What the heck is a kolinsky?
The first thing you need to know about brushes for X-Wing Miniatures is that they come in two forms. They are either made out of animal hair or synthetic fibres. Synthetic brushes tend to be cheaper but not necessarily that much worse than their natural counter parts. Animal hair holds paint better in the belly and is softer/smoother but synthetic brushes are easier to clean and are tougher with harder bristles.
Synthetic fibres vs animal hair
It’s amazing how many different kind of animals we bother for their hairs in order to gain an artistic advantage. Badger, hog, squirrel, mongoose, ox, pony, sable and even camel hair (although apparently camel hair is not made from camel at all but from a blend of different animal hairs). You will mostly come upon sable hair brushes and that is because they are the best in retaining their pointed shape while still very soft and good to clean. The kolinsky sable is widely known as having the best quality of hair for brushes. Strangely enough the Kolinsky is not even a sable at all… The hair comes from the tail of a species of mink that is a member of the weasel family found in Siberia and northeastern China.
One of the best ranges of brushes is the Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes from Winsor & Newton. You should at least try one of those in your life, they are definitely very nice to paint with and will last a long time if you look after them.
For your first set of brushes I would probably go with a cheap set from you local hobby store and would invest in one quality detail brush. I recommend to buy three brushes at least to start. One smaller one for detailed work (make this one your biggest investment), one medium sized brush to cover larger areas and one small or medium sized brush specifically for drybrushing. For drybrushing you can use the cheapest one as you will likely ruin the brush over time anyway. You can also go with a specially designed drybrush but really you can use any brush that has a flat tip.
What brand to choose?
As mentioned before Winsor & Newton have an excellent range of brushes for miniature painting. They are not the cheapest on the market but they perform really well. They offer different series from synthetic (University Series) to the famous kolinsky sable (Series 7) and maintain a very good reputation amongst painters all over the world. I really like the “000” size and use it very often for my most detailed work.
The second brand I can recommend is the Citadel range from Games Workshop. Their newest line of miniature brushes have improved from their previous lines and are almost all made from sable hair. Very easy for beginners too as they designed them with beginning painters in mind and label them for their specific purpose (Base, Layer, Dry, Wash etc.) instead of sticking to the traditional numbering system.
The Army Painter also uses the -easy for beginners- labeling system and defines their brushes by their usefulness. They use synthetic fibers in their bigger, rougher brushes and sable in their detail brushes. In my opinion they rank just below the Citadel line in terms of quality but are equally as good for beginning painters and are a bit cheaper in comparison. A very good beginners set would be the “Most Wanted” set which includes a detail, dry and wash brush.
I also tried one brush from Model Master (Testor) that I really liked.
And of course there is many more out there, just try them out and see what you like 🙂 Let me know in the comments if there is a particular brand you like or recommend and why, I’d love to hear it!
Size / point system
Just a quick note on brush sizes as it can be a bit confusing. Generally speaking brushes are sized in increments of 1, starting with a 00000 and going up all the way to 24. Now some brands use a “/” with a number to show the amount of 0’s. For example 00 would be 2/0, 0000 would be 4/0. Really the lowest number you should worry about is 000 or 3/0. Anything below that is for professionals 😉 And Citadel and Army Painter make it even easier by not even giving you the numbers but just telling you what brush to use for what. If it is labelled “Insane Detail” who cares how many zeros it carries?? 🙂
Brush cleaning / caring
If you enjoy painting as much as I do and don’t really want to invest in new brushes after every other model you paint you should really learn how to look after your tools. Proper care will ensure a long life for your brushes and so much more happiness in your painting efforts and certainly less strain on your bank accounts 😉
These are some basic but very important rules:
- Don’t leave your brush standing in water (the bristles will bend out of shape)
- Only fill the tip of your brush halfway with paint (avoid dipping the ferrule in the paint)
- Try using clean water and change the water if you use very light vs very dark colours
- Wash your brush thoroughly in between different colours
- Rinse your brush frequently to avoid the paint drying
- Wipe your brush gently on paper towel/cloth while using a rolling motion
- Avoid pushing the tip and bending the bristles
- Use a brush cleaner for conditioning and proper cleaning after a day’s work (you don’t need to use it every time)
Most people out there recommend the “The Masters Brush Cleaner” and there is no reason for me not to jump on the bandwagon. A very efficient way of cleaning your brush and it comes in a nice little pot that will last you for a very long time. On top of that it is reasonably priced and well worth the investment. Here is a nice little video of how to use it, this guy calls it the “love potion” 😀
One last tip for you guys: if your brush came with one of those plastic cover tubes, don’t throw it away! They are really handy to protect the bristles and you can store them with the tip down in order for any water resting in the ferrule to flow down and evaporate.
And there you go! Some useful information about brushes for your miniature painting 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this article, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
May the paint be with you