What brushes am I using at the moment? (2021 update)

August 23, 2021 | 11 Comments

It’s been a while since I shared an update on the brushes that I’m using on a daily basis… so today’s the day for that! 🙂

As most of you know, I use my 1/2 inch dagger brush 99% of the time (Rosemary Brushes Series 772 Sable Blend) and that hasn’t changed! See this article for the reasons why I love this brush so much.

However, I also use some smaller brushes for details.

Last year while doing the 30×30 direct watercolour challenge I started experimenting with three different brushes –  a 1/8 one stroke flat brush (Rosemary Brushes Series 55), a rigger (Rosemary Brushes R5) and an extended point brush (Rosemary Brushes Series 336 No. 8). Of these, my favourite turned out to be the one stroke so I added it to the kit that I carry around in my bag last July (ie. inside my toothbrush holder). I don’t use it much but it’s nice to have it handy – it’s great when I want small square-edged shapes.

Recently (while sketching teacups daily during our current lockdown) I’ve started using the smaller versions of the 772 – the 3/8 and 1/4 inch daggers – for the teacup patterns.

I know a lot of people prefer using the smaller daggers for A5 size sketchbooks but I normally stick with the 1/2 inch as it holds more water (and therefore creates more watercolour magic). It’s also a common piece of watercolour advice to use the largest sized brush as much as you can and so even if I use a smaller book, I still stick with the 1/2 inch for my main brush. I can still get a fine edge with my well-used 1/2 inch dagger but there are times when I want less body in my brush so it’s easier to control the water for the finer details.

I have such a strong attachment to using a dagger, that when I started using the smaller brushes listed above last year, I had to learn how to create a state of flow while painting with them. I don’t need this when I move to a smaller dagger as it feels the same as my 1/2 inch. I also get the same range of marks with the smaller brush. It’s such a no-brainer that I’m not sure why I haven’t thought of it before!

I love testing other brushes, but I always seem to come back to the dagger. It just suits the way I make marks (and BTW I use the fude pen in the same way) and it’s so versatile.

Enough of my preferences… I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your go-to brush these days, and what do you use for finer details?

(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog. Thanks!)


  • Barbara Libner says:

    You mentioned before how you pick up paint with the side of the dagger to preserve the point…. but how often do you need to replace your 1/2″ dagger? Ixm debating a new one, and dinne know if I’m being hard on it or if they just need replacing after a period of time. Also just got the 1/4″ but like the larger one better too.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Barbara, With a dagger the logical way to pick up paint is on the side so the brush shape inherently promotes good usage (unlike a round where it’s easy to drill down into your pans ruining the point). The razor edge of a new brush softens over time (allow it’s easy to get back by re-forming it when damp). I use my brushes for a year or so and treat myself to a new brush from time to time.
      Glad you also like the larger one 🙂

  • Jane Donofrio says:

    I’ve gotten hooked on the Rosemary R13. It’s plumb enough to hold a lot of water, but has a wonderful point for small details.

  • I admire your deftness with the dagger, haven’t yet acquired that. I just love Escoda brushes and mostly use a mop, a large and a small round brush. Occasionally a flat brush. Rosemary’s are in the travel kit though

  • Ulla Rosenius says:

    Rosemary’s squirrel mop R9 (the larger one) for my sketchbook. It can hold a huge amount of water and the tip is so fine that it can be used for details. And a da Vinci maestro size 18 for the same reasons if I paint on watercolour paper (not too tiny format)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Ulla – I intend to use a squirrel mop more… I find that I use it too wet typically so only really use it for skies and water washes.

  • Talweez says:

    I’ve got a few new favourites including a couple of daggers – the Rosemary R12 travel brush and the Escoda Perla 1/4 inch dagger. My most used brushes though have been the Escoda Perla size 2 and the Escoda Perla size 12 flat brush. (I mostly paint quite small – A5 sketchbooks/paper or A6 postcards).

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