Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Unlocking Exceptional Value for Budding Artists

Brush Sizes

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Unlocking Exceptional Value for Budding Artists

As a miniature painting enthusiast with over 20 years of experience, I often get asked – what are truly the best paint brushes for painting miniatures and models? Which brush brands stand out above the rest in terms of quality, precision, and longevity? And importantly – are premium brushes really worth the higher price tag compared to more budget options?

In my two decades in the hobby, I’ve tested a huge array of brush brands and types, from the cheapest synthetic brushes to top-tier kolinsky sables. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes too, like purchasing miniature brushes meant for painting tiny canvases rather than miniature models!

So in this comprehensive guide from the Warhammer Universe team, I’ll break down everything you need to know to choose the right brushes for your needs and budget, whether you’re a beginner dipping your toes into the hobby or a seasoned veteran looking to upgrade.

We’ll cover criteria like brush sizes, shapes, materials, price tiers, and summarize the most popular brands miniature painters swear by. I’ll also share specific tips, tricks and lessons learned so you can avoid common pitfalls and get the most bang for your buck. My goal is to help you make an informed decision so you can get straight to painting amazing miniatures rather than struggling with frustrating brushes.

So let’s get stuck in!


Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Choosing the Right Brush Size

View our guide on the Best Brush Sizes for Miniatures

The first key consideration is brush size. For painting miniatures, you generally want smaller brushes with finer tips. Large brushes are tricky to control and it’s easy to accidentally paint areas you didn’t intend.

Brushes are sized using a standard numbering convention:

  • Larger brushes: Sizes 0 – 3 – Best for quickly painting large, flat areas and basecoating.
  • Medium brushes: Sizes 00 – 2/0 – Ideal all-rounders for general use.
  • Smaller brushes: Sizes 3/0 – 10/0 – For precision work, fine details, highlights.

I recommend having a range of sizes for versatility. Start with a #1 or #2 for basecoating, #0 or #00 for layering, and #2/0 or #3/0 for targeted shading, highlights, eyes etc. Specialty brands may deviate from this standard system but the principles remain the same.

And remember – you can always do fine detail work with a bigger brush but not the reverse. So focus first on a high-quality #0/#00 workhorse brush before specialized tiny brushes.

Brushes Miniature painting

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Factors in Brush Quality

Want to keep the quality in your brushes? Read our overview on How to Keep Sharp Tips on brushes for Miniatures

Beyond size, brushes vary drastically in quality, durability, and price. Key factors that influence brush performance include:

Shape and Design: The ideal brush for painting miniatures has a fine tip but sufficient belly to hold adequate paint. Shorter bristles give you better control compared to longer, floppier brushes. Ergonomic handles provide comfort for long painting sessions.

Bristle Material: Natural hair bristles like kolinsky red sable are premium choices, though expensive. They hold their shape extremely well if cared for properly. Synthetic bristles are cheaper but lose their tip faster. However, they work better with solvents that would destroy natural brushes.

Craftsmanship: How finely the bristles are trimmed and arranged impacts tip sharpness and paint holding ability. High-end brands hand inspect and triple check each brush head under a microscope.

Durability: With proper care, cleaning and storage, high quality sable brushes can last many years. Synthetic brushes need replacing more frequently as bristles start to permanently “hook”.

Price: Budget brushes under $10 provide great value for beginners. Mid-range options from $15-25 balance quality and price. Premium brushes from top artisan brands can run $25+.

Keep these factors in mind as we explore popular brush brands mini painters love…

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Best Entry Level Brushes for Beginners

When first starting out, I recommend learning with affordable yet decent quality brushes before investing in anything too expensive. Here are top budget options under $10:

Games Workshop Citadel Brushes

  • The go-to starting point for many new Warhammer painters.
  • Better quality than their reputation suggests.
  • Simple sizing system good for beginners (Base, Layer, Shade etc).
  • Lack compared to premium brushes but get the job done.

The Army Painter Wargamer Brushes

  • Very cost effective. Comparable or better quality vs Citadel.
  • Unique triangular handles purportedly improve control.
  • Includes a super tiny “Psycho” detail brush.
  • Bristles fray faster than premium brushes.

Vinonzi Detail Brush Set

  • Incredible value 10 brush set.
  • Sizes span from huge #6 to tiny #0/4.
  • Ergonomic handles minimize hand cramping.
  • Not as durable as more costly brushes.

I used these types of introductory brushes for years before upgrading. While they aren’t as durable or precise as high-end brushes, they helped me improve fundamental painting skills without worrying about ruining expensive sable brushes. I still keep cheaper brushes around for mixing paints and hazardous materials that would rapidly degrade nicer brushes.


Raphael brand brush


Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Best Mid-Range Options Offer More Precision

After getting comfortable with the basics, mid-range options open up considerably more precision at a reasonable cost. Here are some quality upgrades around $15 – $25:

daVinci Maestro Series 10

  • Handmade German kolinsky sable brushes.
  • Hugely diverse range of sizes from #10/0 to #50.
  • Long lasting and holds a sharp tip well.
  • Some feel the belly could be bigger.

Rosemary & Co Series 22/33

  • Quality kolinsky sable hair at bargain prices.
  • Series 22 has slim long tapered tip.
  • Series 33 is shorter body with rounded tip.
  • Series 22 only goes down to poor #0 detail brush.

