Let's Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!!!
I've been using Polina Bright brushes in ALL my watercolor and fountain pen ink paintings for the past TWO YEARS!
I know I've told you I'm obsessed with both Polina's art AND her watercolor brushes, but I just got her latest watercolor brushes set & thought you'd love to see the unboxing!
If you've been on the hunt for the best synthetic watercolor brushes, or an excellent watercolor brush set for beginners that you can GROW with - today's video is a MUST SEE!!
If you're new to watercolor, or have a brand new watercolor palette, make sure you grab my FREE Swatch Sheet so you can swatch your watercolors out before you do your next painting. Simply click on the button below, and I'll send it straight to your email!
I first purchased Polina Bright's watercolor brushes a couple of years ago just because I love her work (example below), and wanted to support her. I had no idea I would fall so in love with her brushes, or that they would become my absolute favorites for watercoloring and mixed media painting with fountain pen ink, water soluble pencils, pens, markers- you name it!
If you're interested in buying any of these watercolor brushes to try out yourself, Polina created a coupon code for all of my followers. You can purchase brushes on her website, or in her Etsy shop. Simply enter the coupon code of my name in all caps, KARENCAMPBELL at checkout, and you can save 10% on your entire order.
I used to only be a fan of watercolor brushes with natural bristles (like those found in Black Velvet brushes - at right below), because of their ability to hold MORE water than synthetic brushes.
Whatever synthetic material Polina uses to create these brushes, holds water extremely well. I think their ability to absorb so much water also has something to do with the shape of her bristles and their length.
The body of the bristles are about twice as long as those of the Silver Black Velvet brushes (above left).
Having a synthetic bristled brush that has the same absorbency as a natural bristled brush hasn't really been a thing in the world of commercial watercolor brushes, until now.
As an animal lover, I REALLY love the fact that the bristles on Polina's brushes are vegan and cruelty free.
I also love things that are simple to identify. Polina's numbering system for her brushes just go from 0-3. Plus there is a "mop brush" (for laying down large swaths of color), and a "rigger brush" (for detail work). Easy!
Hop over to the video to see these beauties in action! I demo a quick comparison against a Silver Black Velvet watercolor brush.
Then, if you're in the market for a new watercolor brush set -make sure you take the coupon code of my name in all caps (KARENCAMPBELL) either to Polina's website or her Etsy shop to get 10% off!
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.
Before we continue, super quick announcement: All product links are Affiliate. I may earn a small commission if you choose to order through these links but by law there is never any additional cost to the consumer for doing so. I thank you for your support!
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!
Today's llama watercolor tutorial was inspired by a pop socket! Inspiration can come from the wildest places, right?! I thought he was adorable & decided to challenge myself. I'm using my Daniel Smith watercolors, some Noodler's fountain pen ink, and a little gouache at the end. This one is simple, so even if you're a beginner ...come paint with me!!
Before we continue - super quick announcement! All product links below are Affiliate. I may earn a small commission if you choose to order through these links but by law there is never any additional cost to the consumer for doing so. I thank you for your support!
I get A LOT of requests for llamas from my students, and I've actually only ever done one - believe it or not!! He was done "hamburger style," with collage and acrylics.
For today's watercolor llama tutorial, I'm using a single sheet of Fabriano cold pressed watercolor paper. When I want a single sheet of watercolor paper, I typically reach for cold pressed paper because I LOVE the texture. Cold pressed watercolor paper is "bumpy" and has a gorgeous texture under anything you do from watercolor to drawing.
Today I felt like doing something a bit different and selected a sheet of Fabriano hot pressed paper, which is SUPER smooth!
If you're interested in learning how to draw a llama, watercolor illustration or watercolor drawing ideas- this project is very simple.
I used my graph gear mechanical pencil to lay out the initial drawing, and later decided to stylize my lines with a wiggly/ whimsical look instead of keeping them firm and controlled.
Since this is a watercolor illustration project, I'm OF COURSE using my Daniel Smith watercolors. If you're new to Daniel Smith, here's more about why I'm obsessed with them, plus advice on how to start your first collection.
I also recently did a video on how to build a travel watercolor palette using Daniel Smith watercolors. If you've got a trip coming up, this is perfect for you!
I used the shade cascade green by Daniel Smith to shade the cacti. I'm using some brand new Polina Bright watercolor brushes all the way from Australia in this video!
If you follow me, you know I typically use my silver velvet brushes, but have really fallen in love with a recent splurge- watercolor brushes created by Polina Bright in Australia.
They're a bit expensive if you buy the full set of four, but I love her work and decided to give them a try.
If you're looking for a watercolor brush that's more middle of the road price-wise, I absolutely LOVE my Mimik Brushes by Creative Mark. I find that they actually come to a point much better than my Silver Black Velvet brushes, so I find myself reaching for these quite a bit!
Look at how juicy that gorgeous blue is below!! It's actually NOT watercolor, but fountain pen ink - straight outta the bottle!! If you're new to my work, fountain pen ink is another mixed media art supply I'm obsessed with an often work into my watercolor paintings, or do complete projects with.
This particular shade of blue is turquoise fountain pen ink by Noodler's. It's SO rich and dreamy. If you've never tried painting with fountain pen inks, this is a MUST - especially if you love watercolor.
I've collected a TON of these inks over the last couple of years and actually store my inks in these gorgeous, vintage purfume bottles that I find when I'm thrifting. If you're interested in learning more about how to paint with fountain pen inks - be sure to check that video out!
I finished up today's adorable llama with some teensy white polka dots using opaque white gouache. So fun!!
I hope you had fun watching or CREATING this project right along with me today!! If you're interested in doing this watercolor llama step by step in real time with me - it's part of the Mixed Media Society project collection.
If you're interested in joining The Mixed Media Society, please add your name to the waitlist here. We open up for enrollment twice a year.
Thanks for hanging out with me today!!
❤️MY ARTIST BESTIE, LUCY BRYDON & I created a NEW ART MEMBERSHIP together called The Celtic Collective! It's now open for enrollment! Join us before the price increases on August 7.
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!"
- Elizabeth W.
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Karen, you are absolutely fabulous! You make me feel like I can draw anything. I have recently retired and finally have the time to do some of the art that I have loved since I was in school. I am really at the beginning of my art journey and I hope to learn as much as I can. Thank you for all you do.