?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry

I found some compelling discussions of synthetic vs sable. Foremost in the argument for synthetic is that the nature of the compounds in acrylic paint are very hard on sable brushes (oil paints are much kinder and even water colors are easier on sable than acrylic). The synthetic is able to withstand the acrylic much longer. I hadn’t found the sable to be particularly sturdy and my experience with the few synthetic brushes I’d purchased hadn’t been worse than the sable. Below is a comparison of brushes from a couple of manufacturers, albeit from an advanced-beginner hobbyist. If you are curious about mid-price brushes, largely synthetic, read on fellow-painter.

Brushes in the Lineup

These brushes are all available on Amazon. The brushes range between $6.00 - $10.50 per brush with the exception of the MyArtScape brushes which were part of a set of 12 for $50; I’m not sure of their price when sold as stand-alone brushes. Given that most of the brands’ Kolinsky sable* brushes were in the $20+ mark, I reviewed only one that was of a similar price point to the synthetics, the daVinci series 30 Maestro.  I was not able to find the same sizes of each brand**, thus there are more size 1 than size 0 in this comparison.


  • daVinci Series 363 Forte round size 1 (synthetic) $10.19

  • daVinci Series 30 Maestro round size 1 (Kolinsky red sable) $10.39

  • MyArtScape round 0 (synthetic) $4.00

  • MyArtScape round 1 (synthetic) $4.00

  • Princeton Series 6850 Summit round size 0 (synthetic) $7.10

  • Princeton Series 6850 Summit round size 1 (synthetic) $6.86

  • Winsor & Newton Galeria round size 0 (synthetic) $8.07

  • Winsor & Newton Galeria round size 1 (synthetic) $8.87

  • Winsor & Newton Series 233 University round size 1 (synthetic) $8.87

SIZE 0 Round

Fig 1. Left to right: Winsor & Newton Galeria, MyArtScape, and Princeton 6850 Summit

SIZE 0 Round close up of the bristles

Fig 2. Comparison of bristle length and shape. This photo is taken before the brushes have had any use.

SIZE 1 round

Fig 3. Left to Right: daVinci 363 Forte, MyArtScape, Winsor & Newton 233 University, Winsor & Newton Galeria, Princeton 6850 Summit, and daVinci 30 Maestro

SIZE 1 round close up of bristles

Fig 4. Comparison of bristle length and shape. This photo is taken before the brushes have had any use.

Brush Comparison

Out of the packaging I compared each brush’s tip, where and how much flex it had in the belly, how much tension the bristles had under pressure. After that, I dipped each in clean water to remove any stiffener and compared them again. Then I painted an undulating surface (a plastic bell pepper, if you’re curious) primed with Armory white primer using Vallejo Model Color number 119 ochre green. With each brush I did a few of the same strokes and pressure (as best I could). A few thin & thick lines, small detail strokes, and curves gave me a sense of a brush’s tension & feedback, paint load (how much paint the bristles held), and overall control.

Flex = bending along the length of the bristle

Twist =  with the tip and belly of the bristles near parallel against a surface with light to moderate pressure and rolling the brush handle between your fingers, how much the bristles roll or cross over one another

Twirl = with only the tip of the brush against a surface with light to moderate pressure, how much

                                      










Fig 5. Brush Anatomy image from: https://www.craftsy.com/art/article/paint-brush-primer/




daVinci Series 363 Forte round size 1 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The Forte tip was a bit malformed from being knocked around during shipping and the protective tube having slipped off. The point was imprecise and the bristle width thick through the belly and tip. The bristles are soft but didn’t have as much flexibility to twist or twirl as the other brushes.

Post first water dip:

Even after a water dunking, the Forte had a fairly sloppy shaped point of the 9 brushes I reviewed. It took moderate pressure to s

pread the tip to double. It flexed through the belly about ½ the length back toward the ferrule.

