Waterbrush Comparison: Which is the Best?
Here’s a comparison of various popular waterbrushes that artists use.
What are waterbrush good for?
A waterbrush is actually a brush with a water reservoir behind. It’s a very convenient tool for artists on the go, especially those use sketchbooks. You have the best of both worlds with the versatility of using a brush without having to bring a separate water supply.
Waterbrushes are best used on smaller pieces of work, and for me that would be smaller than A4. For A4 and larger, I prefer normal brushes because they can control washes more easily. For example, to make a large even wash, with a normal brush, you can use reload with the pre-mixed colours and can be sure that each stroke is of the same intensity. With a waterbrush, even if you pre-mix and reload, water inside the reservoir will continue to flow, affecting the intensity.
One of the main challenges of using the waterbrush controlling the water flow. Getting a flat or gradated wash is certainly possible with a waterbrush but it requires practise.
The other challenge is cleaning the waterbrush when you can to switch colour. This involves wiping the bristles with tissue to get the paint out. Usually I will wipe, then squeeze some water, and wipe again until the bristles are relatively clean. Cleaning a normal brush of course is as easy as cleaning it in a container of water but you have to have bring a container.
The waterbrushes compared
The waterbrushes that I’ll compare are in the photo above, from left to right, we have
I’ve put two pocket brushes to compare the size. They are actually all pretty small and can fit into a pencil case without any trouble. The Holbein one might feel a bit tight because it’s long. None of the waterbrushes can fit into the 12 half pan watercolour box except for the Da Vinci Maestro pocket brush.
By the way, the “large”, “medium” and “small” refers to the size of the brush tip and not the size of the brush.
These waterbrushes all use synthetic bristles. There are actually waterbrushes that use a mixture of synthetic and animal hair, but I found them to be of poor quality because the hair keeps falling out, and they leak.
Among the waterbrushes I have, Holben’s the only one that use white coloured bristles, the rest are transparent bristles. I prefer white bristles compared to transparent ones because they look and feel more artificial although in terms of performance there’s not much difference.
The bristles all taper to a point. For detail work, the transparent bristles are sharper while the Holbein is more difficult to control, relatively speaking.
The largest brush, Holbein in this case, is about size 6 of a normal brush. The normal brush has more of a belly shape to hold water.
Let’s go through them one by one listing the pro and cons in point form.
+ Brush tip comes in three sizes: small, medium and chisel
+ Waterbrushes are numbered so that you can identify the brush tip to pick
+ The squarish cap base prevents the waterbrush from rolling around on the table
+ The body holds a decent amount of water
+ Nice sharp point
– Body a bit tough to squeeze
– No breather holes in the ferrule. Pigment will get pulled back into the ink reservoir
+ Brush tip comes in three sizes: small, medium and large
+ Cap is transparent so you can see the brush tip inside
+ 9ml model holds a decent amount of water
+ Nice sharp point
– 4ml model is too short, awkward to hold, like a short pencil
– 4ml model does not hold a lot of water.
– No breather holes in the ferrule. Pigment will get pulled back into the ink reservoir
Niji – Recommended
+ Brush tip comes in four sizes: small, medium, large and flat
+ Cap is transparent so you can see the brush tip inside
+ Body holds a decent amount of water
+ Nice sharp point
– Small cap inside the body makes it inconvenient to refill water from running tap.
Niji is actually made by Kuretake Japan, the company that makes the popular brush pens.
By the way, this is a waterbrush that’s commonly rebranded and sold. Meaning, I’ve bought a few other waterbrushes under other brands and they all turn out to be Kuretake. You can identify Niji/Kuretake brushes easily by the useless clip they stick on the cap.
This is the filter cap you’ll see when you unscrew the Niji body. The major downside is that small black-coloured filter cap that acts a filter to the body. There’s a tiny hole that provides and control water when you squeeze the body.
If you want to refill from a running tap, you’ll have to remove that filter cap, a task for those with longer finger nails. You can still refill without removing that cap but it involves dipping the opening into water and squeezing the body to suck water up, and that’s not easy to refill the entire body.
And you cannot use the waterbrush without that filter cap because when you screw the body to the grip, that connection is not airtight, squeezing the body will cause the water to leak from the threads.
I usually bring a few Niji waterbrushes out because of the inconvenience of refilling. Actually, I usually bring spare waterbrushes out for other brands as well so as not to refill water while I’m outdoors.
Notice those clips on the cap? They are stuck to the cap and you can’t actually use them as normal pen clips. Peculiar design choice.
Holbein – Recommended
+ Brush tip comes in two sizes: medium and large
+ Cap is transparent so you can see the brush tip inside
+ Body holds a decent amount of water. More than other brands
+ White coloured bristles feel less artificial than transparent ones
– Bristles are thick and not easy to use for detail work
– Gets worn out quite fast
– Not easy to find in western countries
Holbein is my favourite waterbrush because of the white bristles even though it has quite a few disadvantage. My next favourite would be Pentel waterbrushes.
Pentel – Recommended
+ Brush tip comes in three sizes: small, medium and large
+ Different coloured caps differentiates the brush sizes
+ The body holds a decent amount of water
+ Nice sharp point
– Medium-size does not have breather holes
This is a stopper you see in some of the waterbrushes capped to the body. It’s useless and you can throw it away.
For some waterbrushes, water might come out from the ferrule that holds the bristles rather than out from the bristles. Shown above is the Sakura waterbrush. Quite a few waterbrushes do that so take note.
Be careful not to squeeze the waterbrush too hard or the water will drop at unexpected places, affecting your artwork.
I normally use waterbrushes with watersoluble media such as coloured pencils, watersoluble graphite. For watercolours, I prefer normal brushes even if I have to be inconvenienced by bring a separate container of water for washing the brush. For sketchbooks, waterbrushes are great.
In the photo above, I’ve fitted a Da Vinci Maestro pocket brush inside the watercolour box.
Here’s the video review to see the waterbrushes in action.
Waterbrushes offer the convenience of normal brushes with a built-in water supply. They perform more or less the same. Main difference is just design of the body and bristles.
In order of preference, I would go with Holbein first. Then it’s a mix between Pentel, Sakura and Derwent. Then Niji because of its refilling system.
If you do detail work, I recommend Pentel or Sakura.
All links below are direct links to the items on Amazon.
