Winsor & Newton’s Complete Guide to Brush Selection and Care



The Complete Guide to Brush Selection and Care

Every artist knows that painting takes years of dedication, patience, and skill. Just like making the world’s finest brushes. For thousands of years, the basic elements of the brush have remained the same. But making a brush today worthy of that heritage requires generations of skill, an understanding of which hairs provide the greatest expressive control, an uncompromising eye in selecting the finest raw materials, and the experience that shows that – while some things can be better achieved with machines and technology – there are some that can still be done only with the human hand and eye. Like making brushes that have no peer.

Winsor & Newton has been supplying fine artists’ brushes for more than 160 years. In that time, the company has acquired the reputation for making the very best from the very finest materials available.

In 1946, the growing company needed a facility exclusively for brush making. The English port town of Lowestoft was ideal due to the availability of an historic factory and room for growth. Furthermore, Lowestoft had a long history as a fishing village, offering a work force with generations of skill in the mending of fishing nets. Workers in Lowestoft were uniquely able to meet the exacting demands of hand tying hairs for artists’ brushes.

Yearly, skilled brush makers at the Lowestoft facility now produce brushes requiring over 200 miles of ferrules and over 1000 miles of wooden handles if they were placed end to end. And we still employ brush makers that take, quite literally, years to perfect the skills to produce the only brushes still hand taper dressed in our own factory in England and tied entirely by hand. Because that’s still the only way to
make a brush that measures up to your standards and ours.

The right brush serves as a fluid extension of the hand, wrist, and mind. The wrong brush for the job – or a brush of poor quality – becomes a hindrance or an obstacle.



• Evenly and crisply shaped (not split or splayed)
• Natural hairs should be evenly tapered (not blunt or cut)
• Hair or filaments should be tightly bound, with no gap
  at the ferrule and no shedding


• Seamless (to prevent internal seepage)
• Tightly secured to the handle with deep double crimps
• Smooth finish and edges
• Rustproof


• Straight and symmetrical
• No chips or cracks or raw wood
• Well-balanced with comfortable weight and grip
• Clear imprint

Numerical sizes vary among manufacturers. For example, other brush makers may label a brush as a size 10 that compares in size to a Winsor & Newton size 8 or 6. The only way to evaluate relative sizes and value is to compare the actual size of brush to brush. We’re confident that you’ll find the relative sizes of Winsor & Newton brushes to represent excellent value for money.


Point – Does it come to a crisp point and hold that point during use?

Snap and spring – Does the brush spring crisply back into shape? The right degree
of spring allows superior control over the brush on the painting surface.

Flow control – Does colour flow evenly and consistently from the point? Is there
enough capacity within the ‘belly’ of the brush to lay down flowing, gestural strokes of
The hair that best meets these needs is taken from carefully selected kolinsky sable tails. When properly made, a kolinsky brush offers a rapier-like point, perfectly balanced spring, and extraordinary capacity and flow control. Since 1866, the hand-made Winsor & Newton Series 7 has been the standard-bearer in all of these qualities. Other hairs that offer varying degrees of performance include:

Good performance: second-grade sable, squirrel (for wash brushes), and synthetic/natural hair blends (Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II) or synthetic alone (Winsor & Newton Cotman).

Moderate performance: ox (sabeline), goat, and camel (not true camel hair, but a mixture of soft hair).

When comparing brushes, note that some manufacturers will declare a brush as “kolinsky sable,” when the hair has been taken from a part of the animal that produces hair poorly suited for brush making. Or brushes labeled as “sable” may have been taken from weasel or another animal with hair of lesser quality. Be assured that the Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush is hand taper dressed by our own factory in England exclusively from true kolinsky sable tail hair of the finest selected quality.

Firmness of bristle – Is the bristle capable of moving heavy-bodied colour over the surface with authority?

Tip control – Does the bristle or hair allow subtlety and nuance in blending? Fine control when creating detail?

For heavy-bodied colour, the ideal bristle is from hog or boar. Properly dressed, the finest quality hog brushes—like Winsor & Newton Rathbone— offer superior firmness and flagged ends for nuanced control and blending. In addition, fine hog bristle can be naturally ‘interlocked’ during manufacturing to create a tight, well formed brush head that guarantees superior control. As colour is ‘let down’ for finer blending or glazing work, the ideal hair is softer and more supple, such as badger or a synthetic (Winsor & Newton  Monarch brush).

• Firmness of bristle – Is the bristle capable of moving heavy-bodied colour over the surface with authority?

Tip control – Does the bristle or hair allow for subtlety and nuance in blending?

• Undamaged by water or acrylic resins?