Painting:

Because of the low tension & feedback, low control, high paint load, and imprecise point the Forte made low-moderate controlled strokes even on a fairly smooth surface.

daVinci Series 30 Maestro round size 1 (Kolinsky red sable)

Out of the packaging:

The Maestro had a moderately crisp point out of the packaging, but by no means a sharp or slender one. It had medium stiffness and a medium amount of flex. It took moderate pressure to spread the point to double.

Post first water dip:

The water dip, to my surprise, didn’t pull together the Maestro’s tip fibers, but it did increase the softness. It was almost as loose as the Forte. When wet it took very little pressure -- almost immediately -- to spread the tip to double. The belly flexed to about ½ way back to the ferrule with a lot of twist and twirl.

Painting:

The Maestro was low tension & feedback and high paint load. It’s control was better than the Forte, but is not very good either. I’d describe it as moderate-low control but high paint load. It held a moderate point that spread very easily. Paint spread on the surface so smoothly that it almost felt smeary.

MyArtScape round 0 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The MyArtScape brush had a bit of stiffener to keep the long bristles in a very tight point inside the protective tubing. The stiffener broke up easily on pressure to reveal that the bristles are very soft with a good amount of flexibility. There was a medium amount of spread, but it returned to shape very quickly when pressure was released. The MyArtScape brand had the longest bristles of the comparison set. They are also tinted to look as though they have a gradient like some natural hairs would. This didn’t affect their performance in any way but it was the only synthetic with this affectation.

Post first water dip:

The water dip cleared out the stiffener easily. The point held well, though the spread to double was still easily done with moderate pressure. Flex in the rather long bristle length was to about ½ way back toward the ferrule. Not much twist and twirl.

Painting:

I had expected the softer, longer bristle to lose some control due to the weight of the paint compared to water alone. To my surprise, the MyArtScape had reasonable tension & feedback and control. It held its point well with paint, though it has a moderate-low paint load.

MyArtScape round 1 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

As with the size 0, the size 1 MyArtScape brush had a bit of stiffener to keep the long bristles in a very tight point inside the protective tubing. There was minimal spread, much less than half, especially considering the MyArtScape had the longest bristles.

Post first water dip:

The MyArtScape keeps a good point, though the spread to double was done with moderate pressure once the stiffener was rinsed out. Flex in the bristles to about ½ way back toward the ferrule. Not much twist and twirl, but more than in the size 0 of the same brand.

Painting:

The tension & feedback in the size 1 is less than in the size 0 and the paint load is moderate, giving this brush moderate control. It held its point well.

Princeton Series 6850 Summit round size 0 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The Princeton Summit also suffered in transit, losing it’s protective tubing. This caused it to have a half dozen or so hairs crimped outwards right at the ferrule. Even ac counting for this damage it was obvious that this brush had the loosest point of all the brushes reviewed. The bristle lengths varied obviously and even varied at the outer edges of the belly and tip (all brush es have some variances in bristle lengths, but strive to have that variation produce a smooth belly and tip). Under light or firm pressure it did not hold its shape well; it did more than average twist and twirl

Post first water dip:
The Summit didn’t improve with the water dip. The tip and belly didn’t pull together, it had a wide spread, and it dried out the quickest of all the brushes. It flexed to slightly more than ½ back toward the ferrule.

Painting:
While having only a moderate paint load, the Summit was the most sloppy, least controlled brush in the comparison, only in part due to the shipping damage. Its bristle tension was soft thus feedback was poor and the spread was wide and uneven. The adhesion qualities of the paint improved the point somewhat, but not enough to recoup from the basic issues and it did tend to dry faster than the others.

Princeton Series 6850 Summit round size 1 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The Princeton Summit size 1, unlike the size 0, was not damaged in transit. It had soft bristles with good flexibility and some twist and twirl. As with the size 0, the bristle lengths are obviously uneven. It had moderate spread -- about double -- with moderate pressure.

Post first water dip:

This Summit held a good point with not much spread when wet; just under double, which was interesting given it’s dry performance. It flexed to about ⅔ of the way back toward the ferrule; further back than most other brushes.

Painting:

With paint, this brush was fairly soft, with low tension. It kept its point and had a moderate paint load. Because of the low tension it had moderate control.