Pentel Aquash waterbrush (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)
Sakura waterbrush (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)
Derwent waterbrush (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)
Niji waterbrush (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)
Holbein waterbrush – Difficult to find, even on eBay.
Search Jackson’s Art Supplies (UK) and Utrecht Art Supplies (USA) too.
Comparing Brands, Pros & Cons, and Picki – Greenleaf & Blueberry
I resisted water brushes for a long time, regarding them merely as crude tools that were simply a waste of time and money. Nonetheless, I purchased one several years ago. I had an artist friend that was wild about them and used them for nearly all of his paintings.
It took some time and fooling around to get used to painting with my first water brush. However, the experimentation allowed me to form realistic expectations and understand the brush’s capabilities.
These days, the art supply market seems to be flooded with different brands and designs of water brushes – also called aqua brushes. Each artist I talk to seems to have a certain favorite, each water brush a different set of features.
This post is a basic guide to water brushes. I will go over the pros and cons of water brushes in general, do comparison of the different designs available, and offer tips on how to go about choosing the right brush for you!
Let’s go over the drawbacks of water brushes first since that’s all I could focus on in the beginning — and what often keeps people from giving them a try.
Water Brush Cons
– So much plastic! I haven’t yet seen a water brush that isn’t plastic with synthetic bristles. As many of you are well aware, I’m no big fan of plastic tools. They have a cheap, uninspiring feel and lack durability.
– Brush head bristles wear out quickly. Synthetic bristles can be wonderful and even preferable in watercolor brushes, but the bristles in water brushes seem to wear out particularly fast. As the ends begin to fray the tip you fell in love with and became accustomed to will change and become blunt.
– Disposable. A regrettable fact because of the previous two points. It’s less a matter of taking impeccable care of these brushes and more a fact of the materials they are made of. If you use them they will wear out and need to be replaced.
– Lack of control. This is the biggest complaint I hear from new water brush users – and especially painters that are accustomed to using traditional paintbrushes. When using a water brush, you will never have the same feel and control as a traditional watercolor brush. They are simply different tools, and as such should not be compared as if they are the same. There are more working internal components – like a sponge and water reservoir – to take into account when managing your water to pigment and water to bristle ratios.
– Small, elusive parts. Some water brush designs involve small parts and all of them can be taken apart, which means there is always the chance of losing part of your water brush, rendering the rest pretty much useless.
Water Brush Pros
– Water brushes eliminate the need to carry water when traveling. This is a game-changer. Watercolor is already an exceptionally portable medium. Paints and paper are lightweight and packable. When you travel with water for painting there is always a high likelihood that it will leak, and when you have it open while you’re painting it is practically inevitable that it will spill or slosh about. For me, I can count on it. Since a water brush contains plenty of water, it creates the most minimal travel painting set-up yet.
– Water brushes allow a more fluid painting experience. With traditional brushes your hand guides the brush between the water cup, the paintbox, and the paper. With a water brush you are simply moving you hand back and forth between your paint and paper. It’s a very different more straightforward flow that gets pretty addictive.
– That cap though! One of the best features of the water brush is the cap. It protects the bristles and brush head while also sealing the water inside the brush. As a result, you’ll never have to worry about bent and distorted brush heads – just remember to put the cap on carefully! That cap makes these a breeze to travel with – just toss them in your pencil bag.
– Lightweight. A definite plus for backpackers and travelers managing extra baggage weight. It’s not like traditional paintbrushes are terribly heavy, but they do involve both metal and wood and do not contain your paint water. If you’ve ever backpacked uphill a few miles, or hauled your luggage from one end of the airport to the other, you know that every little bit counts!
– Size versatility. A number of brands offer mini sized water brushes. And any of these can be stored in two pieces if length space is an issue (like if you are wanting to store your brush in your paintbox).
– Light colored bristles. Almost all water brushes have either white or transparent bristles. This allows you to quickly and easily ascertain your pigment load and concentration.
Some of these water brushes differ in branding only, while others differ in design components. I will run through the features of each and my observations from using them.
Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush– This is the water brush option I most commonly see available in art supply shops. And for good reason. There is a nice range of options regarding brush size, brush shape, and handle length. The brush head shapes aren’t as long and tapered as others. The internal sponge mediates the waterflow nicely. A great all-around choice for sketching on the go.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Flat, Mini-Medium
Reservoir: squeeze barrel
Pentel Aquash Brush- These brushes are also very widely available. The brush head features a longer shape with a more defined point. Bristles are transparent and seem more fibrous, though amply flexible. Available in a range of options. I find these brushes better suited to finer details because of the brush shape. It is delightfully satisfying to squeeze their flared water reservoir, though this design keeps them from being as sleek
Sizes: Fine, Medium, Broad, Flat, Mini
Reservoir: flared squeeze barrel
Kuretake Zig Brush2O- These brushes are less commonly available, but nearly identical to the Niji Waterbrush (mentioned above). They are both manufactured by Kuretake and only the colors differ – not the design, with the notable exception of the Mini (Niji) /Petit (Zig). The colors of these water brushes are brighter and contrast a little more from one another, which makes the different sizes more easily distinguishable. (Yasutomo Niji Waterbrushes all feature blue reservoirs with only the caps differing in color to indicate different sizes.)
(I guess it’s pretty obvious which of these is my favorite, with the green brush sporting discolored bristles from lots of use.)
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Broad (Flat), Petit (a different design from the rest)
Reservoir: squeeze barrel
Caran d’Ache Waterbrush- I was initially very excited when I learned that this company had come out with its own water brush. However, they seem a little overbuilt, but do offer different design and features from other water brushes. The cap is more economical, space-wise; there is less room between the brush tip and the top of the cap, whereas most other companies leave much more space here, creating unnecessary length. These brushes feature a syringe-style reservoir that is better filled from an open water cup than from a sink. After filling your brush with water, the plunger will be all the way out, creating excessive length, but allowing for ample water storage. While this may seem like a stupid feature at first, especially when contemplating traveling with a loaded syringe of water that could easily be depressed, you can still travel with plenty of water loaded in the brush and the plunger fully pressed in. The plunger may seem unnecessary, but it does provide a different feature. To release more water you can squeeze the soft area at the grip of the brush, or if you would like a deluge of water – if you are perhaps creating a wash, for instance – you can press down on the plunger and release a greater amount of water all at once out of the tip of the brush. While there isn’t a very fine brush size available, the length of the brush heads do allow for some fine details. Also there is a fiber tip version available, which is fun and totally different.
