Watercolour Brushes
This page contains details of the brushes I use, plus how to care for and clean your watercolour brushes.
There's a wide variety of watercolour brushes available, too many to include in here. Although I do use other watercolour brushes (either testing or as gifts) I keep returning to the ones that I've detailed below.
Watercolour brushes
Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Watercolour Brush:
In 1886 Queen Victoria gave orders that Winsor and Newton, holders of the Royal Warrant, to be commanded to produce brushes of the highest possible quality in her favourite size, No. 7. The brushes were to be made of the finest Kolinsky Sable hair, the handles were to be made of ivory and the ferrules to be made of sterling silver.

'Some' details have change since 1886, no longer the ivory handle or sterling silver for us. Apart from that, the attention to both quality and detail prevails in the factory, taking up to seven years to master the skills required. All the Series 7 brushes are handmade from the finest pure Kolinsky Sable (a member of the Asiatic mink family) and placed in rust-proof, nickel plated ferrules, which are seamless and then fitted to a black polished wood handle and finally finished with gold text printed on the handle.

These brushes can or will provide years of enjoyment and durability, all of my Series 7 brushes have lasted much longer, than 'any other' brush (some now over twenty years - the fine point has gone but still good for mixing and for general washes, while others are used only for masking fluid application).

Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes come in a usual range of brush sizes 000 to 10.
Winsor & Newton Fan Brush:
These brushes are wonderful for blending areas that are wet. Ideal for removing 'granulation', if you don't like the effect. So brushing over the sky area with these soft hair fans distributes the particles of paint, creating a smooth sky (but only do this when still wet).

I also use the Fan Brush for foliage and grass. When the brush is wet the hairs clump together (in effect becoming a number of brushes in one) then add your chosen colour and paint. Experiment with rotating and or moving the handle of the brush to the left/right as you stroke produces grass going in different directions or grass of different length's respectively.

There are a large number of fan brushes on the market produced by the brush manufacturers. Come in a range of materials, from pure Kolinsky Sable, sable/synthetic mix or full synthetic to hog or squirrel hair.
Winsor & Newton Mop Brushes:
The brush that is used the least, but does save time when it is. Ideal for wetting the paper before I apply the sky wash, then applying the sky wash in most cases or painting large colour areas at the beginning of the painting.

Like the brushes above most manufacturers make a Mop or Flat Wash (sometimes called One Stroke) Brush. Again the cost will be reflected in the hair used for the brush from pure Kolinsky Sable, sable/synthetic mix or full synthetic to hog/squirrel hair.
Cleaning and Storing Watercolour Brushes
Begin with rinsing the brush thoroughly in gentle stream of tepid (not hot!) running water against the tuft that is pointing downward.

Once most of the pigment residue has been cleared from the brush, rotate the brush horizontal and direct water up by the ferrule again avoid getting water above the ferrule.

With the brush thoroughly rinsed, stroke the tuft in vegetable soap (not detergent), baby shampoo, or a commercial artists' brush cleaner. Work the lather into the hairs by kneading the tuft with your fingertips or rubbing against the wet palm of your hand with particular attention to the area around the edge of the ferrule in order to remove any paint that has migrated up the tuft.
Do this until all discoloration or staining is removed from the visible hairs. Rinse thoroughly, again with the tuft first pointing down, then horizontally.

Once cleaned, shake or better still, a quick flick, removes remaining water from the brush. If necessary, shape the tuft gently against the side of your finger so that it comes to a balanced point. Don't dry brushes near any source of heat.
Storing Brushes:
Commercial brush boxes are a convenient and safe way to store brushes for a long period. An alternative is the brush case. Today they come in rolls or folding flat variants. If possible store the washed and dried brushes vertically - better in a case.
Care of Watercolour Brushes
The brush it is a delicate instrument (particularly the point) that can be easily damaged. Below are some tips to care for and extend the useful life of your brush. Remember a cheaper brush needs the same care and attention as the most expensive ones and buying cheap one's to throw away usually works out more expensive in the long term.

Never leave your brushes standing on their heads (tuft) in a jar or glass, wet or dry, even for a few minutes.

While in use lay your brushes flat.

Avoid submerging the tuft in paint or getting a lot of paint near the ferrule end. This encourages the capillary action that causes paint to migrate up the hairs into the ferrule, where it is difficult to get out and leads to the spreading of the hairs. Once you've got paint on the brush, begin painting with it as this pulls the paint away from the ferrule. Avoid holding a brush full of paint with the tip pointing upwards as the paint will seep into the ferrule and never let it dry in this state.

Use the brush for one medium only. No acrylic, oil or masking fluid with your watercolour brushes.

Dedicate an old brush for the application of Winsor & Newton Colourless Masking Fluid. See Watercolour other materials page for full details
Keep expensive brushes out of reach of all pets and children. It only takes seconds to destroy a very expensive brush.

Dip your brush in water before you start painting (picking up pigment with a dry brush or dry paint is very abrasive). Have two pots of water (clean and dirty).

Rinse brushes thoroughly as you work in a large container of clear water (change the water frequently). Holding the brush upright, no deeper than the ferrule (the handle should not enter the water) and agitate the tip briskly. Remove surplus water from the tuft against the edge of the water container and if you spot any remaining colour in the runoff, repeat agitation again until the water runs clear. Once you have rinsed a brush, flick the brush to remove excess water, avoid rubbing or squeezing with a cloth or paper towel as this will break off or pull out the hairs.

When using pan watercolours, wet the cake first and then pick up fresh pigment with the same movement you use to brush the paint onto paper don't bend the tip of the brush, or splay the hairs by pushing directly into the cake.

Treat natural hair and synthetic brushes with the same care.