Help needed with selecting paint brush sets for purchase

I’m sorry to post yet another topic about paintbrushes. But, I’m getting overwhelmed with all that searching and information online. I’m now selecting items to purchase. To put a large order at one store I’m having on my list. Or making multiple smaller orders. Because one shop would have that product and another has only that.

However, I have been searching the internet for paint brush set reviews to decide which sets I should be purchasing. And which one has the best quality and price. Currently I’m looking at the stores: Modelbouw Krikke Groningen - Met ons kun je bouwen!

I have been looking on the internet for reviews, on YouTube and, the search engine I use. And I found nearly nothing on reviews. And it took me all morning to search through all and hoping I would find some relevant information, but I didn’t.

Because I’ve set the deadline for my order on Wednesday, because Saturday the temperature allows me to airbrush in the barn. And I also need paint retarder from Tamiya in the hope of preventing tip dry happening while airbrushing. I’m in a hurry to get things done quickly. Because, I’m not having much time on Monday or Tuesday to do much stuff. Because I have to work.

And I now know I can look on the old archived websites. But that isn’t of much help to me, because I’m not having the time to go all through that information now.

Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Or maybe I’m not working as efficiently as possible? But anyway, I’m in trouble and I need help withing short amount of time. Because otherwise, I’m not going to make it for the deadline. Help me out please, it would be so good. Thanks in advance.

If you want help with this topic I think you need more info to help people narrow in. For example, are you looking for:

  • synthetic vs. Red sable brushes
  • a large set with detail brushes all the way up to large flat or a small set
  • how many brushes do you want?
  • what are you looking to spend?
  • etc.
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What do you will use them for? Figures, weathering etc. For weathering and base work-synthetics, for figures-red sable brushes.

FWIW, I would suggest studying information about paint brushes on websites that deal mostly with fine artists’ needs. Especially useful are vendor and dealer sites that offer up different brands and types of brushes and which also provide information for comparison between them.

Brushes are designed and made to satisfy a particular need. This largely determines the size of the brush (which has been standardized and is indicated by numbers, the larger the number, the larger the brush and vice-versa), and the shape of the bristles (round, chisel, flat, etc.) and the length of the bristles (which is also related to the medium).

They are also made to work with particular paint mediums (watercolors, acrylics, oils, etc.), which also largely determines the materials that the bristles are made from (natural hairs and their different types, or artificial or synthetic materials). Some brush makers claim that their synthetic bristles are just as good as natural hair brushes for the same purposes. This is debatable and users may have other opinions.

Note that the reason why mink, sable, and other similar natural hair bristles are considered superior is that those animal hairs grow in a taper, so brushes can be made that also taper down to very fine points or tips. Unfortunately, these natural bristles are also delicate, wear out and break over time, require careful cleaning and care, and are expensive. Mink and sable are commonly used for oils, watercolors, acrylics and other mediums.

Squirrel, horse, and hog hairs have a constant diameter, and are also used for brushes. Squirrel and horsehair are generally used for watercolor brushes, and stiff hog bristle brushes are used for stenciling and stippling. They are generally less expensive than the mink or sable brushes. However, some finely made watercolor brushes are just as expensive as their sable counterparts.

The brush shape and quality of the tip are generally the most important considerations for scale model and figure painting. Size is important, but supper tiny brushes only hold super tiny amounts of paint, so the size of the area to be painted is what should be used to determine the size of the brush to be used. The rule of thumb is to use the largest brush that you can and still get the job done. Using a brush that’s too small only leads to excess brush marks and difficulty keeping a wet edge on the work area.

Understand that the paint should flow out of the tip of the bristles like ink from the tip of a fountain pen. So, you must learn to control the viscosity of the paint on the pallet and to recognize when the brush needs to be cleaned to allow the paint held in the body of the bristles to flow out of the tip. If you need to use force (pressing the brush harder and harder onto the surface) to make the paint flow off of the brush, then the tips of the bristles are almost certainly clumped together and in need of cleaning. If you notice a tiny ball of paint forming on the very tips of the bristles, stop and give the brush a “swish” though the thinner and a wipe across a towel.

“Sets” of brushes tend to be less expensive than buying brushes individually, but the downside is that the quality is often only marginal to poor. With paint brushes, you will pay for quality. Although sometimes you will not get what you paid for, you will always pay for what you do get.

