Well, synthetic brushes are considered horrible for their water holding capacity as compared to natural hair brushes.

Now, if I have to choose best out of the worst - how do I do it?

Do all synthetic brushes have horrible water holding capacity or there are some exceptions?
What should I look for in labels or anything else before purchasing them?

  • Are you talking about diluted acrylic paint? Both types of paint as they are have a huge difference in what brushes can easily hold them.
    – Joachim
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 18:41
  • Yes, diluted acrylic paint. I didn't know that other variety also exists. @Joachim Commented May 19, 2021 at 4:02
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    @Aquarius_Girl Please keep in mind that my answer was written under the assumption that you meant "water color" instead of "water and acryllic paint". These types of brushes are ideal for very watery paints and inks. For more viscous paints there are other shapes of brushes that have different properties and are commonly used for different techniques. For regular acryllic paints it's almost always adviced to use synthetic brushes because the acryllics and other additives damage natural bristles.
    – Elmy
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 4:46
  • @Elmy I did not know the difference. I thought water colours and liquid acrylic paints are similar. Commented May 19, 2021 at 4:48
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    @Aquarius_Girl Well, they are mostly similar in terms of how to work with them. Water colors can be dissolved again (and cleaned) after drying, but acryllics can leave permanent stains and harden the bristles of your brush. There are special "brush cleaners" that can dissolve dried acryllic paints, but those (and other) chemicals damage natural bristles.
    – Elmy
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 4:52

1 Answer 1


I think it goes without saying that softer paints need softer bristles. In my personal experience, the best brush for water colors looks a lot like a calligraphy brush (just a bit smaller). You should look for thick brush heads, long bristles and a pointy tip.

Thick brush heads means that there are a lot of bristles in it. More bristles means more tiny spaces between them where water can be stored.

Long bristles can also store slightly more water than short ones. They also tend to move more fluidly and have a softer stroke. It's hard to explain, but I had better experiences with long bristled brushed for soft paints like water color.

A pointy tip means that the bristles in the center are even longer than at the perimeter. Those longer center bristles are the ones you want to actually paint with. The ones around the perimeter are mainly there to store water or ink and to keep the center bristles in shape.

enter image description here

Here you see that only a small number of bristles actually touch the paper and write. Yet traditional calligraphy brushes have these thick brush heads to retain ink and their shape.

The same can be applied to synthetic watercolor brushes. On the largest brush you can clearly see the shorter bristles surrounding the longer ones at the center.

enter image description here

As for labels, most manufacturers I know simply label them as "watercolor" or "aquarelle" brushes. I would buy one medium size and one big size and don't bother with small sizes too much. Since they should all end in a fine point, a medium brush should be just as precise as a small one and the small one is just worse at retaining water.

In the picture above, I'd chose number 8 for medium size and 14 or 16 for big size. Number 6 has visibly shorter bristles than 8 and even number 0 and 2 don't have a finer tip than 8.


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