton Neptune Series 4750 Brushes and Sets_best watercolor brushes

Princeton is one of the most valued brands in the watercolor supply world and creates some of the best watercolor brushes you can find (you’ll spot a few on our list!).

While a little pricey, this series is ideal for beginners looking for a sweet spot between price and quality. These brushes consist of synthetic bristles that closely mimic authentic squirrel hair commonly found in more high-end alternatives.

Brush tips are particularly absorbent, holding wet pigment remarkably well, all while delivering smooth and even application of color. They come in various shapes and sizes, individually or in sets, each with beautifully crafted handles.

All things considered, these are fantastic in terms of quality and durability, and all within reasonable value. Maybe they won’t last a lifetime, but they’re undoubtedly superior to most options for beginners!

Best pro-grade watercolor brushes

Pro-grade watercolor brushes generally consist of natural hair or superb synthetic fibers, enabling greater control and precision. They also retain and release water and pigment more effectively, which improves color saturation and blending techniques.

In addition, pro-grade watercolor brushes can last for years, all while performing consistently every time. The downside? They can get (very) pricey. Therefore, we recommend the best watercolor brushes below only if you’re serious about pursuing this creative hobby!

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes_best watercolor brushes

Artists with high expectations ready to invest in first-rate tools can find reliability and top performance with Winsor & Newton’s Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes.

These exquisite paintbrushes are some of the finest you’ll come across with authentic Kolinsky hair, providing perfect snap, spring, effortless brush strokes, and workflow.

Brush tips are available in various styles (price will vary) and are ideal for details and delicate work. These watercolor brushes are sold individually and in sets but know that these are top-notch pro-grade tools and will come at a significantly higher cost.

To stay on a budget, I suggest buying items separately as special additions to your watercolor brush collection; some of these items will cost you an arm and a leg!

Princeton Aqua Elite Professional Watercolor Paint Brushes

Princeton Aqua Elite Professional Watercolor Paint Brushes_best watercolor brushes

Princeton offers a series of phenomenal watercolor brushes that are perfect for pro-level painters seeking high-quality synthetic brushes.

These animal-friendly tools provide an excellent alternative to real Kolinsky hair brushes, especially ideal for vegan artists looking for a varied toolset. The synthetic hair is so high in quality that it’s hard to distinguish from the real deal!

Also, brushes are available in multiple shapes and sizes to achieve every technique in the book. In addition, Princeton’s Aqua Elite watercolor brushes have comfortable handles that make gripping seamless during lengthy craft sessions.

If you’re after precision, control, and variety for more advanced works, give these watercolor brushes a shot, whether as a complete set or individually. Remember, they won’t be the cheapest, but they’ll be worth the investment in the long run!

Best watercolor brushes for travelers

Travel watercolor brushes are popular among beginners and seasoned painters looking for portability, convenience, and versatility.

On the flip side, they tend to be more compact and smaller than traditional watercolor brushes, which can make particular techniques harder to achieve.

Due to their versatile design, they can also get expensive. However, they’re worth every penny if you’re looking for easy ways to transport and protect your tools while on the go.

Check out our guides to the best watercolor sketchbooks and watercolor travel sets to complement your toolset for on-the-go watercoloring ventures!

Princeton Aqua Elite Series Travel Brushes

Princeton Aqua Elite Series Travel Brushes_best watercolor brushes

Are you looking for the best watercolor brushes for your travel kit? Don’t compromise quality; go for Princeton’s Aqua Elite travel series.

While they aren’t the most affordable option, these watercolor brushes are a worthwhile investment if you’re seeking reliable tools that ensure durability and adaptability to various settings.

These portable watercolor brushes have high-quality synthetic bristles that replicate Kolinsky hair, providing precision for detail and the capacity to retain and release water effectively.

They’re perfect for a thoughtful gift for a special occasion and can be bought individually or in sets. Check the buttons below to see your options!

Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Travel Brushes

Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Travel Brushes_best watercolor brushes

Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Brushes Travel Brushes are a portable version of watercolor brushes developed by the brand and offer the same caliber and performance.

Thanks to their unique design, they’re ideal for creating art on the go. The brush’s body doubles as a storage compartment that holds the brush tips when not in use: these are screwed on and off accordingly.

Brushes consist of a mix of artificial filaments in different diameters to create the feel and performance of natural hair. They hold water incredibly well compared to standard synthetic travel brushes, are lightweight, and very compact.

The series hosts a variety of brush sizes, although all tips are round. Therefore, if you’re after a broader range, you’re better off with other options — but expect to pay a higher price.

On the other hand, these items offer versatility in the sense that they are compatible with heavier pigments such as gouache and acrylic paints.

Best water brush pens

Water brush pens feature nylon bristles and are excellent alternatives to regular watercolor brushes! These have become extremely popular for their affordability and practicality for beginners and travelers.

One advantage is their built-in water reservoir, which helps reduce messy crafting and setups. And while less versatile than standard watercolor brushes, they’ll serve you very well for smaller projects and combing watercolor and ink!

Pentel Aquash Water Brushes

Pentel Aquash Water Brushes

Pentel Aqua water brush pens are all the rage among hobbyists due to their low cost and convenience.

Bristles are soft, flexible nylon, and while not at the same level as the best watercolor brushes listed above, they’re very effective in taking on various techniques, from washes to glazes.

Although easy to manage, there is a slight learning curve if you’ve been using traditional watercolor brushes up until now. They aren’t difficult to use; they just need some getting used to!

The upside to these water brush pens is that they’re inexpensive. You will, however, have to top up the water reservoir as you work, especially if you’re painting something large-scale.

But don’t fret; this is super easy to do. Check out our tutorial on how to fill water brush pens to get the picture!

Tombow Water Brushes

Tombow Water Brushes Tombow Water Brushes

Tombow is one of those brands every crafter loves, primarily known for their epic dual-brush pens!

These are some of the best water brush pens regarding value for money, suitable for both traditional watercolor sets and water-based brush pens.

Although very effective, these water brushes are less durable and versatile than typical watercolor brushes but will accommodate a myriad of techniques like gradients and washes.

You can even try these out with Tombow brush pens: check out this quick tutorial on Tombow blending techniques for beginners if you’re curious to learn more!

Like all water brushes, you’ll have a limited water reservoir, so you’ll have to refill the pen barrel as you work. Brush tips are also prone to wear out quicker than standard brushes, but with the proper TLC, these can last for quite a long time!


That’s it for this guide to the best watercolor brushes you can buy. Which watercolor brushes are you using? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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