In my experience, the best places to buy really good paint brushes are also the same places that supply brushes to fine artists. The brushes that you can get through hobby vendors tend to be of marginal quality. Even the more expensive brushes are best purchased when you can hold the brush in your hand to inspect the shape and quality of the tip and bristles. Buying brushes on line, unless you’re going with a very reputable dealer, is a chancy proposition. The same brush you bought last time and found to be acceptable quality may be damaged or poorly packaged when you get it this time.

Having said that, until you have some hand painting skill and experience, “hobby quality” brushes will probably do you well. Once you develop your skills and experience to the point where you know you cannot advance the quality of your work BECAUSE the quality of the brush is simply not there, then you will know enough to also judge the quality of a new brush before you buy it.

Quality brushes will last years and years IF they are not abused and are properly cleaned and maintained. I have a sable liner brush that I use all the time that’s nearly 30 years old. (I admit that it is an exception to the norm…) All brushes do eventually wear out, so they must be considered consumables. Expect to have to replace them, even the best and most expensive ones, by and by.

Develop some good painting habits:

NEVER EVER use your really good brushes for anything other than regular and detail painting. NEVER use a “good” brush for dry-brushing or any other abusive or rough purpose. Once you damage a good brush, it’s pretty much trash. You can occasionally trim away a bent or broken bristle or two, but usually, once it’s damaged, it’s damaged.

Always load the bristles with thinner before you start a session. Dip the brush in the thinners then wipe it on a towel to soak out the excess. You want to prefill the ferrule and base of the bristles with thinner and not paint. This will help keep the paint out of the ferrule and make cleaning easier.

Always wipe the brush with the bristles and not against them.

Understand that the tip of the brush is where the work is done. Don’t squash or use a lot of force on the sides of the bristles. Generally select a larger brush if you find that you’re excessively using the sides of the bristles to brush out the paint. If you have to lay the brush down on the surface all the way to the ferrule to move the paint, then you need a bigger brush or a cleaner brush or a thinner paint.

Find and use quality brush cleaning mediums. Thinners are OK for use during a painting session, but once you done, you need to use a purpose brush cleaner before you store the brush away. Natural bristle brushes also benefit from using a conditioner on them after they have been cleaned. This helps to keep the hairs soft and flexible (and less prone to breakage) and also helps to keep the tip shape. Leave the conditioner in the brush until you use it the next time. (Starting off by dipping the brush into thinners before painting will remove the conditioner.)

Bottom line: Giving a brush just a few swishes in thinners to clean it is the slow road to ruining it. NEVER scrub or stab the bristles on the bottom of the thinner container to clean them.

If you cannot find a purpose brush conditioner, you can use hair washing conditioner as a substitute.

As you use your purpose brush cleaner (I use Windor & Newton cleaner), dip the brush into it and then set the brush aside for a few moments to allow the cleaner to soften the paint residue. The wipe the brush on toweling by pressing the bristles on their side with the ferrule making contact with the toweling. Rotate or roll the brush side to side as you slowly draw it back, keeping light pressure on the sides of the bristles to squeeze the paint residue out of the point where the bristles enter the ferrule. Repeat this process until there is no color or paint residue left on the toweling. Sometimes you need to allow the cleaner to soak a little longer. If necessary, with the brush loaded with cleaner, you can pinch the bristles between your fingers and roll it back and forth between them to agitate the bristles against each other to help remove the residue from them.

Once the brush is clean, dip it into the conditioner (I use The Masters brush cleaner and conditioner which has to be wetted with water and worked up to a foam). You may find that the conditioner also loosens up additional paint residue, if so, repeat the rolling-pulling cleaning technique on toweling. However, this time, you want to draw the brush back while rotating it to form / reform the tip to a sharp point. Once you have the point shaped, store the brush away.

ALWAYS store your brushes with their bristles up, handles down. Keep the small shipping tubes that usually come on the ends protecting the bristles when the brush was new. These can be reused if you want or need to store the brushes laying down (or you want to carry or transport your brushes to use somewhere else, like on holiday, or to a model club meeting, etc.).

Finally, don’t become emotionally attached to your brushes. They do wear out, and when the tips or bristles get “bunged out,” splayed, or broken, switch that brush to other, more abusive duty like dry-brushing or terrain and diorama work and break out a newer one for regular and detail work.


