Monday 12 December 2011

Another plug for W&N brushes

 I have reviewed and raved about Winsor and Newton Series 7 Brushes before and its high time I did it again. These Kolinsky Sable brushes really are the best I have ever used and this was brought home to me over the weekend. I realised that I have been using some of these brushes for three years and they are still as good as the day I purchased them.

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.

I now have five Series 7 Brushes and although together this represents about £80 worth of investment I don't think that's bad considering the fact that I haven't had to replace any in three years and I can't see me needing to for some time to come. Of course I do my best to look after my precious brushes which has helped prolong their life as highly valued tools. I use the following simple rules to preserve and extend the life of my brushes and these rules can be applied whatever make you use.

  • When painting work the brush in the direction of the hair not against it. This will stop the hairs from becoming damaged and bent. 
  • Always rinse brushes thoroughly in clean water between colours to stop paint solidifying in the base of the hairs. If you live in a hard water area it may be worth considering distilled water for this task.
  • Never leave brushes sitting in water. It swells the wooden handle and unseats the hairs by dissolving the glue at their base.
  • Clean thoroughly with a brush soap at the end of every painting session. I use Masters Brush Cleaner but any PH neutral hand soap will do fine. 
  • Reform the tip of the brush using one of the creases in the palm of your hand.
  • Let brushes dry horizontally so water does not seep down into the handle. 
  • Once completely dry protect the tip with the plastic cover usually provided. 
  • Never store in an airtight box, this can result in fungal growth which will damage the hairs. Mine are store in a wooden pencil box with ventilation holes in the lid. 
  • Use cheaper 'disposable' brushes for drybrushing and other destructive tasks like applying glue to bases and for undercoating. 

Happy painting folks!


  1. Very nice brushes. For my cheaper option I now use the "Royal" range. I think they are made in China (all brushes probably are) but the Royal have been very good for larger sizes for bigger models and drybrushing. I also use the acrylic W&S brushes I can't remember the range but they are bright yellow.

  2. Hi Lee,
    not long ago, it didn't take more than 3 or 4 months for me to wear my (rather cheap) brushes out. In September I met Wiking ( and learned, that spit keeps a brush smooth.
    Since then, I drop a little bit of spit to my hand and drag the brush-hair through it once in a while.
    Then I drag it across my hand until the excess fluid is gone and reform the tip. Try this, I'm sure it'll please your brushes as well ;)


  3. Good info, you should be on their payroll my friend and give out freebies to friends.

  4. They sound expensive, but a worthwhile purchase.

  5. If you are giving out freebies then may I join the queue, I do need to get some decent brushes for when I get back into the figure painting.

    For the time being whilst painting large areas of wooden sticks and wood filler I tend to abuse the cheapest most disposable brushes I can pick up in the pound store.

  6. I was amazed when I switched to those a couple of years back. They actually improved my painting. Nice tips, I need to take better care of them...

  7. I too have a couple of W&N No 7 Sable brushes, but am always worried that I will abuse them. Given the cost (and my ham-fisted techniques) I tend to keep it for 'Best' but that means I never actually use it/them.

    Thanks for the very useful tips.


  8. 80.00!!!... When I were a lad ya could buy all the brushes in Stoke and still have change from a fiver....

  9. I switched a while back to these brushes and I should have done it a long time ago.

  10. Yep I like the series 7 too, really nice brush, and keep their sharp point, longer than other brushes I have used, if you care for them a little and dont do dumb stuff like drybrush with them...

  11. Do you buy them at Cass Arts, Big Lee? They are usually cheaper there. I buy mine there (and cheaper sables for Drybrushing).

    Cheers Simon

  12. Good post Big Lee, I use a std sable brush but size 4/0, bad thing is that windsor newton dont go that small...... Damn it, I might still get a 3/0 just to try them out, thanks for the great post.

  13. Series 7's come in two types. The regular set ranges from size 14 down to 3/0 and is designed with watercolourists in mind. However W&N also do a 'miniature' Series 7 set that has shorter hairs (for more precise control) ideal for modellers using water based acrylic. These come in size 6 down to 3/0 but the ultra fine tip and performance of these brushes means this is probably the smallest you'll ever need.


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