Sizes: Medium, Large, Fiber-Tipped
Reservoir: hard barrel with squeeze at grip and plunger
Faber Castell Deluxe Waterbrush- Arguably identical to Caran d’Ache Waterbrush Medium. The brush seemed a little bit more flexible – maybe. For all intents and purposes I consider these two brushes the same, differing only in color.
Reservoir: hard barrel with squeeze at grip and plunger
Sakura Koi Water Brush- These water brushes feature long and slender brushes that are well-suited for finer details and long lines. These brushes can also be stored in two pieces with a full reservoir, but only if you don’t loose the little black plug (which I did, despite a good effort not to). Also, you have two different sizes of reservoirs when you purchase initially. For all sizes, you have the option to purchase with either a 4ml reservoir or a 9ml. The 4ml is much shorter and therefore more packable, but does not hold as much water.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Reservoir: squeeze barrel
Molotow Aqua Squeeze Pen- I was surprised and impressed by these brushes. I have the 1mm and the 4mm. The 1mm has a nice shape, not too long, nicely flexible, but still capable of good details. The 4mm is a narrow flat that doesn’t splay out when painting. Probably the longest of all the water brushes.
Sizes: 1mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm (flat), 7mm (flat), 10mm (flat)
Reservoir: squeeze barrel
Royal & Langnickel Aqua Flow Brush Set- These feature the simplest design of all of the water brushes I have tried, and are the only ones not to use a sponge between brush and reservoir to mediate water flow. As a result, the water can leak out of the threaded joint when squeezing the barrel. These are also the only water brushes that have a bristle color other than white or clear – they are orange-brown and seem to splay with a little more ease than others.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Reservoir: squeeze barrel
It’s not necessary to collect every type of water brush on the market. The key is to figure out which type is best suited for your work.
Tip #1: Take a look at the brushes you use most often. Focus on the brush head. What size are they? Is the point long and tapered like a designer, short like a spotter, or typical of a regular mid-length round? Are they rounds or flats? Do you rely on a wash brush? Try to pick a water brush that is a similar size and shape to the brushes you are accustomed to working with already. It will create a smoother transition.
Tip #2: Think about how you like to travel. Are you an extreme minimalist? Do you want to be able to store your brush in your paintbox? How much room will you allot to brush storage? Answers to these questions will help you determine to what extent brush length is an issue, if you would prefer a brush that can be stored more compactly (in two parts), and how many brushes you have room for.
Tip #3: Consider subject and technique. What techniques do you most often employ? Are you creating lots of washes and color pools? Are you obsessive about fine detail? If you enjoy washes you may want to consider a large brush, a flat, or a water brush that features a plunger-style reservoir. If you enjoy creating lots of fine details you may want to consider a brush that features a long, slender tip.
Tip #4: A word on choosing the right detail brush. Many people simply choose the smallest brush available for creating fine details, which can lead to unnecessary frustration. Tiny brushes can’t hold very much water or pigment and need to be reloaded frequently. They are best suited for creating tiny dots or filling in very small areas. Perhaps surprisingly, they are often ill-suited for fine lines. Medium-sized brushes that tend to be longer with a nice, fine tip and some spring will allow you to not only create nice details but also paint for longer periods before needing to reload your brush. When attempting fine details with a water brush, it is also good to keep in mind the limitations of the tools. Water brushes will always be a different experience from traditional brushes. Make an educated decision about which brushes you purchase, practice using them, and set your expectations accordingly.
Tip #5: Try a test drive. If you are lucky enough to have a fine art supply shop where you live (I’m not referring to the big three here), head in to browse what they have in stock. Many shops have the water brushes they carry available to test at the counter. It can also be very helpful to chat with the staff about the different features and options.
It’s important to keep in mind that water brushes are very different from traditional watercolor brushes. They each have their own set of pros and cons. When using water brushes for the first time, try to remember to take it slow, experiment, and be curious! You will have to develop new methods and skills before you are at home with them. And either way, enjoy the lightness and ease of leaving all that extra paint water at home!
Have you tried any waterbrushes that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear which ones and your experience.
Observations on the Waterbrush
My observations on the Waterbrush
For those who don’t know, a water brush or waterbrush (some makers use two words while others combine them into one) has a soft plastic barrel which contains water. When you squeeze the barrel, water enters the bristles, thus eliminating the need for a separate water container. It also makes cleaning the brush between colors a breeze. These are great for watercolor sketching on location. All you need is a waterbrush, a small set of half pan watercolors and a sketchbook, plus some tissue paper or a rag. No more water bottle and cup. If you use a small sketchbook, your entire set up will fit in a pocket.
Waterbrushes started appearing in Japan in the 1990s and have recently become very popular around the world. In Tokyo, I’ve noticed there are more books on sketching which recommend the waterbrush now, including several books by Chihiro Tanaka, the man who is credited with inventing these. He used to empty the ink out of regular brush pens and fill them with water. Then he included photos of these modified tools in his books on watercolor sketching. Some of brush pen makers realized he was on to something big and started to produce these brush pens with translucent barrels and no ink, calling them waterbrushes (mizu-fude — pronounced mee-zoo-foo-deh). One of Mr. Tanaka’s latest books on sketching with the waterbrush is in my recommended book list (see the link at the bottom of this page).
I have been using either Pentel Aquash (the one at bottom of the photo) or Kuretake (pronounced koo-reh-tah-keh) Phys waterbrushes (the three in the middle) almost to the exclusion of my regular brushes. There’s a web site dedicated to the Kuretake Phys waterbrush. It’s written by Chihiro Tanaka (mentioned above) and is mostly in Japanese, but there is a small English section there, too.
When you first start using a waterbrush you may find it more difficult to use than a regular brush because you have to take into account the constant water supply coming down through the bristles. With a little practice these do become easy to control. You can even get dry brush effects.