Over the past decades, synthetics have proven superior in making brushes for acrylic colours (Winsor & Newton Galeria brush). Synthetic filaments can be produced with a range of ‘springiness.’ With the proper manufacturing techniques, they offer good flow control, and a well-defined tip or edge for detail and blending work. And they are resistant to damage from acrylic resin and won’t soften in water (as will natural bristle brushes).


Fine brushes will offer many years of service – if the following very simple points are followed:
• Always clean your brushes immediately after use

• Do not leave brushes soaking in solvents or water for an extended period of time

• Never leave brushes resting on their heads or tufts

• Shape the head after cleaning

• Never point a brush in your mouth


• Avoid storage in direct sunlight

• For prolonged storage, store sable brushes in an air tight box

• Mothballs may be used to deter moths

• Sable brushes used for water colour should not be used with other media

• To restore a damaged or blunt brush head, dip bristles in boiling water, blot on towel, and shape head

• Brushes used with oil will acquire and keep a slight residue, and should not be used with other media

• If filaments clump or separate, completely clean all paint from the heel or ferrule end of the brush head using a full-strength brush cleaner such as Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer


1. For brushes used with oils, dip brush in household vegetable oil and wipe free of excess colour and oil with a soft, lint-free rag.

2. Brushes used with acrylic or water colour should be wiped clean on a lint-free rag and then rinsed under running water.

3. Clean brushes gently with mild soap or Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner. Cold water for sable, luke warm for hog and synthetic. Swirl brush against a smooth, shallow surface (never in the palm of your hand, especially with brushes that may still contain oil or solvent).

4. Wash and rinse until water runs clear from the brush. Take particular care to ensure that the heel of the brush is clean. Some pigments may stain the brush slightly, but this will not affect the performance or life of the hair.

5. Gently re-shape the head and allow to dry.

6. For brushes caked with dried acrylic or oil colour, use Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer.





For Water Colour
In 1866, Her Majesty Queen Victoria gave orders that Winsor & Newton , holders of the Royal Warrant, be commanded to produce the very finest water colour brushes possible in her favorite size; the No. 7. The resulting brush became known as the Series 7, and the standards of quality set in 1866 are the same today:

• Only the finest quality kolinsky sable hair is used. In fact, of all the sable hair that is offered to our factory, only 5% is deemed suitable for the Series 7.

• The hair is painstakingly tied and positioned to ensure that the ferrule (opening is at the ideal mid- point along the hair belly). This leaves more than half of the length of the hair unseen within the ferrule, hair length that other manufacturers would consider to be waste. But this position is the only way to ensure perfect spring, balance, and performance.

• The handles are the very best hardwood available, carefully shaped and tapered for historically proven balance. The lacquer is the finest possible.

• The ferrules are double crimped and glued and are the highest quality nickel-plate.

• The brushes are generously proportioned using historical size standards.

The actual size of each Series 7 is typically larger than brushes of the same numerical size made by other manufacturers. Most importantly, the Series 7 hair is hand taper dressed in our own factory in England by selected brush makers who have taken years to perfect the skill necessary to uphold our reputation for making the world’ s finest. The Series 7 is the standard against which all sable brushes are judged.




•   Quality Kolinsky Sable
•   Provides excellent point, spring and colour carrying
•    Innovative contoured handle with satin matte finish provides comfort and secure grip
•   Popular Head Shapes:  Round, Pointed Round, One Stroke, & Rigger


For Water Colour, fluid Oil Colour, Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil, and Acrylic Colour.
Artists generally recognize that pure sable brushes are the best, but can be costly. Made from a perfect mix of pure sable and synthetic fibers, Sceptre Gold II gives you a performance like sable, but at a price closer to synthetic. Sceptre Gold II brushes are available with long and short handles. They feature seamless gold plated nickel ferrules and vibrant terracotta stained handles.
    •  Genuine sable & synthetic hair
    •  Optimum colour carrying capacity, durability, & spring
    •  Performance of sable at a moderate price

For Water Colour.
By blending high quality pure synthetic fibers of varying thickness, Cotman achieves the three most important qualities sought by artist. The thicker fibers contribute strength and spring, while the thinner fibers improve colour-carrying capacity. Together they retain a perfect point time after time. Cotman brushes feature seamless nickel-plated ferrules and polished blue handles.

