Beginner Tip #5 – Really Good Watercolorists Only Use Sable Brushes


Take a look at two of my favorite watercolorists

and read why they love synthetic brushes:

Everyday Graces By Susan Crouch

I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of brushes, but I keep coming back to Cheap Joe’s American Journey.  This synthetic brush works well with my techniques because it has good spring and the capacity to hold lots of paint.  Also, it’s affordable!

Bundled Up By Crystal Cook

I prefer synthetic brushes. I really like to have a super sharp point on my large brushes, for adding finishing details, and I could not find a sable brush that could hold a good deal of water and also keep a sharp point. For me, those two things are really all I need in a good watercolor brush and I found that the cheaper (cheaper when compared to the high quality sable’s, but not just any cheap synthetic brush, you still need to get a good quality brush) synthetics worked just as well (though perhaps not as durable) as the sable ones. I also think that my mentality about ‘saving’ my sable brushes, since they are SO expensive, hindered the way I worked with the brush. They became a precious commodity that I didn’t want to ruin or harm, where as the synthetic ones. . . well, let’s just say that I’m not afraid to soak them in water, or scrub out some color as needed. I have a more fearless approach when I’m using a supply that I know I won’t have to spend a day’s worth of pay replacing if it gets damaged.


I was eager to share this post because, What brush should I use? is one of the most common questions I receive in my workshops.

I’ve mainly used sable, but have observed some students make the investment and don’t like them. I love the wicking action of sable and how it slowly releases pigment onto the paper. But sable is not known for it’s spring, which can make it challenging. My best suggestion is to experiment and find what works for you.

I love the delicate, lyrical quality Susan achieves in her watercolors. And I love the strength and drama in Crystal’s work. Makes me want to try synthetic, how about you?

Have you discovered brushes that work for you, or don’t? Be the first to comment…

12 thoughts on “Beginner Tip #5 – Really Good Watercolorists Only Use Sable Brushes

  1. People laugh at my collection of brushes… but my favorites I keep coming back to are the “Black Velvet” by Siver, which is a mix of squirrel and synthetic. They are fairly reasonable on sale. Try a size 10 out to start.

  2. HI June,

    I found there is nothing more exciting than painting the twig of a tree with the twig of a tree! I often use twigs and sticks from my yard and “custom design” brushes to create the effects I need. In manufactured brushes, I find that the 50/50 brushes work well. Like Susan, I also like to have a sharp point on my large brushes. Thanks for sharing your information. I enjoy reading your blog posts.

  3. Well, that’s all I have — is synthetic — so, I’m glad to hear that they are perfectly O.K.!!! I like them, but then I’m certainly not an authority on the subject and have only been painting for about 2 years. I enjoy reading the helpful stuff that you post. Thank you.


  4. Nona, Sometimes I think we spend a lot of time looking for the magic (___________) fill-in-the-blank when it’s already within our finger-tips! Whatever works for any of us is OK 😀 Thanks so much for commenting.

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