One cool thing about waterbrushes is that the constant water supply will allow you to go from dark to light in a natural unbroken graduation. You can start your stroke where you want the color to be the darkest and most saturated, and work your way to the lighter, less saturated areas. If you stay with the stroke long enough, it will go all the way to pure water. You can utilize this unique feature to get some great effects. Of course most of the time you do not want the water to paint ratio changing with every stroke. It may not be an issue when painting small areas, but it is very noticeable on larges areas such as skies. So this feature is both an asset and a liability, and one reason I hold on to my old regular brushes. I hope someday someone will invent a waterbrush with a water shut-off system so we can have the best of both worlds.
I have read on other web sites that a lot of people prefer the water flow and bristles of the Pentel Aquash water brush over the Kuretake in its various manifestations (more on these below). I personally prefer the water flow on the Kuretake over the Pentel. You can send water through the bristles with less effort on a Kuretake waterbrush, which is helpful when you are washing the brush. While on a Pentel you really have to squeeze to get a trickle, you can send a stream of water out of a Kuretake with much less effort. Also, the flow is better controlled on the Kuretake so water won’t drip on your work unexpectedly — like one of my Pentels did. Maybe one reason many people prefer the Pentel is that that the more restricted water flow helps keep the water to paint ratio more consistent.
Pentel bristles always come back to a sharp point and are more firm than Kuretake. So when you want fine detail and crisp lines, the Pentel is better. The Kuretake bristles are softer and more floppy than Pentel, and don’t come to a sharp point. These are good in situations where you would normally use a floppy round brush. I did a Frankenstein job on a few of my small size Kuretake waterbrushes, and put Pentel bristles in them. Now I can get crisp fine lines with great flow.
Since both waterbrushes have their place, I would recommend you buy one of each. You may find you need both to get the job done.
By the way, all my waterbrushes seem do just as good a job at holding and moving paint as my traditional brushes. I must qualify that by saying that most of my traditional brushes are second rate sables or synthetics. No doubt the more expensive sable brushes can hold a lot more paint than these. While waterbrushes are great for sketches and small paintings, large scale paintings would be beyond their limitations.
Like many synthetics, the nylon bristles on the waterbrush do stain with certain colors, such as Thalo green, (as the photo shows) but it doesn’t affect the painting.
Apparently you can’t buy the Kuretake Phys waterbrush outside of Japan, but recently I bought a Staedtler Water Brush (top of photo) and discovered it was identical to the Kuretake Phys Waterbrush except for the color and contours of the barrel design. The inner parts were identical, and the screw-together sections were even interchangeable. This leads me to believe that other waterbrushes that resemble the Kuretake Phys waterbrush such as the Niji waterbrush, ROYMAC Waterscape Brush and ZIG Brush h3O are actually produced from the same specs. I think the ZIG is actually made by Kuretake since ZIG is a name for other Kuretake products.
This has got to be the most portable waterbrush out there. It’s the Sakura Koi Waterbrush and it comes in two separate pieces that screw together, the longer piece being 7.1 centimeters long (2 13/16 inches). The barrel holds water and has a small cap. Don’t lose it! I want to say the proper pronunciation of Sakura is sah-koo-rah with the accent on the first syllable, but in their own American demos they call it suh-koo-ruh with the accent on the second syllable; apparently they figured it’s a problem not worth correcting.
I had planned to put a few links to waterbrush vendors here, but I discovered that there are so many vendors and new brands of waterbrushes that it would be impossible to select just a few. Here are the names of the waterbrush brands I’ve found so you can copy and paste and do a web search for them yourself:
Art-Kure Water Sketch Brush
ZIG Brush h3O
Staedtler Water Brush
ROYMAC Waterscape Brush
Pentel Aquash water brush
Tria Brush Pen
Sakura Koi Waterbrush
The waterbrush will never render traditional watercolor brushes obsolete, but I think it will eventually become the preferred tool for the majority of watercolor sketch artists, especially those who are just beginning to sketch and paint. And keep in mind, the waterbrushes of today may be considered merely the first generation; improvements may come which could seduce even the die-hard purist.
Update (August 2006):
It has been over two years since I wrote the above article. During that time I have gone back and forth between waterbrushes and regular brushes, and it looks like the waterbrushes have won. Water is always the biggest issue when sketching on location, and carrying a water supply is the biggest burden in terms of luggage space and weight. A waterbrush requires less water to clean since it is more efficient to channel a small amount of water through the brush than to swirl the brush in a cup of water, dirtying all the water.
It is still difficult to paint large expanses with a waterbrush, but the makers of the Kuretake Phys (Niji) type have tried to address that issue with the flat version (It’s the purple one in the middle of the top photo). This brush does help, especially with painting skies, but is still limited by its size, about 1 centimeter (3/8 of an inch) wide.
Pentel Aquash waterbrushes can now be found in most stationery stores, or stationery departments in larger stores in Tokyo while the Kuretake Phys waterbrushes are mostly limited to art supply stores. I prefer Kuretake Phys waterbrushes. Other artists have told me they prefer the Pentel Aquash, so it is still a matter of personal preference. Although I have highlighted the differences between these brands, they are really small. It might just depend on which type you have gotten accustomed to.
My own sketching/painting style has changed to accommodate my waterbrushes. Now I put more gradation in the washes by utilizing the change in water to paint ratio. If you have paint only on the tip of the bristles and let more of the surface of the side of the brush touch the paper, you can get some nice gradation effects in a single stroke.
Many watercolor artists teach that you should avoid large boring expanses of the exact same color and tone but instead put lots of variety in the washes so that no square inch exactly resembles another. Of course there are other artists who teach the opposite, as one can expect in any subject related to art.
If you do watercolor sketches on location and don’t work any bigger than 9 x 12 inches (or F3 size) than you ought to give the waterbrush a try. It could make life easier for you and even change your style.
Update (October 2011):
There is a new type of waterbrush on the market now by Blue Heron Arts that uses a piston filling mechanism. It comes in both a long model for painting at home and a portable pocket version (in the photo below) which has me excited because it is so portable and looks good in the pocket as well.
The bristles look and feel the same as soft traditional brushes, so you can use many of the same techniques you could do with a regular brush which are not so easy with stiff white bristles on the squeeze type waterbrushes mentioned above.
The piston also gives you better control over the water flow, even to the point of stopping the flow completely for dry techniques, and you can turn it with one hand alone by grasping the end knob with your little and ring finger and rotating the barrel with your thumb and index finger. You can also post the cap and turn it, which will then turn the knob, but I prefer to use it with no cap posted because it seems better balanced and easier to handle that way.