•High quality economical synthetic sable

•Good colour-carrying capacity & durability

•Unique blend of fibers for strength, spring, & point

    •Finest quality Chungking Bristle
    •Stiff interlocked bristle maintains shape and allows movement of thick buttery colour
    •Contoured handle provides exceptional balance & comfort with close up or easel techniques
    •Satin Matte Finish Handle & Ferrule eliminates glare with plein air painting
    •Unique Head Shapes:  In addition to popular shapes of Round, Flat, Bright, & Filbert, range includes:  Double Thick & Extra Long Filbert


For Oil, Acrylic or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.                                                                                                                                                                                               Winton brushes feature select fine quality Chinese White Chunking hog bristle and offer exceptional quality at an economical price. The natural curve of the hog bristle is utilized to produce a resilient brush that retains its shape during continued use. Winton brushes feature seamless nickel-plated ferrules with green stained lacquered handles.                                              

• Durable hog bristle

• Stiff bristle ideal for full-bodied colour

• Specially curved bristle for shape retention


For Oil, Acrylic or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
Lexington II brushes are a combination of natural hog bristle and synthetic filaments that provide excellent spring in a thinner hair bundle which allows for precise control. The synthetic fibers protect the hog bristle, providing greater durability and brush life compared to 100% hog bristle brushes. Lexington II brushes feature seamless nickel-plated ferrules and polished green handles.

• Unique blend of finest hog & synthetic bristle

• Superior shape retention & precise control

• Exceptional durability


For Oil, Acrylic or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
Azanta, an inexpensive hog bristle brush, features a selection of head shapes with both long and short handles. This good quality brush is ideally suited for the beginner or student artist. Azanta brushes feature seamless aluminum ferrules with rich deep red lacquered handles.

• Durable hog bristle

• Economically priced

• Ideal for full bodied colour

• Great for the beginner or student artist


•Finest Quality Synthetic
•Mimics natural hair; Responsive like synthetic, forgiving like sable
•Contoured handle provides exceptional balance & comfort with close up or easel techniques
•Popular Head Shapes: Round, Bright, Flat, Filbert, Short Filbert,One Stroke, & Utility


For Oil, Acrylic or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
Galeria brushes are strong and resilient and offer great flexibility and sensitivity. The unique mix of polyester filaments provides exceptional control and responsiveness, cleans up easily, and has excellent shape retention. The Galeria range features both long and short handle brushes with seamless nickel-plated ferrules and dark burgundy stained handles.

    •LONG HANDLE   • Outstanding spring & strength for heavy colours & gels
    •SHORT HANDLE • Softer filament for washes &detail with thinned acrylic


For Oil, Artisan Water Mixable Oil, Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil, or Acrylic
Artisan brushes have been specifically designed to have the performance characteristics of hog bristle, yet maintain their spring and shape when in contact with water, particularly during prolonged painting sessions with water mixable oil colours. Artisan has been developed with a unique blend of high quality polyester fibers that maintain excellent spring, durability and strength, while maintaining good shape.
Artisan brushes feature seamless nickel-plated ferrules with polished silver handles.
    •Blend of high quality synthetic fibers
    •Superior spring & strength for full bodied colour
    •Maintains performance better than hog bristle when soaked in water


Ideally suited for Acrylics or Water Colour, but may also be used with excellent results for Oils or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
University brushes offer good quality white polyester filament. Stiff enough to use with fluid oils and acrylics, yet soft enough to use with water colours, University is an all-purpose brush range. The polyester fibers make smoother marks compared to hog hair. The University range is also an ideal brush for a wide variety of craft applications. University brushes feature seamless nickel-plated ferrules with red lacquered handles.
• Fine quality synthetic

• Soft filament provides good Spring

• Economic & durable

• Ideal for beginners & students


For Oil, Acrylic or Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
Monarch brushes are made with the highest blend of polyester filaments that uniquely mimic natural mongoose hair. The Monarch offers ideal flexibility needed when working with heavy body colour.
Hog bristle can sometimes be too stiff to blend colour on canvas, while sable may not be stiff enough. Monarch offers stiffness in between hog and sable, giving excellent control. Monarch brushes feature seamless gold tone nickel-plated ferrules with rich brown lacquered handles.

• Superior synthetic mongoose

• Perfect for blending, glazing, fine detail, & portrait work

• Less expensive & more durable than natural


For Oil, Acrylic, and Griffin™ Alkyd Fast Drying Oil.
Regency Gold brushes have been specifically designed for decorative painting. These elegantly crafted brushes offer the decorative painter the versatility and control that is so often desired in decorative painting. Regency Gold 500 Synthetic brushes are hand made with fine quality Golden Taklon that simulates the feel and handling of real sable. These brushes hold their points and chisel edges for precise detail work, and blending. They come in an extensive range of sizes and shapes. Regency Gold 500 brushes feature gold tone nickel-plated ferrules with matt turquoise handles.    

• Fine quality synthetic sable

• Durable & economical

• Unique shapes for special techniques

Regency Gold 700 Sable brushes are handmade with select fine quality pure red sable. These sable brushes hold their sharp points and chisel edges for precise control, and have superior blending capabilities.  Regency Gold 700 brushes feature gold tone nickel-plated ferrules with matt black handles.

• Fine quality red sable

• Excellent colour-carrying capacity & spring

• Ideal for blending & precise detail





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