Trying out new watercolor brushes

Did some testing on four smaller brushes from Rosemary & Co. in the UK. (I have to buy my Kolinsky Sable brushes in Europe; they are pretty much unavailable now in the US due to import restrictions on…furs. Note to US Customs: you cannot wear brushes.)

I’ve previously gotten a few of the Rosemary series 33 Pointed brushes; these are series 22 Designer brushes. The Designer series are a bit more tapered than the Pointed — and, oddly, therefore slightly more pointed! The series 33 have a heavier body and come to a point more quickly. They carry a lot of paint and work well, but they are best at filling in, not quite as good for lining as the Designer brushes turned out to be. That gradual taper gives a lot of control over line width. (FWIW Dept.: my size 14 Da Vinci is the best example I’ve ever seen of a large brush that can do a very fine point. My other Da Vinci brushes are not as good, however; it’s the size 14 that really does that trick in the Da Vinci line.)

Here is a photo of the four brushes. Don’t believe what you see; the four sizes are 6, 4, 2, and 0. The “1” is a slip of the fingers. Or of the mind…

For each brush, I painted a broad area with (roughly) the same stroke count for each brush. The relative coverage areas fit with the carrying capacity of the brushes. Then I painted some lines of varying widths, from as small as I could make them to fatter.

Rosemary brush samples (1)


The number 6 brush didn’t make a very thin line on the first attempts, so I looked more closely at the hairs. Turns out it had a single loose hair (happens, not a negative unless it starts going bald), which I removed and tried again (those strokes of varying thickness below the numeral 6). I was able to get nice, fine lines as well as thicker lines once this bit of clean up was done. (I do have the Rosemary sable 10/0 (ten-aught) brush for super-fine detail; I can’t over-emphasize how wonderful that brush is. I’ve had it for six months now, and it’s invaluable for fine details. Highly recommended.)

Overall, these are excellent brushes. They replace a hodgepodge of smaller brushes from a variety of sources. I’ve never felt quite comfortable with my brushes in that range; this upgrade looks to be a great one, can’t wait to dig in with some actual paintings.

There are other good Kolinsky sable brushes available in Europe, including the Da Vinci line, Escoda, Raphael, and others. Jackson’s Art Supply, also in the UK, is one source for a variety of these brushes. But the Rosemary line are both well-priced and hand made, and I like them a lot. I would prefer to be able to choose by actually painting with a bunch of brushes in each size to find ones that fit my style, but unless I make a trip to the UK, that’s not going to happen thanks to the Customs regulations. Very happy now.

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