One draw back is that the piston takes up so much room, this pocket version will run out of water before you can finish an average size sketch. But it is perfect for postcard size sketches as well as trading card size sketches (ATC and ACEO). Of course, you can also take a few waterbrushes with you to make sure you don’t run out of water.
Although you can turn the piston with one hand, you should use two hands to uncap the water brush barrel. I usually uncap my fountain pens with one hand, but if you try that with these brush pens, it can snap the pen in two. I know because I did it!
These waterbrushes come in two tip sizes, the larger one (model number A20) is a good general size for small sketches around postcard size, and the other one ( model number A10) has an even smaller point, similar to a brush pen, which is better for small ATC / ACEO sketches and drawings as well as fine detail work. I ordered several of each, since they are inexpensive and it’s good to have a few in my bag.
I took this photo after I had used the brushes daily for a few weeks.
The one problem I have encountered with these is the fact that water can come out the sides of the black plastic section that holds the bristles. There is a some kind of air vent on the larger of the two, and two vents on the smaller one. They don’t seem necessary, and caused water to come out the sides when I wanted it to come out the tip. After I plugged them up, the flow was much more predictable, and these brushes do exactly what I want, and work like a dream. I used J-B weld since it was handy — it’s dark gray and barely visible in the photo (every handyman should have a few tubes of J-B Weld sitting in a drawer somewhere).
The maker says to fill these by pointing the pen downward and submerging the tip in a glass of water, but I’m lazy, so I just hold them upright under a faucet with running water and turn the piston knob to fill up the barrel. That works well for both piston and squeeze type waterbrushes.
I have written a little more about waterbrushes in my online book on sketching.
Awash with Color: Hybrid Waterbrush
I have a number of waterbrushes – all are nylon tipped. They function to various degrees – although none are great. I do love the amount of water they hold though, making them very convenient for travel. The Kuretake sable hair brush pen is a fine writing and inking instrument, although normally it is rather pricey. Its main drawback is that the ink chamber (which theoretically could be filled with water) is quite small. This modification will allow you to attach the sable hair Kuretake brush pen replacement (a less expensive option to buying the whole pen) to a waterbrush base to get the best of both worlds!
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Making the Hybrid Waterbrush
I got this idea from another YouTuber, whose assembly video is below. My version’s assembly is basically the same as the one he shows, with a couple modifications. First let’s go over the items you will need in order to create this hybrid waterbrush. You only need to get the Kuretake brush pen tip replacement rather than the entire pen but I will link the full pens at the bottom of this post.
I made the following video, which briefly goes over the parts (also pictured in this post) and shows the waterbrush in action.
When looking at the options, you will quickly see they come in two main form factors:
One with a press release restrictor valve like the Caran d’Arche. With this type of brush you press the button on the side of the barrel to begin the flow of water from the reservoir tank.
The other option is the barrel press design (found in all others we mentioned) where you firmly squeeze the barrel of the brush to begin the flow of water.
No matter the type of brush you go with, the painting process remains the same.
You will simply bring the water to the bristles and then load up your brush as you normally would when using a watercolor brush.
For attaining lighter hues, simply expel additional water from the barrel.
Once you are done with a color, instead of dipping the bristles into a jar of water, with a water brush pen you can simply ‘paint out’ the colors onto a paper towel or sponge.
Paper To Use With Your Water Brush
When it comes to using your water brush, you will always want to use a quality watercolor paper.
Watercolor paper, unlike standard paper, is designed completely differently and will have much better absorbency properties.
This not only ensures that your artwork doesn’t warp or wrinkle, but also give you greater control and texture for the water brush to latch onto.
If you are looking for recommendations on a particular watercolor paper, you can check out our recent article where we compared the best watercolor papers around.
Secondly, given that water brushes are more portable in nature, a watercolor sketchbook may be of greater interest.
If you are looking for a recommendation there, you can check out our full reviews of watercolor sketchbooks.
Brushes with water tank
Special features of working with the tool
Novice artists often do not know how to work with a tool such as a watercolor brush with a water tank – how to use this device can be figured out pretty quickly. The convenience of painting with this tool is a matter of habit. You need to follow simple instructions:
- before work, you need to fill the tank with water;
- to wet the pile, you just need to squeeze the tool – the stronger the squeezing, the more water is released, so you can control the intensity of the water intake yourself;
- after that, the wetted hair of the brush is dipped into the paint of the desired color and applied to paper or other canvas;
- you can create different effects by periodically pressing on the body of the tool to receive a larger amount of water, moreover, you need to continuously drive the pile over the paper so that a puddle does not form on it;
- after drawing, you can rinse the pile in the usual way or simply press on the body to rinse it with water from the reservoir;
- periodically you need to top up the liquid if it comes to an end.
You can buy brushes with a reservoir in sets with tools of different shapes and sizes or individually. Depending on what effects you want to apply in your painting, you can focus on the following forms of inventory:
Artists who spend a lot of time at work and paint large pictures should look for models with a large liquid container so that they are less distracted from creativity.
What will you find with us?
The watercolor tank brush is most often made with synthetic bristles. Here you will find such graphic tools of famous brands from Russia, Japan, China, England and Germany. The body is made of plastic of various hardness – you can choose how easy it is to provide water to the hair.
We have brushes with a water reservoir of various sizes, made of durable plastic, so they will serve you for creating many original artworks, will help you hone your skills and improve your painting technique.There are also models with housings made of other flexible materials. You will find tools with different handle lengths for more comfortable painting, you can paint with brushes with natural or artificial bristles – both options can be found here.
Round Brush with ZIG Brush3O “Detailer”, diameter 3 mm, long
ZIG Brush 3O KURETAKE, Detailer, 3mm fine nib, long body
The KURETAKE ZIG Brush3O thin round nib with water cartridge is a handy tool for the artist, perfect for painting in the studio and outdoors.The unique elongated cartridge design ensures a constant flow of water to the handpiece. The moisture level of the brush can be controlled by varying the pressure applied to it.
Japanese company Kuretake ZIG Corporation specializes in the production of quality tools for drawing, illustration, graphic design, scrapbooking, calligraphy and lettering. The company’s product range includes specialized series of markers, liners, brush pens and other writing instruments for professional illustration, manga drawing and graphic design.
