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Kolinsky red sable brushes

Review: Kolinsky Red Sable Brushes – The Cadillac of Watercolor Brushes

When it comes to brushes,

I use many different types for different effects. For the most part I am not much of a purist. However, when it comes to watercolor brushes I cut right to the chase and go for what I consider the best. It probably helps that when I started out I was given a gift of Kolinsky red sable brushes.

Starting with the best it is hard to use anything else. In precise work it is hard to beat these brushes. They hold a lot of paint and it flows beautifully over the paper. The points hold well and are not too soft, resistant and resilient enough to make consistant brush strokes possible.

Kolinsky brushes

come from Sierian Kolinsky weasels. More specifically. the long stiff tail hair of the weasel. The male weasel to be exact, not a sable at all.

acrylic artwork
acrylic artwork

Many Kolinsky brushes come from female weasels that have their tails plucked at any time of year, not just in the winter. Their coats are thicker and more luxurious in the winter. It is unfortunate and typical that the female is not as sought after as the males. (Figures!) But it is difficult for most of us mortals to tell the difference.

While Kolinsky sable hair is considered to be the best among artists, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that  synthetic brushes have improved tremendously over the years. But regardless of the style of brush or the material it is made of, there are things that every watercolor brush should have.

  • cleanly trimmed tips
  • full bristles
  • sturdy handles
  • rustproof ferrules (the part that holds the brush to the handle
  • good snap (return to original shape)

While this review is about watercolor brushes, I must say that many of the Kolinsky brushes would work for acrylics and oils as well. And as a word of caution, whatever brushes you use, don’t mix mediums with them.

Flowers in watercolor painted with Kolinsky red sable brushes
Flowers in watercolor

There are residues that coat the brushes

and crossing paint types can cause problems with cleaning them and can reduce peak performance of the brushes. And let me tell you, for the money you pay for a Kolinsky brush, the last thing you want is less than perfection.

Walking Away watercolor
Walking Away watercolor

The Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes come in 13 sizes. While this is a wonderful selection, because of the cost of the brushes, most artists will have a couple that they use for much of their work and look to other brushes as well to complete their collection.

The Raphael Kolinsky brushes offers many different styles of brush, including some with extra long handles, a squared edge as well as the standard round tips. There are 15 sizes in this line including 12, 14, and 16 which are large for sable brushes

..Da Vinci Kolinsky brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Again, they have the same qualities as the other brands. But as you know, everyone has personal likes and dislikes, so it sometimes takes a while to find the perfect brushes.

I own some of each of the above,

and all for different reasons. We artists have a tendancy to gravitate towards what feels good in your hand, the balance, the way the paint goes onto paper, and many more, increasingly personal sensibilities.

Sunset in watercolo
Sunset in watercolor

If you are interested in trying Kolinsky brushes but they are a little rich for your blood, you might try looking on Amazon.com for professional watercolor brushes. There are brands that are much cheaper and claim to be Kolinsky red sable. That may or may not be exactly true (they may be mixed with other bristles). But the price points are much lower in some cases. It is a good way to see if it makes a difference to your work.

All of the art supply sites have occasional sales, so make sure to shop around before buying.

Just remember:

It’s the surprises or happy accidents that make a painting truly unique. The last thing you want is for all of your wonderful spontenaity to disappear because of concern over how the paint looks on paper.

Perfection is not only impossible to achieve, it is most often boring after the first glance. It also closes an artist into an unwanter box and many times creates “writers block” as it were. Take a chance, Paint from your heart and most of all, enjoy the process of making wonderful work!


I have a thing about clean tools. Cleaning and reshaping my brushes after every use keeps them healthy, and because I look after them so well, they last for many years. There are brushes that I bought because I liked shape, or handle or some other off the wall reason, and even though I don’t really like some of them very much, the darn things last forever because I just can’t stop myself from caring for them the same way I do my expensive brushes.


Landscape watercolor
Landscape watercolor







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