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Silver Black Velvet brushes have been a part of my mixed media painting world for YEARS! They are high end, professional watercolor brushes that work like a charm, but unfortunately come with a hefty price tag.
Even though I love them, I'm always on the lookout for alternatives to recommend for my students over at Awesome Art School in case they're on a budget. Join me for a battle of the watercolor brushes today as I compare my Silver Black Velvets against the competition from Polina Bright, Creative Mark and ZenART Supplies.
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Over the years I've developed a few qualities I look for in a watercolor brush.
The first feature I look for in a watercolor brush is shape. When you're talking watercolor brushes, this often means the "round" brush shape (you'll likely recognize it as the brush most watercolor artists using).
This is what my round Silver Black Velvet brush looks like. See how the taper comes to a point?
For years, this taper is one of the things I loved about this brand and didn't think I'd find from another brand. Since the price is not budget friendly for my students, I've occasionally tried other brands looking for alternatives. If you're not super concerned about cost, I recommend the Silver Black Velvet set of 3 brushes for $47 on Amazon.
While looking for an alternative, I kinda fell in love with another pricey brand made by Polina Bright. If you haven't see her work before, you HAVE to check her out. Polina's brushes are sold on Etsy and are a little pricey because they ship from Australia, but if you can afford a splurge or drop them on your wish list for the holidays - you might fall in love with them too (set of 4 brushes for ~ $100)!
For the students at Awesome Art School looking for value in their watercolorbrush set, I highly recommend the $17, 5-pack watercolor brush set by Creative Mark. They perform beuatifully for the money and are synthetic like Polina's.
Brands shown below from left to right:
Silver Black Velvet, Creative Mark, Polina Bright
The second feature I look for in a watercolor brush is it's ability to hold water. Ideally you want it capable of holding tons of water over to the palatte, and tons of pigment from palette to your paper. All three brands performed well here, but I felt Polina's long/lean brush did best (simply my own personal perference).
The third thing to look for in a watercolor brush is the "spring," or the brush's ability to glide naturally in the water, and across your page. The spring in Silver Black Velvets is pretty amazing becuase the brush tip is made from squirrel hair, so naturally it will do well in water. Typically this is where a synthetic brush will struggle to keep up and feel a bit stiff in comparison. I don't find the synthetic hair to be a problem in Polina's brushes or Creative Mark's.
I was recently sent a watercolor brush set by ZenArt Supplies to review (shown below, 6-pack of brushes for $28 on Amazon). I thought today's video would be the perfect opportunity to give these a try.
Right outta the package, I love the assortment of brushes ZenART sent -especially the fact that they've included "flats" in the set because I LOVE working with flat watercolor brushes (these are the ones that have a straight, flat edge across the bristles).
When I unwrap the brushes, they feel a little synthetic, but it's hard to tell how a brush is going to perform until you get it wet. I feel like the best way to really test out a product that's new to me, is to create a full project with it.
Click over to the video to watch as I do a little whimsical face shading in watercolor to give the ZenArts watercolor brush set a test run.
Stick around till the end of the demo for my final thoughts on the ZenARTs when compared to my other three favorite watercolor brush brands!
How I've created over 300 YouTube videos on mixed media art and drawing, and NEVER once made a video about paint brushes is BEYOND me!! The artist brush you use actually DOES affect your work- so much so, that it can make or break your piece.
Sometimes people think it's them, when in fact their skills are GREAT- they're just using the wrong brush, and THAT is why they're struggling with a piece of art. Your paintbrushes are equally as important as the paper or substrate you're working on. They make a difference, and should be thought of as an investment. BUT, as you know when you're working with me- you don't have to spend a ton on supplies. I'll demo both my favorite artist grade brushes that are more expensive, as well as my favorites that are less so.
In the world of mixed media art, there are art supplies that dissolve or melt when water is added, and those that do not. Art supplies that don't dissolve when water is added, are called non water-soluble art supplies. A great examples of a non water-soluble art supply is acrylic paint! This is the first type of brushes I'll be demo-ing for you in today's video.
Even though I've got a GIANT stash of acrylic brushes, there are really only a couple of favorites I always reach for. I love my Princeton Artist Brushes for acrylic painting, in either the "bright" or "filbert" cut.
The bright cut (shown below) has a really flat top (that's typically what I call it - a "flat" brush), and it's great for getting into a squared corner, or making straight lines. I rarely use a round brush because I can't get edges or straight lines with one of those the way that I can with a bright.
I also love the filbert cut as well, see below. I like my acrylic brushes to be super stiff with coarse, short hair. The stiffer, the better! I feel like when you're blending wet on wet, or wet on dry - you need your brush to be able to move around and "be the boss" of your paint! If the brush is too soft - you can't get anything accomplished! LOL!!
Depending on how big you like to work - you may also want to pick up a larger size of the cut you like working with. I used to paint a lot of murals, so I have some huge brushes left over from those days!
Watercolor brushes are a totally different animal, and the second paint brush type I'm covering today. In addition to traditional watercolors, I use these artist brushes for working with any of my water-soluble art supplies. If an art supply is water-soluble, that means the marks you make with that product dissolve or melt once water is added. I LOVE water-soluble art supplies!
Some of my favorites include watercolor markers, watercolor pencils, fountain pen inks, AND my all time fave - the black stabilo all pencil!! Every time I'm doing a mixed media project with water-soluble art supplies, I reach for one of my watercolor brushes. These brushes act like a sponge and are very absorbent. If the brush is absorbent, it's easier to control.
I LOVE Silver Black Velvet brushes for working with my watercolors, and water-soluble art supplies. They're super absorbent, and I've slowly added to my collection of them over the years. The round brush is the most common cut and what I typically reach for. I also have some other fun shapes like the dagger and the flat (bright) to do crisp edge lines, if that is a look I'm going for.
I've also really enjoyed working with some brushes by Creative Mark that Jerry's Artarama sent me. They're fantastic and a much less expensive option when it comes to watercolor brushes. These also have a slightly different cut from my black velvet brushes, as you can see below (left is a brush by Creative Mark). Even though these are both considered "round brushes," their tiny variations can produce unique effects for me, so I love using BOTH of them!!
Lastly, I have decided to talk about a third category of brushes because of one art supply in particular that I use ALL the time as a mixed media artist, gesso!
Gesso is super fun to work with, but it will do a serious number on your paint brushes. If you decide to invest in any nice acrylic or watercolor brushes, make sure they're set aside so you don't accidentally grab one when you want to work with gesso. In fact, just set one acrylic paint brush aside that you use dedicate specifically FOR GESSO in our projects together!
My preference for a gesso brush is a bright/flat, very stiff, coarse brush with short bristles. I like to grind just a bit of my gesso onto the first layer of a lot of my mixed media portraits, and I need my brush to be super dry for this wet on dry application.
Make sure you go watch the video so you can see exactly what I'm talking about in today's post!
I hope you found this helpful!! If you feel like you're having a tough time blending or shading while you're painting in acrylics or watercolor - consider changing up your brushes. You might be surprised to learn THAT is the problem, NOT YOU!!
Thanks for watching!! See you next week!!
"Karen is flipping hilarious and she's very real...I like the way she teaches in a way that really gives you confidence, whether you're a beginner or advanced there's always something new to learn!"
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