For direct drawing with paints, as well as erosion of water-based paints and watercolor marker inks.
– brush with an extended water tank in a transparent plastic body
– Detailer tip – thin nib with a base width of 3 mm made of synthetic fiber
Manufacturer: Kuretake ZIG Corporation, Japan
Instructions for use and nuances
The brush consists of two parts, one of them contains a water reservoir that needs to be filled.To get water to the brush, you need to lightly press on the body.
To fill the reservoir with water, place the unscrewed reservoir in water, and press the area of the body with the Push inscription as required.
How to use a water brush with a reservoir when working with watercolors
In the process of work, the liquid evenly flows from the container to the hairs. Consequently, the brush pile never dries out.
Different brands of water brushes look relatively similar and work in a general way. The volume and shape of the water reservoir, as well as the size of the hair bundle itself, may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Fluid flow adjustment
The hairs of the brush are moisturized all the time.
Under normal conditions, the bristle of the water brush is only slightly moistened, water does not flow from it (see Photo 1). The liquid comes out of the water container slowly, constantly moisturizing the hairs.
To increase the flow of water, the reservoir must be squeezed.(As shown in Photo 2, this brush model even has marks on where to press.) Basically, you need to grasp the brush a little higher near the center of the container and squeeze it with your fingers. It will be awkward at first, but gradually you will get used to this manipulation as you use the brush.
The additional volume of water supplied is proportional to the force of your pressing. Photos 3 and 4 show the ability of the hairs to hold a rather large drop of liquid before it falls onto the paper.
The moisture level of the hairs is different for different brands of brushes. For some, water seeps out more slowly than others. Therefore, I advise you to try a different brand of brush if you are not satisfied with the one you have. Of all the water brushes I have, I prefer the Kuretake model (photos of her are used for demonstration in this article).
How to squeeze more water out of the brush
You have the ability to precisely control the amount of water flowing out.
To liberally dampen the brush hairs, simply continue to squeeze the water container.If, of course, there is still water in it! It sounds silly, but sometimes I’m so addicted to work that I don’t even notice when my tank is empty.
Water will drip from the brush pile onto the drawing (see Photos 1 and 2). To avoid puddles, continuously move the brush across the paper while squeezing the container (Photo 3).
If you want to dilute the paint applied to the sheet with water, do not squeeze too hard and for a long time, otherwise overdo it (Photo 4). If necessary, wipe off excess liquid with a clean cloth or dry brush.Over time, you will get used to squeezing out a specific amount of liquid.
You can fill the tank directly from the tap, or by dropping it into a container of water (bowl or cup). It’s easy to do this with a bottle when painting in the open air, if you don’t mind spilling a little.
Waterbrush in watercolor painting
It is convenient to write with paints in cuvettes with a water brush.
This brush is ideal for working with watercolors, as its container replaces a glass of water.Therefore, it is useful in the open air or for creating sketches from nature.
The photo above shows one of the 12 cuvettes in my travel watercolor set. If I don’t need a lot of wash, I can just lightly touch the paint with a brush. Moisture from the hairs “activates” the dry pigment, and its amount is just enough for a couple of strokes.
When a lot of washes of one shade are needed, I add a couple of drops of water to the cuvette (Photo 2). The wateriness of such a mixture corresponds to the desired depth of tone (Photo 3).The more I dilute the watercolor, the more it “dissolves”.
When painting with watercolors, simply dip the water brush into it as you would with a regular brush. Unlike the sable brush, the synthetic bristles of this model hold the paint worse. Therefore, you will have to type it more often.
Waterbrush for solid and graduated washes
This brush gives excellent results for both solid and graduated washes. It is especially valuable in the latter case.
You will find that the Reservoir Brush is no different from a regular brush when it comes to applying a continuous wash (Photo 2).Start by brushing in watercolor as usual. The moisture of the hairs of a water brush doesn’t matter much, unless you squeeze it extra and add paint regularly.
But when you start with a graduated wash, the uniqueness of the waterbrush comes out in all its glory (Photo 3). All you have to do is draw some watercolor and cover the paper with it. Then you just continue to paint over the sheet, and you do not need to add water or pigment and rinse the pile. Moisture will spontaneously seep onto the sheet and mix with the wash applied as you work, gradually lightening the tone and creating a smooth transition.
Do not under any circumstances squeeze the reservoir, otherwise your wash will turn into a puddle (Photo 4).
Water brush set with watercolor pencils
Waterbrush can draw tone directly from watercolor pencil or water-soluble crayon. Just rub the hairs of the brush on their surface until you get the right amount of paint.
Determining the amount of watercolors drawn this way takes a little practice. But remember that you can always dilute the color with water while painting.
Turning a Watercolor Pencil into Paint with a Water Brush
One stroke with a water brush and the hatch becomes a wash.
This brush is indispensable when you need to turn your watercolor pencil into liquid paint. It is enough to brush over the shading, and under the influence of the moisture of its hairs, you will get a watercolor wash. The advantage of this particular brush model is that there is no need to tear the brush off the paper to collect water.
Photo 1 shows the result of one such smear.Photo 2 was taken after several runs, which allowed more paint to “activate”.
How to wash a water brush
This is done quickly and easily. The main thing is that you do not need to disassemble the brush.
First of all, remove the remaining watercolor from the hairs with a dry napkin or cloth (Photo 1). Then, squeeze the container, pumping more water into the nap (Photo 2). Blot the brush again (Photo 3). Do this a few times and your brush will be clean (Photo 4).
Author: Marion Boddy-Evans
90,000 Japanese double-sided kanji brush / fountain pen
This amazing subject will undoubtedly be useful to anyone who studies Japanese (or any other written language based on Chinese hieroglyphics), is engaged in calligraphy, or simply wants to acquire an original writing instrument.And, of course, if one day a samurai spirit awakens in you and requires self-expression in a traditional poetic form, scribbling a hockey “Parker” in “Moleskine” is undoubted kitsch and mauvais ton. But the real Japanese “Kuretake” will be the most appropriate here.
I wish I was born seven times to devote all seven lives to learning Japanese.
