What is your “go-to” brush?

November 3, 2017 | 30 Comments

Continuing with my series of questions… today I would love to know what is your go-to (most used) brush for watercolour sketching.

Most of you already know what mine is: Rosemary & Co Series 772 1/2 inch sable blend dagger. I use it constantly and if I only had one brush this would be it.
To find out more about it check out this article.
It is not a travel brush, but my toothbrush container works perfectly.

But if I had to be more conventional and choose a round brush, my pick would be a sable mop – Rosemary & Co R8 – but I will admit that it is a fairly pricey brush. I love its fine point, the amount of water it holds and the expressive marks that I can get from this brush.

On the more affordable end is Rosemary’s R13 – designer sable blend. I love this brush too and recommend it as a good beginners brush. It has a stronger point, is a little more firm and a little easier to use than their R2 pure kolinsky brush. This is a brush that I discussed with Rosemary and Symi last year when I visited their studio and am so pleased that they added it to their range. It will be the brush that I will use during my upcoming SketchingNow Watercolour online course. BTW you will get more information about brushes if you sign up for the Watercolour waiting list.

But enough about my choices… what is your most used brush?
(I am especially interested in some good synthetic brushes)



  • Megan B. - November 3, 2017 reply

    I just can’t bring myself to use animal hair brushes. I also have a Jerry’s Artarama near by. I like the Polar Flo and Snap! brushes pretty well, but my FAVORITES are the Mimik brushes. They. Are. Wonderful.

    • Liz Steel - November 3, 2017 reply

      thanks Megan....it will look those brushes up.

  • Tina Koyama - November 3, 2017 reply

    Probably not what you are asking :-) , but my all-time fave is the humble Kuretake waterbrush!

    • Liz Steel - November 3, 2017 reply

      I didn't say it couldn't be a waterbrush :-)

  • Joni River - November 3, 2017 reply

    My favorite brush is the Escoda Último (synthetic,,a nice imitation of squirrel)I dont have the pocket Version,so i use your toothbrush container tip when i travel.

  • Ilse - November 3, 2017 reply

    I used to be fairly happy with my waterbrushes (Pentel and Molotov, round, biggest size) but since I purchased a Rosemary&Co travel daggerbrush last month, I am totally in love with that one. I love the free, expressive style it gives to my strokes. And the bristles feel good. (I bought a quite expensive kolinsky travelbrush from Da Vinci this summer. But its size 10 doesn’t suit me and the bristles are too soft for me at this stage. I am so happy that the Rosemary&Co does fit me! I thought I maybe wasn’t a ‘real brush sketcher’ and better stick to waterbrushes, but now I learn I can handle a traditional brush:)

  • Evie - November 3, 2017 reply

    My favorite brush is my Yasutomo Silverado 8. I purchased a Robert Simmons Sapphire 1/2” dagger brush months ago but not thrilled with it. I should have (and plan to) purchase the Rosemary & Co version and the one you recommend for the watercolor course.

  • Amy Weaver - November 3, 2017 reply

    Escoda Reserva Tajmyr-Kolinsky #10 Round Travel Brush

  • Rodrigo A. Pantoja - November 3, 2017 reply

    da Vinci MAESTRO Series 35

  • Kate Powell - November 3, 2017 reply

    Personally I can't do the real hair brushes... Love my critter firends too much! My favorites are the Da Vinci Cosmotops, because they carry water and have a good amount of tip and snap. I also don't like a very soft brush -- and interestingly, it is all about what you like, not what another artist likes.

    • Kate Powell - November 3, 2017 reply

      And BTW, I hate mops! I love the idea but I can never get all the paint out from the plastic and I hate that!

  • Marie-Hélène Brohan Delhaye - November 3, 2017 reply

    As always, I have a few, all Rosemary & Co: pyramid brush (very handy for smaller sketches), a dagger of course, and for bigger sketches /paintings on watercolour block, a Jean Haines Mop (but carries too much water for a sketchbook)

  • Lisa Woodward - November 3, 2017 reply

    I have a Rosemary and Co travel brush, which is lovely, but it was expensive and so I live in fear of damaging it or losing it! Therefor my go to is a plastic pentel waterbrush. Doesn't hold as much water or pigment in the bristles, and some people have commented that it gives a flatter effect than others, but I live the ease of use when I'm outside and don't have easy access to water.and at the cheap price, I don't worry about misusing it :)

  • Chas - November 3, 2017 reply

    I have an embarrassingly large collection of brushes that include natural, synthetics, and blends but my favourites are: daVinci Series 1503 #8 (best folding brush I've found) Winsor & Newton Series 7 #8 (hate the price, love the brush) I love the mops for sky and water. I have a couple of squirrel hair dagger brushes that are interesting to use but don't hold a point well enough to use as general purpose brushes, though they do fairly well with coloured inks. I have just come back from a sketching visit to Quebec city where I experimented with Derwent Inktense and Graphtint pencils with Sakura water brushes instead of watercolours. The combination of pencil types let me get both intense and subtle colours without dealing with the intricacies of real watercolour. Not wonderful but a workable compromise in the blustery wind. Looking forward to hearing more about the course. I am hesitant to buy yet another brush but I think I shall be placing an order with Rosemary and Co for one of their daggers and will see how that goes.