I’ll add some comments on my brushes. I buy from Curry’s, a local art store and generally purchase watercolour brushes. I buy synthetic as I tend to be rough on my brushes. I have the following sizes:
For large areas a #10 flat brush
All round brushes are the balance: 6, 5, 4 which I’ll just use interchangeably, a 3, 2-2s, 1, and 00. Plus I took an old 2 and cut the outside bristles of the brush to get a long-haired fine point.
I have one old brush that’s used for adding charcoal or Conte as part of weathering, a #4 flat.

Anything needing a larger area gets sprayed by can or airbrush.

Once you get your brushes, you’ll have to practice as the paint flows and dries differently with each brush.
Don’t stir paint with them either.

Good quality brushes will allow you to paint better and they will last longer. If you have a Hobby lobby or another craft store near you watch for their sales. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different brushes to find which one(s) work best for you

@SdAufKla Mike, that’s an outstanding summary, very well said👏

@modelbouwnederland, buy a few decent middle of the road paint brushes for now from the local artist supply store. As you use them you’ll gain experience both painting and caring for the brushes.

As they wear out replace with better quality brushes.

FWIW - I have ~50+ paint brushes , despite good care, they do wear out, I do a lot of drybrushing and typical destroy between 1 or 2 paint brushs per model project, most of my fine points are 30+ years old and are a mix red sables and synthetic.

I’ve learned controlling paint consistency by wetting brush in thinner 1st, using paint :art: palette, only dipping tip of brush in paint, are all as important as quality of brush.

In a long session paint can start to dry in brush, quick swish in thinner and wipe on paper towel then back to painting really helps. Lot of folks want to dip back deeper into the paint instead to a quick swish in thinner.

Most critical thing, I’ve learned: never paint directly from a bottle. Enamel or acrylic or whatever, the paint palette :art: is your friend even it its a bit of aluminum foil cover a cheapo disposable paint palette :art:.


Thank you for all your help, knowledge and advices you provided.

What is FWIW?

@Mead93 That’s the problem, I’m not sure. I was planning on purchasing, but I didn’t have any real knowledge to go with to be fair. That’s why I’ve decided to spend this months budget on books I’m going to use of the Osprey Modelling series and Masterclass from Osprey. I think those books will provide me at least a kickstart to work from. And I’m still going to take the advice from here, the books are not meant as a replacement for the whole picture. But, because my time is very limited. And I’m really needing to plan so much things out. Which I also want to do, or still isn’t finished. Means I just can’t always browse the internet or forums to get the knowledge I need. Then books are a much easier way of getting started.

@Venko I’m going to use my paint brushes, especially with the current on-going project for figure painting, weathering and improving the paint job I did with my airbrush. Which wasn’t very great. You can checkout my latest post for that. And thank you for giving the pointers for selecting paint brushes. I will keep that in mind.

@SdAufKla Thank you for providing me with such a wealth of information. It took me days in my busy schedule to read all of it. And I still haven’t had the chance to take all the information in very good. But you are providng really good knowledge and information. Where have you got all that knowledge from? I’m probably going to read your comment over several times to take in all the information. Because, I’m really wanting to do as much as I can with it.

@forest1000 Thank you for providing your system of painting for me. I may use this system myself, because it seems like a good one. I’ll see in time.

@steviecee Thank you for your comment. I’m afraid I don’t have much of good quality craft stores near me. Where I live, you have to travel for almost everything to buy it from a physical store. What is very popular in the area, there is a chance they have that. But my experiences are they aren’t very good. Or I’m not really satisfief with what they offer here at all. I will take you advice to experiment with different brushes and I will see what I can do with my existing brushes. Not trashing them of course, because another member here told me that as well. So I keep my brushes even the worse ones in my pen tray.

@Armor_Buff Thank you for providing some good advice. And I will probably do this, buy some good brushes from the model store. And steadily improve quality of brushes as they wear out. I’m also going to look into a paint palette. And loading my brushes with thinner and the other tips and advice. I will do that.

Thank you everyone for providing your knowledge and your answers. And I’m going to try to be more active with replying. But my schedule is very busy unfortunately. And I cannot promise anything to be more quick with providing replies. Thank you for your patience and I’m grateful for your help. Have a great week.

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For What It’s Worth.

You’re more than welcome.

I’ve been building scale models since 1966, so I have managed to figure a few things out along the way (as I’ve also managed to make probably just about every mistake that could be made, LOL!)

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That’s 56 years of experience. I’m 55, born in ‘67. You’ve been modeling longer than I’ve been alive Michael! And it shows; you’re work is amazing btw.

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He’s been model building twice as long as I’ve been alive :anguished: and I agree his work is absolutely stunning