What subject is needed for anyone who takes Japanese textbooks seriously? No, this is not a short sword for a hara-kiri.And not even a kamikaze headband. The Japanese language is not so terrible as it is customary to think about it; spoken Japanese will be even simpler than most European languages. With writing, of course, the situation is somewhat more complicated: two Japanese syllabic alphabets of 46 letters each serve only as a prelude to a jump into the abyss of about two thousand obligatory hieroglyphs, which even by the Japanese themselves are called “Chinese literacy” (this is how the free translation of the word ” kanji “). However, one should not become discouraged: even fragile Japanese schoolgirls master the norm for memorizing two thousand squiggles in 12 years of study.If the lot of fragile Japanese schoolgirls is beyond your reach, you can start with a more modest goal: to master the 1006 kanji that a graduate of elementary grades of Japanese secondary school is supposed to know.
Modern science has presented mankind with a huge variety of methods that allow you to learn absolutely any language in 21 days, from Swahili to C-plus-plus. I have tried many of them myself, and I declare with full responsibility: no matter what you undertake, you cannot master the Japanese language in 21 days.However, I did not lose hope and ended up in a Japanese language school, where I was plunged headlong into rigorous training in the most secret of the techniques of learning hieroglyphs. We put a Japanese object called “no: that” in front of us, took another Japanese object called “empitsu”, and with this “empitsu” we used to depict “kanji” on the surface of the “no: that” many, many times. From the outside it might seem that we were just sitting with pencils over an ordinary school curriculum and drawing out Japanese squiggles, but in fact we were performing a time-honored ritual, only thanks to which tens of generations of Japanese schoolchildren managed to conquer the harsh, like Mount Fuji, Japanese alphabet.
In general, you need a fountain pen to learn Japanese. And a fountain pen is needed not just a simple one, but a special one, Japanese, specially designed for writing hieroglyphs. Of course, they don’t sell these in Russian stationery stores, nor do they sell them in art stores (they could only offer me a brush and Chinese ink in bars), so all hope remained with the foreign countries, which, as you know, will help us. For this reason, I went to ebay to look for a real Japanese fountain pen.
In general, such fountain pens in their historical homeland are called “fude pens”, and a huge number of these “fude pens” are produced in Japan: some for writing, others for calligraphy, and others for drawing manga and other artistic delights. By the way, the word “fude” in Japanese refers to a brush, which for several centuries replaced the native intellectuals with collet pencils, felt-tip pens and fountain pens, which had not yet been invented in that era. Colored “artistic” ones were useless to me, pretentious fifty-bucks, adorned with owls and phoenixes, looked unreasonably expensive for educational purposes, and as a result I opted for a simple, discreet and strict design, “Kuretake # 55”.
The reasons for my choice were as follows: about five years ago, when I attended Japanese language courses, to everyone who did not give up, did not run away, but reached the end, our sensei presented Kuretake like this before leaving for his Japanese homeland. However, over the next three years, this Kuretake was written out a little. When I happened to get to Japan, I set out to buy something similar there. However, for some reason I didn’t come across just such Kuretake, and what I bought turned out to be closer to an ordinary black felt-tip pen than to a modernized brush for Japanese writing.Since the felt-tip pen was blatantly wrong, the kanji also came out from under it some kind of lopsided and soulless. Having suffered with him for almost a year, but without having conquered the wayward stationery, on the eve of the upcoming school year, I decided to make myself a gift and order the very old, kind and faithful Kuretake No. 55, with which I went through fire, water and two levels of international exams in Japanese.
As it turned out, these Kuretake are sold exclusively by Japanese sellers, and the number of sales for most of them is very modest, so I didn’t choose much, but just ordered where it was cheaper.Delivery is free, which is not surprising: the store price of these Kuretake in Japan is about five hundred yen apiece. Two days after the order, I received an e-mail notification that Kuretake was shipped and was already rushing to me on the wings of airmail, and after another twelve days I was holding in my hands a large white bag with a Japanese return address.
In a bag, wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap, Kuretake rested. He endured the voyage safely, reaching me safe and sound; as you can see in the photo, even the blister did not wrinkle.
Let’s extract our charm from plastic captivity and take a closer look.
Outwardly, it looks like a completely ordinary double-sided felt-tip pen in a tea-colored body, decorated with gold lettering. The thickening on one side, apparently, should evoke associations with a bamboo stem (the word “take” in Japanese means “bamboo”). The inscription is read from top to bottom and says that in front of you is nothing but Kuretake # 55 with two ends, the upper one is thin and the lower one is thick.Indeed, as soon as we remove the cap from the thick end of the Kuretake, under it we will find not the usual hard rod for a felt-tip pen, but a soft flexible brush.
This is what distinguishes the real Japanese “fude peng”, intended for hieroglyphic writing, from a banal fountain pen. A small ledge is made on the cap, under which the brush is hidden, apparently so that Kuretake does not roll on the table for nothing. However, the manufacturer also took care of those who, by the nature of their activity, sometimes also need a banal fountain pen.Under the other cap is a thin black liner that can replace a ballpoint pen.
This masterpiece of Japanese engineering weighs 10.4 ± 0.1 grams.
The ink used in Kurekake appears to be water-based, odorless, and water-resistant enough to prevent splattering from a couple of raindrops.
Having done with the statics, let’s move on to the dynamics. That is, we will “write different kanji with a thin brush in a notebook,” and see what happens.By the way, for complete authenticity, a notebook would also need to get a Japanese one, in a large square, divided into four small ones, and write in it from top to bottom and from right to left. And if you plan not only to learn letters, but to practice the Japanese art of calligraphy, then you cannot do without a pack of sheets of rice paper at all. However, for lack of rice paper, I used ordinary printer paper with a completely non-Japanese name “Iceberg”. I started by writing the simple word “shodo:” (this is how the Japanese call what we call calligraphy):
As you can see, Kuretake writes with a brush, and writes very well.If you look at the text a little more closely, it is even easy to trace the movements of the brush. This is important when teaching, since for each kanji there is a canonical order of drawing strokes and direction of movement of the hand. Violating this order is not at all impossible, but if you do everything according to the rules, memorizing the form and meaning of kanji becomes somewhat easier. But for the Russian language, the brush is categorically not suitable, and it is inconvenient to write, and the letters from under it come out sloppy.
