Sunday 24 May 2009

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Brushes

Late last year I finally decided to invest in a set of Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes for my miniatures painting. Series 7's are often described as the pinnacle of quality and I was eager to try them out. I bought two brushes (00 & 000) for detail work but I decided to hold off writing a review until I had used them for a good length of time.
Series 7's were first made in 1866 to the specifications of Queen Victoria . The first brushes came with Ivory handles but nowadays they consist of a black lacquered handle, a nickle plated ferrule and the best Kolinsky Sable hair. There are two ranges of Series 7's; the standard range consists of 13 sizes from 000 to size 11; W&N also produce a miniatures range with shorter hair for a finer point and these go from size 000 to 6. It is this latter range that is best suited to the needs of the miniature model painter.

Series 7 brushes are manufactured using the winter tail hair of the Kolinsky Sable. This hair has excellent 'carrying' capacity due to the minute scales that cover the hairs. This means that you don't have to keep reloading your brush when working on small or intricate details. The hair also has exceptional spring and retains its shape even after long use. My brushes have seen regular service over the last six months and still look and perform as well as they did when I first bought them. Indeed this was one of my primary reasons for investing in Series 7's as I was fed up of cheaper sable brushes becoming useless after only a few months.

Its worth mentioning at this point that there are different types of Sable available and that quality varies enormously from one type to another. Kolinsky Sable refers specifically to the winter tail hair of the male red sable. This is the best quality hair for brushes and is used in Series 7 Brushes; Red Sable is usually second grade Kolinsky sable or weasel hair; Black Sable is actually hair from the polecat. It has similar properties to red sable but is often limited to use with oil colours because it is more coarse than red sable; Brown Sable is hair from other parts of the animal other than the tail and is often dyed to give it a uniform colour. This hair is often used in lower quality bushes; Some brushes are just labeled Sable and these may contain any of the above hair types. Squirrel hair is also sometimes labeled this way; Finally we have Sabeline which is an imitation made from ox hair and dyed to look like real Sable.

With all my brushes I use Masters Brush Cleaner to help clean and preserve the hairs. However there are a few simple rules you should observe, whatever brushes you use, to extend their life.

  • When painting work the brush in the direction of the hair not against it.
  • Rinse brushes thoroughly in clean water between colours to stop paint solidifying in the base of the hairs.
  • Clean thoroughly with a brush soap (or PH neutral hand soap) at the end of every painting session.
  • Never leave brushes sitting in water. It swells the wooden handle and unseats the hairs.
  • Let brushes dry horizontally so water does not seep down into the handle.
  • Once dry protect the tip with the plastic cover usually provided.
  • Never store in an airtight box, this can cause mold which will damage the hairs.

I have been so impressed with my new brushes that I decided to make a stand to hold them. The end result looks a little like a Samurai Sword stand. I have even been known to talk to my brushes muttering words like "precious" and "my pretty".


  1. I thought you would like to know that as a direct result of this entry, I purchased my first Series 7 Sable brush today. I am still too nervous to use it but at least I now own one.

    In the past I had bought cheaper sable brushes - about £4.00 fo a size 1 was the maximum. I'll write in later Blog entries how I have got on.


    I think your Samurai brush holder is a fantastic idea - you should market them. I'd buy one.

  2. I have genuinely been very impressed with these brushes. I was dubious about the benefits of buying quality but now I’m won over. I still buy cheaper sable brushes from a certain popular high street game shop, but only for base coating and dry brushing.
    Incidentally, most of what I learned about brush care was a direct result of buying W&N brushes. I wanted to take care of my investment!

  3. Excellent heads up on artists quality paint brushes. I've been using various brands for years, and the last batch I bought in the 80's have started to give up the ghost, so I've tried some bought in model or games shops and they're not the same... I'll give the series 7 a go.
    Folk looking for stands might want to try chinese calligraphy stands, very similar to chopstick rest in restaurants if you've seen them.

  4. Over the years I've gone through a large number of brushes but still have one of the original W&N series 7 brushes I bought when I started. Cannot complain - 20 years service!

  5. Hi to all,
    I have purchased too many W&N Series 7 brushes now I'm selling few too many that I have. here is the link of my Auction:


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