These are designed to control the flow of colour with the perfect brush having a fine point, the ability to hold and evenly control colour and should be able to spring back into shape after every stroke.


Choosing the right brush depends on your style and technique. For oils, you may need to consider which hair is able to move thick, viscous colour. However, if you decide to use thinner brushes to alter the properties of the colour, then sable hair is better.


This section is a little blurred as to what type of brush is best, as many can be used depending on your style.



Kolinsky Sable is not actually made from Sable, but from the tail of a species of mink that is a member of the weasel family.

This is considered the best hair around, particularly for oils & watercolours because the hairs are strong and soft, retaining their shape with an excellent spring back to shape.

Hand shaping of the head ensures a perfect and very fine point that does not split.

It has excellent absorbing qualities and holds more water than brushes of a similar size.

The quality of these brushes results in a greater ability to produce the most detailed and delicate work with precision and control.


This is considered a good and cheaper alternative to the Kolinsky Sable because of their similar performance and durability.

It originates from the weasel family with red hair and not from the sable.

The hairs are slightly thicker and stronger, but still retains its shape and spring back.

Good for all colours and for many different mediums, with the quality and characteristics varying greatly.


This is mainly a synthetic brush which makes it a cheaper option that the animal hair brushes.

Sable–Ester is a special mix of Taklon (synthetic) / Pony and Sable hair.

The hairs are very strong, keeping their shape and have a fine and lasting point.

These brushes have a good holing capacity.

The advantages of synthetic brushes are:

a)       Cheaper, but will not last as long as a natural brush.

b)      Less prone to damage from solvents and paints.

c)       Easier to keep cleaner than natural animal hair brushes.

d)      Better for acrylics as they do not absorb water and hold up well to thick, quick drying paint.


Taken from the tail of a brown squirrel (Kazan), which is generally used for medium art work or as a student water colour brush.

This is a very soft, this hair brush with a very fine point. It is just as good as the Kolinsky, but has very little spring back because the hair is not particularly resilient.

Has excellent absorbing properties which is why it is the best hair for water colours, especially for expressive art work. It also works well with liquid paints and inks.


A mixture of Sable (see above) and Ox.

It has a strong body with silky texture and is very resilient with good spring back, but lacks a fine tip.

Therefore, it is most useful in medium quality wash brushes, or flat shaped brushes.


Made with extremely fine Goats hair.

This is an oriental-style wash brush with ultra-soft hair contained in a flat base with a long flat handle.

As it can hold water long enough, it is useful for:

a)       Laying in broad washes.

b)      Long wet strokes.

c)       Absorbing excess media.

d)      For loose water colour techniques.

Used by Sumi painters and calligraphers to wet the paper or for broad applications of water and ink.



More of a teardrop shape, having a round ferrule by the base and then tapering down to a sharp point at the end.

Has soft textures and a good spring, where the hairs snap straight when pressure is released off the brush.

Applying gently but firm pressure, opens out the head and releases the paint retained in the belly to create bands of colour. This is good for stroke work and filling in, particularly useful for watercolours.

Lightly applying the head means less paint feeds through the tip, which provides for better control. This makes it good for detail work and painting fine lines.


A filbert is a narrow, flat brush with hairs that come to a rounded point (or chiselled round edge).

Used on its side, a filbert gives a thin line perfect for painting leaves, flower petals and bird feathers etc.

Because it can hold a fair amount of water, when used flat, it can then produce broad brush strokes and therefore great for applying washes of colour.

With its soft rounded edges, the filbert is suitable for blending and figurative work.

Great for base coating, because the shape of the hairs eliminates ridges.


A flat brush with short length hairs, chisel ended & square headed.

They do not hold enough paint for flowing strokes, but are good for:

a)       Blending.

b)      Painting short strokes.

c)       Cleaning up messy edges.

Flats and Brights are mostly used for oils and acrylics (such as impressionist works) but it can be used with watercolours as well.

Also, good with thick or heavy colours.


A short handle with most of the belly being incorporated into the ferrule which means little of the actual brush hairs can be seen.

Has a small sable round head but the tip is very sharp resulting in a great spring back.

Therefore, perfect for precision work. It is popular with the model worker and miniaturist painter, but it’s also used for retouching photos and other high detail work.


A thin brush with extremely long round sable hairs which come to a sharp, precise, long tapered point.

Has a large colour holding capacity with allows for plenty of flow.

Great for producing fine continuous lines with a consistent width.

Traditionally used for painting rigging in marine pictures, but ideal for painting thin tree branches, cat’s whiskers etc. Also, good for signing a name on a painting.


A flat soft hair brush with normally a long head length and short handle.

Provides a firm brush stroke and because of its large colour holding capacity, this allows and artist to make a single stroke right across a medium sized canvas.

These are often used in sign writing as they can paint block letters in a single stroke.

Also, ideal for background washes, architecture and even lines. A favourite for ceramic artists when glazing.


A Short Hair length will not retain as much paint and is better for fine detail.

A Long Hair length will retain more paint and is btter for wide sweeping brush strokes such as background washes.



A short handle will allow you to get up close to the canvas or medium.

A watercolour brush will usually have a short handle since the artist requires fine detail.

The same can be said for decorative oil painting.


You can zoom out easier with a long handle brush, such as when painting on an easel.

These are for oil, alkyd and acrylic painters who are more likely to require distance from their work.

Easier when a wider sweep of the brush is required.