Arroway Typhus Starter Brushes

  • Affordable set from well regarded UK brand.
  • Only 4 brushes but covers essentials.
  • Strong but lightweight black nickel handles.
  • Less history/social proof than bigger brands.

At this tier you are getting much more precision control and ability to execute advanced layering and highlighting techniques with better accuracy.

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Best Premium Miniature Brushes for Serious Painters

Serious hobbyists and competition painters swear by artisanal kolinsky sable brushes in the $25+ price range:

Winsor & Newton Series 7

  • Extremely popular choice used by pro painters.
  • Wide selection of larger body sizes.
  • Superb tip control with decades of prestige.
  • Premium price but worth the investment.

Raphael 8404 Brushes

  • Many claim this is the highest grade over W&N.
  • Incredible sharp consistent tips.
  • Greater holding capacity and durability than W&N.
  • Not as much brand recognition/mind share yet.

Artis Opus Series S

  • Quickly gaining massive respect among top-tier artists.
  • Uniquely built for miniature painting use cases.
  • Triple-checked quality control before shipping.
  • Newer entrant so costs more than legacy names.

Warhammer says legendary painters at ‘Eavy Metal use Winsor & Newton Series 7, but here is a little insider secret – don’t get the miniature version! The Winsor “miniature” brushes are meant for tiny canvas painting not models, so they lack belly and quickly lose paint from palette to model. Stick with regular Series 7 for best performance and precision tools worthy of a pro.

Ork Warhammer 40k

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Common Misconceptions and Pitfalls

Read here for The Best Brushes for Painting Warhammer Miniatures

Through many years in the hobby, I’ve come to learn a few lessons the hard way. Let me quickly cover common mistakes and misconceptions to avoid headache:

Synthetic ≠ Always Cheaper – Don’t assume synthetic brushes are categorically the budget choice. Fact is the highest quality sable hair brush is handmade meticulously to maximize longevity. Many mass-produced synthetic brushes get approved despite obvious flaws. You can get great deals on sable too!

Basecoat First Before Detail Brush – As tempting as it is to get stuck straight into fine details, painting base layers first allows you to make minor mistakes without messing up completed delicate work. Get overall colors and shading blocks in first, then refine.

Thin Proper Brush Down with Medium – Unless expressly made for drybrushing, dabbing a quality sable brush into undiluted paint risks fraying bristles by forcing them to splay apart rather than come to fine tip. Always add a touch of thinning medium and pull to tip.

Don’t Over-Soak Hair – When cleaning sable brushes, swish gently in solvent/water rather than letting soak for ages in a jar. Over-soaking wears down the adhesive that keeps bristles aligned over time.

Use Brush Rests During Painting – Store brushes tip-up on stands when switching paint or taking breaks. Dabbing on paper towels flattens shape. Avoid leaving brushes resting in water pots too.

There are many small ways to extend quality sable brushes’ shelf life. Take care of the superior instruments and they’ll take care of you.

Read our article on Brush care here: How To Clean Paintbrushes For Miniatures 

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Specialty Brushes & Accessories

Beyond standard round brushes, painters incorporate specialty brushes for specific techniques:

  • Flat Head – For basecoating large flat areas on vehicles, terrain, adding textural effects.
  • Liner – For controlled lines, cracks, freehand details. Many customize their own using wooden skewers.
  • Stippling – To dab, speckle, sponge irregular textures. Often repurposed makeup brushes.
  • Drybrushing – For quick weathered shading. Stiff bristled brushes tapered to chisel tip.

View a full written guide on How to Dry Brush Miniatures 

I also highly recommend these accessories to augment brushes:

  • Brush Soap – Deep clean and condition dried bristles after each session. Restores oils and moisture.
  • Brush On Primers – Reduce friction and prolong brushes using primer pots to prep models prior to painting details.
  • Painting Handles – Grip and brace models to enable controlled precise brushwork.+
  • Wet Palettes – Store paint in airtight waterproof palette with sponge sheet to extend working duration.
  • Paint Brush cleaning

Budget vs Premium Paint Brushes for Miniatures: Conclusion & Recommendations

Hopefully this guide has given you lots of useful tips and actionable advice when choosing your perfect brushes for painting miniatures without breaking the bank.

My key takeaways in summary:

  • Match brush sizes, shapes to your experience level and typical model scales. Build a diverse toolkit.
  • Step up from beginner packs once skills mature. Better gear enables better painting.
  • Invest in reputable brushes made with quality materials by specialty artisans.
  • Extend longevity by learning proper care, cleaning and storage methods.

It’s easy to get lured in by flashy marketing of the latest brush, but at the end of the day fundamental quality and durability wins out. Better to have a few trusted high-performing brushes you know intimately rather than a hodge-podge of mediocre brushes that disappoint.

If you have a set of new brushes and want them to last, consider reading this guide on How to Prime Brushes for miniature painting

I hope you’ve found these insights from 20+ years of hands-on hobby experience helpful. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions about choosing brushes and I’ll try my best to help out! If videos are more your thing, be sure to check out Warhammer Universe’s YouTube channel where we cover brush techniques more in-depth.

Now get out there, choose those winning brushes for you, and start painting some amazing miniatures!

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