And now let’s write something on the test with the thin end of Kuretake:
Minute of self-promotion
If we ignore the content and pay attention exclusively to the form, then distinguish the inscription made by Japanese Kuretake from the same one, but made with the help of Turkish liner is almost impossible.But this is for the best: if you suddenly need to sign the payroll urgently, Kuretake will not let you down in this either.
However, even something as beautiful as Kuretake has some drawbacks. First, when writing, he gets his fingers dirty. Perhaps this drawback manifests itself only in those who hold Kuretake in writing just as I do, almost to the brush itself, and ink can be washed off very easily with ordinary warm water and soap, but the fact remains. Secondly, when writing with a brush, you can draw a line so bold that the ink will dry only after a few seconds, during which you can have time to smear a freshly written hieroglyph with your hand.Which is also not a very significant drawback, unless, of course, you are left-handed. And finally, as I said, sooner or later the ink supplies in Kuretake will be exhausted, and you will have to order a new one, since the Kuretake design is monolithic and does not provide for refilling.
And, in order to conclude the review in a positive way, I will allow myself a little more pathos clothed in hieroglyphs:
Glory to Japan!
Detailed view of Kuretake Gansai Tambi
We already had a review of this watercolor, but now I have the opportunity to test it myself and write additional interesting and useful information.
I also advise you to read the post about what Gansai is, in order to better understand what will be discussed below.
I deliberately bought this set (in Jacksons it is much cheaper), in a pair with Turner gouache, because I watched a lot of Helen Dardik, who draws with just such a bunch of materials. However, in the process of using both, I came to the conclusion that I like gouache on its own, and this watercolor is not bad in single use, taking into account certain nuances.
Let me tell you about one thing right away – there are two rulers that are very similar, but which should not be confused.These are Kissho (吉祥) Gansai Watercolors and Kuretake (呉 竹) Gansai Tambi. These are two different manufacturers, the first is considered more expensive with natural pigments. Gansai is Japanese for watercolor, and Gambi is a word that has a similar meaning to aesthetic. Kissho and Kuretake use different numbering systems for their colors. The same color from each brand may have different numbers. Here is a video in which the girl compares the two sets.
There is also an almost identical Akashiya Gansai Watercolor Palette in color, but it has square cuvettes and I have not seen more than 24 colors.But the aforementioned Kissho has a set of 72 colors.
So, we are considering a set Kuretake Gansai Tambi of 36 cuvettes, it is the largest in the line, in addition there are also sets of 12, 18 and 24 colors. The watercolor itself is of Japanese production, as a result of the information about it, there is not so much information, including its composition and features. The manufacturer claims it as an opaque, highly pigmented watercolor, and it can actually paint even on dark paper. Here’s my quick sketch and paint in silver, white and gold paints.
A big plus is that the set contains gold cuvettes, so beloved by those who practice lettering – this watercolor works well for calligraphy, but is more transparent than Finetech.
In fact, this is a kind of mix of gouache and watercolors. Knowing about the peculiarities of Asian painting techniques (for example, gunbi), it becomes clear why white paint is used in watercolor – it is widely used there and why such a texture. I already wrote about this in the post about gansai.
The first thing that catches your eye is a cardboard box (they say “colors of great beauty” are written on it, but this is not certain) and the large size of the cuvettes.However, despite the large size, the cuvettes themselves are low, it would be interesting to know their volume. Conveniently, each cuvette has a name and number written in Japanese, you can take it out of the box and then return it to its original place, everything is signed by numbers and you don’t need to know Japanese. Large cuvettes are great for large brushes – again commonly used by Asians. Here is a size comparison with the Windsor & Newton full and half cuvette.
There is a special place for painting on the lid, but I made a separate larger painting on watercolor paper and pasted it on the lid.The offered squares for painting are very small and I hardly see the colors.
The color scheme is beautiful, there are a lot of green and red shades, I desperately miss blue, I would replace half of the green with blue. There are colors evidently with whitewash.
After drawing and drying, the paint in the cuvettes may crack, air bubbles may appear in it, but this does not affect its performance. They say that the paint can generally crumble from impact, but again this does not affect its properties.
There is a paper wrapper on the box that says what you need:
– keep out of the reach of children,
– store paints horizontally,
– do not leave in the open sun or at high temperatures,
– not to be used for purposes not intended for drawing,
– wash brushes after use,
– Allow the paints to dry after use before covering and removing them.
This watercolor, according to the manufacturer, does not contain animal products, but contains a lot of glycerin in the composition, due to which the layer shines and the paints themselves are a little soapy.
Now let’s talk about the peculiarities of paints. It may seem strange to watercolorists that there are so many similar colors, because usually almost everything can be mixed from blue, yellow and red. Unfortunately, you will not find information about the pigments used and the lightfastness of these paints, although the manufacturer declares them to be professional and lightfast.
And here comes another of the main features of gansai – these paints do not mix well with each other. That is, painting with separate colors is great, they are beautiful, they blend well, but as soon as you need, for example, a complex shade for the skin – that’s it.You just can’t mix it without getting a muddy mud.
But white is more than justified, because it is traditionally used in Asian painting and it is not considered bad form. With it, the colors are more subtle and it is used for the base substrate in colors for example.
- original texture and properties – colors are bright, but not flashy, thick, easy to pick up on a brush, give beautiful watercolor stains with a lot of water
- large cuvettes and competent packaging, everything is signed and does not dangle
- color palette matches each other well
- economical due to large size
- can be combined with other materials such as gouache, ink, markers, pencils
- gold and silver cuvettes are good for lettering and calligraphy, you can mix quite thick paint and it will look great
- cuvettes are sold separately, so you can buy the necessary colors
- you can paint on dark paper, but the layer will still be a little transparent
- this watercolor is not suitable for traditional painterly manner of drawing due to problems with about mixing, but it is good for decorative and illustrative work
- as a result with this set, if you are a beginner, you can fully repeat many watercolor master classes from the network, for example, you simply cannot
- no information about composition, pigments, lightfastness
- the box is too bulky, does not close tightly, gradually gets greasy and dirty, it is not suitable for carrying with you
- in smaller sets the color palette may not suit some due to the peculiarities of Asian paints in general
- non-standard size of cuvettes creates problems with the selection of the box if they are bought separately
- for watercolors with specific properties is quite expensive
In general, if you are not an adherent of the classical watercolor school and keep your drawings in albums or digitize, you may like this watercolor.