Winsor & Newton Galeria round size 0 (synthetic)
Out of the packaging:
Winsor & Newton sable brushes have a vocal and loyal following, though I’ve not yet used them. It was interesting to put this synthetic offering from a well regarded manufacturer to the test. Of the 4 brands in this comparison, the Galeria was the stiffest, with the least spread under moderate and even firm pressure. It also had the shortest bristles and second straightest (least bowed out) belly. Twist and twirl were minimal.

Post first water dip:

The Galeria held it’s point nicely, with very little spread. It didn’t spring back to as tight a point as the MyArtScape did. It had low-moderate flex that was just shy of ½ way back toward the ferrule.

Painting:

Tension & feedback with the Galeria were higher than with the other brushes. The paint load was low-moderate due to the tightness and stiffness of the bristles. Even with a paint load the tip held shape and spread was under half.

Winsor & Newton Galeria round size 1 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The Galeria size 1 was moderately stiff; not quite as stiff as the 0, but still stiffer than the other brushes in

the comparison. It spread to double with moderate pressure, but did not have much twist, or twirl.


Post first water dip:

As with the size 0 Galeria, this size 1 brush had the least flexibility of the brushes in the comparison. It flexes only to about ⅓ of the way back toward the ferrule. The spread, when wet, was the same as dry.

Painting:

With high tension & feedback, moderate-low paint load, and holding its point well, this Galeria had moderate-high control when used with paint.

Winsor & Newton Series 233 University round size 1 (synthetic)

Out of the packaging:

The University brush has long bristles, a tube-like belly, and lots of soft flexibility. Fresh out of the packaging the tip was comparatively blunt, though narrower than the Maestro or Forte. The flexibility lent itself to twist but not twirl

Post first water dip:

Any pressure easily doubles or more the width of the tip and belly. It springs back into shape readily. Very easy to flex, but as with most other brushes, only to about ½ way back toward the ferrule.

Painting:

Given the softness of the University’s bristles, they held the point well with the paint load. The paint load was moderate. The tension & feedback were also moderate and spread maintained at around double. This gave the brush a moderate level of control.

Cut to the Chase: Which Brush?!

While I acknowledge that anyone’s preferences in brush handling is valid for them; I offer up these thoughts about the brushes I’d choose.

I liked the somewhat stiffer and higher control of the Winsor & Newton Galeria brushes. The amount of tension and feedback were, for me, a good trade off for the lower paint load.

To my surprise I liked the MyArtScape brushes; I had doubts about the bristle length and did not anticipate good quality based on their price. Their flexibility and ability to hold their shape without the spread getting out of control gave them a good feel. These brushes are a good bang for your buck, too, since they were running about $4 per brush when purchased in the set.

I intend to order a size 0 and a 10/0, if I can find them, in the Winsor & Newton series 233 University brush. I don’t think the softness will lend itself to being a good detail brush, but it made beautifully even long strokes in further painting trials.

The Princeton series 6850 Summit brushes was the brush I liked the least because of its poor point, easy spread, and low tension. I would not recommend it unless your preference is for soft feedback and high paint load. As for the daVinci series 363 Forte and series 30 Maestro brushes, I felt they lacked feedback and precision and their points were less crisp than I liked; I thought better handling was to be had with several other brushes. That said, in the actual paint strokes the Maestro & Forte don’t look bad; the light pressure lines are a bit thicker than those of the synthetic counterparts. Most of it is a preference in feel and fine-grained control.

Which synthetic was most like the sable?

Many painters are very familiar with and prefer the feel and feedback of a sable brush. If not, sable wouldn’t have the widespread recommendation on the forums that it does. If you are interested in the feel of sable, but the lower cost and longer durability of synthetic, the two models from this comparison that handled the most the one sable in the test (daVinci series 30 Maestro) were: daVinci series 363 Forte followed by the Princeton series 6850 Summit. The daVinci was convincingly close to the sable, with only the slightest bit more tension and stiffness. The Summit had the softness but less precision.