Is this what your brush collection looks like?
If you think this seems like a reasonable collection of brushes you may want to keep reading. Over the years paintbrushes have become a considerable expense for me as I have ponderously learned to navigate the choppy waters of brush care.
Most of you will have heard of the fabled Winsor & Newton Series 7; if not pushed on you from a shop-keep then as a whisper from the dark side of your local hobby shop. I'm sure you have many questions burning deep inside about this legendary brush, such as: Is it really the Nimbus 2000 of the miniature painting world? I have compiled some facts about the brush, and a whole lot of anecdotal evidence that will inform your decision about whether this investment is a worthwhile venture for you.
Before diving into all of the fuss surrounding the Winsor & Newton Series 7 a disclaimer must be thrown out for the beginner miniature painters out there. This article, and the brush it features are not for you. How do you know if you're still a beginner? If you're in the first 6 months of laying down pigment, and still find yourself furiously jamming ferrules into the bottom of a water cup then the nuggets herein will be lost on you. I recommend purchasing $5 to $10 brushes, and ruining them on 'da reg while drilling the basics of brush-life extension.
The following quick tips will expedite anyone's journey towards masterful brush care.
- Keep pigment out of brush ferrule
- Don't bury your brush into paint
- Don't jam your brush into the bottom of the water pot
- Don't leave your brush sitting on it's bristles under the weight of it's own self
- Don't use lacquers or technical paints with expensive/new brushes (use old beaters)
- Keep pigment out of brush ferrule
- Wash your brush off every 20-45 seconds
- Keep bristles wet at all times
- Develop brush rinsing OCD
- Keep pigment out of brush ferrule
There is a product that you can use on a brush to tune it back up, however in my experience this product is better at bringing destroyed brushes back to life rather than turning a good tip into a great tip.
Loved by all who use it "The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver" is pretty much a must-have in the world of brush-life extension. When used in conjunction with the tips listed above most sable brushes will last for a considerable length of time.
Now with all of the brush care preamble out of the way lets get into the main topic. Is the Winsor & Newton Series 7 top-of-the-line brush worth the top-of-the-line price tag? Before we can answer that question we have to understand what makes the brush special.
Meet the Kolinsky weasel.
Also known as the Kolonok, this little guy is native to Russia, most of Asia (including Thailand & North Korea) and preys upon water voles. The fur that these little sweethearts grow on their tails just so happens to be the best tool for moving acrylic pigment around known to mankind. Sorry vegans.
In my opinion the appearance of the brush isn't any more striking than average, and it's hard to pick it out of a group. The performance of the bristles is the true selling point. From the Winsor & Newton website:
"Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes are made from only the finest Kolinsky Sable hair in rust-proof, seamless nickel plated ferrules with black polished handles."
The biggest takeaway here is that Kolinsky sable is better than regular sable, but what is regular sable? Well it's actually just another type of marten that lives in the eastern hemisphere and has historically been hunted for it's bomb-ass fur.
Most paintbrushes intended for use on miniatures are made with regular sable. Games Workshop's equivalent to the Series 7 1 is called the M Layer brush.
This medium brush (M Layer) - perfect for layering - is hand made, with pure sable bristles in a fine point meaning exceptional control over details. The size makes it perfect for layering surfaces, and getting those effects that make your friends go ‘wow’.
Not to belabor the importance of brush care, but I remember walking into a Games-Workshop for the first time in a very long time nearly 5 years ago. I purchased a brand-spanking-new GW brush and a few paints. Within two days I had turned my beautiful new paint sword's pristine point into something that closely resembled this:
All of this talk about sables and mink hair is entirely pointless without an understanding of how brushes are supposed to be used. Certain brushes are supposed to be used with specific mediums. Not all brushes are made of sable; some are made of synthetic sable. Synthetic sable (nylon or polyester filaments) are made to mimic natural hair but don't hold as much water. They also do not form a point quite as well. The trade-off here is that they can withstand a greater beating from the user over a longer period of time.
Some other bristle types include:
- Squirrel (cheap)
- Hog Bristle (oil paintings)
- Ox (long & springy)
- Pony (coarse & doesn't hold a good point - used for water colour)
- Goat (lacks spring but good point - used for calligraphy)
In my experience and from my (admittedly under-performing) memory the Series 7 has exceeded my expectations in every area. The water retention for it's size is on par with anything I've ever used, but the point control is really what sets this thing apart from all of the other sable brushes in my collection. You can test this by wetting the bristles and drawing circles on the back of your hand. This brush's bristles never break from one-another; it's really a beautiful thing.
The life span of the 7 has also blown my other brushes out of the dirty-paint water. This brush has been my daily driver for the last little while and was used to complete this entire commission, as well as this one, all of my Infinity minis so far, and this unit of fallen for King of War. That's roughly 76 miniatures & at least 50 hours of painting. I have used "The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver" on it once so far. This is what my brush looks like at the moment.
Pretty damn nice am I rite? By comparison here is the tip of a competitor's brush which has performed less work than the one above.
This is the brush that I was using directly before purchasing the Series 7. It's important to note that the brush-care practices that I use now are exactly the same as they were when I was using this Currys brush. The series 7 has already accomplished more than this 2500 and is still in pristine condition; ready to work on exciting new projects for presumably years to come.
Now comes the time to talk about the cost. The Currys brush above cost me about $8.5 Cad, which is exactly how much the GW counterpart costs. In comparison the Winsor & Newton Series 7 ran me $23 Cad. This is because I purchased it from a shop-keep at a hobby store looking to make some bang on his margins. It is possible to purchase this brush on amazon for $19.48 at this size.
If you have enjoyed this review of the brush please consider purchasing one on Amazon using my affiliate link here: Winsor & Newton Series 7 to help wet my beak!
In conclusion every miniature painter who intends to continue painting for the foreseeable future should consider trying out this brush. In my opinion it's been worth every dollar based on point control alone. Tack on top of that the fact that it's still in perfect condition and it's probably the best bang for buck on the market.
P.S. Happy Birthday Canada!