  • Chas - November 3, 2017 reply

    Is there any way to maintain paragraphing in a post so that everything doesn't just run together?

  • Savanna Ouellette - November 3, 2017 reply

    Rosemary & Co #8 travel brush, Princeston Snap brushes and Fibonacci quills depending on the situation.

  • Audrey J Stibbe - November 3, 2017 reply

    My go to brush is a travel watercolor brush that i picked up at a garage sale! Unfortunately i don't know the brand. ????

  • Olivera - November 3, 2017 reply

    Nevskaya Palitra Kolinsky sable 1113 series. I love them! They form a very fine point and hold a lot of colour.

  • Flory - November 3, 2017 reply

    My favorite on-the-go brush is a Pentel Aquash waterbrush. I have several other favorite brushes: Rosemary 1/4” travel dagger and 1/2” dagger, Rosemary 6 pointed round travel sable, Raphael 8404 size 4 round Kolinsky, Isabey 6202 travel round squirrel mop, and W&N 1/2” flat series 995 (synthetic with the clear handle). Although I’ve learned to use a waterbrush, I prefer regular brushes. But I have yet to settle on a way to use these brushes in the field, the main sticking point being how to handle the water. When traveling I take both kinds of brushes and a water container for when I know I’ll have a table to work on, but it’s a waterbrush that lives in my everyday bag.

  • Fabian - November 3, 2017 reply

    A travel mop and a travel dagger watercolor brush from Rosemary&Co.

  • Barbara Stumpf - November 4, 2017 reply

    Oh, gee -- I'm not very sophisticated when it comes to brushes -- and I'm pretty lazy, too (!). Right now I use a Pentel waterbrush with my little rehabbed Cotman kit (swapped out with artist grade water colors). I'm still getting used to sketching in public and this is the least muss 'n' fuss brush I know. Maybe after taking your course, Liz, I'll feel less inhibited splashing around in situ!

  • Diane Johnson - November 4, 2017 reply

    I'm trying to make my 'go to' brush the 1/2" Rosemary Dagger, but I find it a challenge to use as fluidly as you do. Also, because my Schmincke travel palette has a mix of full pans and half pans, the dagger brush seems a bit too big to use with the half pans without picking up colour from the next pan. I saw Jane's post about filling the pans on an angle to assist with picking up the paint, but I'm sure that in no time at all I would still have holes in my pans! My next favourite is the #8 round sable travel brush that I shouted myself - I love it. I know some people don't like using real fur brushes, but there is just no comparison; I find the synthetic ones lifeless.

  • Joanne McCabe - November 4, 2017 reply

    I like the angled or dagger-type brushes, too, since they seem to be a combo "flat + round." Never taken to waterbrushes. They seem unpredictably leaky -- rather like a toddler that's not 100% potty trained. I never know when I'll have a mess on my hands.

  • Frankye White - November 5, 2017 reply

    It never matters to me what your topic is from day to day. Regardless of what else I have in my mail, I always read your latest installment and find delight, and new ideas, every time. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and talent with us.

  • Joan Tavolott - November 5, 2017 reply

    Both you and Shari had recommended the Rosemary & Co dagger brush, so I bought one regular one and a small travel one. I use both of them a lot. The small travel one is my "go to brush" when I am sketching outdoors in a sketchbook. It is so convenient to be able to get coverage in a wide area or a very fine line from the same brush.

  • Vinita Pappas - November 6, 2017 reply

    I love the Da Vinci Maestro Series 35 Size 8 brush. It's springy. pointy, and very absorbent. Because of its absorbency, it can be used to cover larger areas than one would think. But that quality comes at a price, which is quite high. A more affordable alternative, and a synthetic for those looking for a good synthetic is the Escoda Versatil. Like some shoes, the brushes seem to run a tad small, so I order a size up.

  • Neil Barton - November 7, 2017 reply

    My Brushes are virtuall all Rosemary & Co, which are all excellent also if you ever have a genuine problem Rosemary brush, just speak to them and without any quibbles they will change your brush & that is another reason I shall always buy Rosemary brushes. Some of my local Art Society swear by jacksons Raven Mops which are not animal fur/feather hold a lot of water/paint, point very well and are not expensive. Also Jacksons watercolour tube paints I find very good and inexpensive compared to other paint sizes

  • Bonnie McBride - November 7, 2017 reply

    I love my nondescript synthetic #8 sennelier brush I at the Sennelier art store in Paris a few yrs ago, it is the first brush I pick up, I also use a # 6 Kolynski dragon tongue, and a dagger brush #4. These are my favs. But another handy brush is a triangular one (lanaquarelle #8 and #10), it can create many different strokes

  • Colleen Briggs - November 9, 2017 reply

    I'm a beginner. A friend recommended Cheap Joes travel brushes, synthetic sable round. I have size 2,8,12. They hold water and have a nice point. Great travel size. I'm happy with them.

  • Emily DeArdo - November 10, 2017 reply

    I love the Rosemary brushes, thanks to you, Liz. :) The R13 is currently my go to brush. I also have their smaller dagger in that same series--I forget what the number is. But I love that one. I'm not as adept at using the larger dagger like you are, even though I have it, so I'm using the baby one as my 'training wheel'. :) But both those brushes give me great results!

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