What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: 8 Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid

Brushes Miniature painting

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Warhammer Painters

As a warhammeruniverse.com team member with over 20 years of miniature painting experience, I want to provide the ultimate guide on what to look for when buying brushes for painting miniatures and wargames models. Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first set of brushes or a seasoned hobbyist wanting to upgrade, this guide covers everything you need to know.

If you are simply looking for the best brushes, read our guide here on The Best Brushes for Painting Miniatures

Now, let’s dive into the critical factors for choosing the best brushes for your specific needs and painting style.

 

The Key Brush Characteristics

When evaluating brushes, there are 5 key characteristics to consider:

  1. Capacity – How much paint a brush can hold before needing to reload. More capacity allows longer working times.
  2. Point – The ability of the wet brush to come to and retain a fine point, enabling precision work.
  3. Snap – How well the bristles return to their original straight shape when the brush is flicked. Good snap provides control.
  4. Spring – The resilience of bristles to temporarily change shape then bounce back. Vital for smooth blending.
  5. Release – The flow and control of paint from the bristles to the model’s surface. Ideal flow is predictable for delicate work.

Considering these factors will ensure you select brushes optimized for your preferred techniques. Now let’s explore the specifics of brush shapes, sizes, materials, and more.

 

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Brush Shapes

The most useful brush shape for painting miniatures is a pointed round. This versatile shape provides the right balance of carrying enough paint while still coming down to a fine tip for precision work.

Pointed rounds allow both efficiently “base coating” broader areas using the brush’s sides and edges as well as performing controlled line work by utilizing just the sharp point itself.

Other common brush shapes include flats for large surfaces and riggers for long straight lines, but a good pointed round can tackle most jobs on miniatures and models.

Recommended Brush Sizes

View a full overview here on the Best Brush Sizes for Miniatures

Brush sizes typically range from 000 (very small detail work) up to #12 (extremely large scale model work). For painting miniatures, the most useful options are sizes #0, #1 and #2.

A size #1 is the best all-around workhorse for most tasks. Size #0 has a sharper tip better for fine details at the cost of paint capacity. Size #2 carries more paint for base coating while still allowing reasonable control.

So I’d suggest starting with a #1 for regular use supplemented with either a #0 or #2 depending on whether you tend to paint more fine details vs vehicles and large area base coating. And as you advance in the hobby, you may wish to expand into more sizes for specific needs.

 

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Natural Hair vs Synthetic Bristles

Now we come to the classic brush material debate. Natural hair brushes (usually from the Siberian kolinsky weasel) are considered higher quality but come at a higher price. The main advantages are:

  • Better paint and water retention – longer working times between reloading
  • Maintain shape and fine tip much longer with proper care
  • More durable over years of use
  • Smooth paint delivery and blending

Synthetic brushes have benefits too despite typically shorter usable lifetimes:

  • More resistant to paint damage
  • Easier to clean thoroughly
  • Less costly – a plus when starting out before building brush care skills

Need more information? Read here for an overview on Sable hair Brushes for Miniature painting

My recommendation is to begin your hobby journey with synthetics until developing solid brush handling and maintenance practices. Then upgrade key brushes to quality natural hair overtime as skills improve.

 

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Evaluating Brush Quality

With the basics covered, here are key factors to assess when examining brush quality:

The ability to hold a fine point over time – The point should remain sharp after repeated use without stray hairs splitting.

Ferrule construction – Quality ferrules securing bristles to handles shouldn’t be crimped, as crimping suggests subpar adhesiveness.

Responsiveness or “snap” – Bristles should quickly spring back to shape after a stroke while wet. Good snap enables control.

Paint release – The flow of paint from quality bristles to the model should be smooth and predictable rather than blotchy.

While confusing at first, testing brushes hands-on can help determine if these facets meet your preferences. Ask any local art store associate if possible prior to purchasing.

Rosemary Brushes

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Brush Brands and Series

Now that we’ve covered how to evaluate brushes, here are my top recommendations across price tiers:

Beginner – For those starting out, the Games Workshop and Army Painter brush ranges offer very reasonable quality and pricing. Army Painter is arguably slightly better, but both enable good fundamentals.

Intermediate – Once ready to upgrade, Rosemary & Co’s Series 33 brushes provide a big jump in quality without breaking bank. Their kolinsky sable provides smooth flexibility at bargain prices.

Expert – For advanced painters pursuing ultra fine results, invest into the renown Winsor & Newton Series 7 or Raphael’s Series 8404 kolinsky lines – similar quality with Raphael being more affordable typically.

Elite – At the very peak, Artis Opus brushes designed specifically for miniature painting are gaining immense popularity due to their unparalleled precision across a range of meticulously crafted sets.

And while expensive brushes can mildly improve painting, technique matters far more. So focus first on continually improving brush handling and maintenance regardless of price tier purchased initially.

Got your brushes ready and want to check paint brands? Read our full guide here for The Best Paint Brands for Miniatures

Airbrush Weathered effects

 

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Brush Sizes and Starting Set

Some key questions I receive are “What brush sizes do I actually need?” and “Is there an ideal starter set?”

In terms of sizes, Artis Opus’s approach is quite logical – their starter Series S set includes a #000, #00, #0 and #1 brush. This gives you a breadth to handle very fine details up to broader coating tasks.

Alternatively, you could select single #0 and #1 brushes as a starting point and expand from there based on your unique painting requirements. Just avoid purchasing too many smaller brushes upfront as the ultra fine sizes have limited utility for general painting.

 

What to Look for When Buying Brushes for Miniatures: Caring for Your Brushes

An often overlooked aspect of quality brushes is proper care for longevity and performance. Make caring for them part of your regular painting routine:

  • Rinse brushes thoroughly after each session and when changing paint colors.
  • Avoid letting paint dry too far up bristles towards the ferrule.
  • Store brushes horizontally or with bristles pointed down to avoid water damage to handles.
  • Clean with brush soaps and conditioners after each use. The Masters Brush Cleaner is an excellent option.

Following these simple principles, even expensive natural hair brushes can last for many years and thousands of splendid painted miniatures. Read our article here on: How to Clean Paint Brushes for Miniatures

Conclusion

I hope this guide gives you confidence for selecting your next set of miniature painting brushes or knowing when to upgrade your existing set. Finding the right brushes for your budget and skill level can feel overwhelming initially. But armed with the characteristics to look for and understanding quality differences across materials and brands, you can make informed decisions.

Remember – technique trumps tools, so focus on continually bettering brush handling and maintenance skills too. This will enable you to maximize results from any brushes in the short and long term painting journey ahead.

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