When I started painting, there was no comparison between sable and synthetic brushes. The sables were much higher quality. There was also this idea going around that you were not a proper artist if you didn’t have the most expensive sables in your toolkit. This view is now obsolete, but myths are hard to kill…
Synthetic, cruelty-free brushes are now just as good as their sable rivals. Added to the advantage that they don’t come from Siberian or Chinese fur farms, synthetic brushes can be soft, springy, absorbent, balanced and durable. Whatever your style of painting or what you like in a brush, there is a synthetic to suit.
I am working on a tutorial leaflet and a series of videos for my YouTube channel in which I have tested synthetic brushes in detail. Manufacturers sent me some for an article in Artists & Illustrators I wrote last year called The Ethical Artist and I have more coming from Jackson’s. In the meanwhile, here are a few criteria to select what will become your favourite brush, depending on what you are looking for and what will suit your technique and style of work:
- Softness: some artists like a soft bristle while others prefer a stiffer brush. The softest brushes I tried are daVinci casaneo Series 5598, Jackson’s Studio Synthetic series 505, Princeton Neptune and Escoda Versatil. If you prefer a stiffer, scratchier brush, try the daVinci Nova series.
- Spring: some brushes are rather floppy while others spring back as soon as you relieve the pressure. For a great spring, I like ProArte Prolene + series 007.
- Holding capacity: until recently, sable brushes were known to hold more water/paint, but synthetics fibres can now hold just as much. For endless wet-in-wet washes, try Princeton Neptune, Escoda Versatil or Jackson’s Studio Synthetic series 505.
- Control: if you like having more control over your washes even when working wet-in-wet, you need a slightly stiffer brush that doesn’t carry too much paint. ProArte Prolene + series 007 and daVinci Cosmotop Spin are good choices.
I started an exciting partnership with Jackson’s Art Supplies: they created a special vegan brushes section in their online shop and they are giving my readers 25% off in that section until 8th of February. The discount code is VEGAN25 and here is a link to the page: https://www.jacksonsart.com/vegan/vegan-brushes/
Have fun and Happy, creative 2019!