July 29th, 2010
In Focus Review - da Vinci Paint Brushes
As I continue to cover brushes that are ideal for miniature model painting, da Vinci is another name I've stumbled upon, which is also very worthy of mention. While they haven't been around quite as long as Winsor & Newton, these are serious artists quality brushes, designed and manufactured to very high standards just the same.
First up is the Series 10 Maestro Sharp Round from da Vinci. These are brushes manufactured from Siberian Red Sable hair fibers, which are from the Tobolsky Kolinsky. The Series 10 range offers sizes from 10/0 all the way to size 50. These feature black round handles, and nickel plated, rust-proof seamless ferrules. I've been working with a 10/0, 4/0, 0 and 1 for weeks now, and I can't find a bad thing to say about these brushes. They hold a point amazingly well, they spring back to a point without effort, they carry paint well, and feel good in-hand. This is one of their most popular lines, and I can see why.
Next up is the 5506 Restauro/Retouch series. This brush series was designed initially for the restoration department of the Uffizi Museum in Florence, Italy. This series also utilizes a slightly shorter handle than the Series 10, and has a triangular shape where the handle is thickest. The unique shape also helps to keep the brush from rolling away if you happen to lay one down. Sizes 3/0 through 6 are offered in this range.
This line also utilizes the same Tobolsky-Kolinsky fibers found in the Series 10 brushes, and features nickel plated, rust proof, seamless ferrules as well. I've been using a 2/0, 3/0, 1 and 0, and not only are these more comfortable than most brushes, due to the shape of the handle, but they work amazingly well. They offer excellent spring, they hold a point well, and they carry paint quite well, all of which is expected of a fine Kolinsky Sable fiber-based brush.
Last up is the 1505 Miniaturist Retouch Series. These utilize a shorter hair than the other two series of brushes above, and they feature the same shorter handle length of the 5506 Retouch. These also feature nickel plated, rust-proof seamless ferrules, and utilize Konlinsky Sable fibers just the same. I found these to be most useful with extremely minute details, like eyeballs, and lips on miniatures, and I've been using a 5/0, 3/0, and 1 in this line, and I can't find a thing bad to say about them.
These brushes come in sizes ranging from 5/0 through size 12. Due to the shorter bristles, the point is roughly 40% shorter than that of the other two lines I covered above too. So these wouldn't be the best option for base coating, and other techniques where a normal full size point would be best suited for the task. Although when it comes to extreme details, I can't think of a better brush option.
I think I've found another brush manufacturer, that quality-wise is right up there with the Winsor & Newton brushes I covered previously. These are also priced about the same as the W&N Series 7. On average almost every brush I looked at in this article, was found online discounted for about $8-$10 each. I've seen some sites claiming that the MRSP on some of these brushes are as high as $20, and I think that's where I'd draw the line. I don't think there's a brush out there for painting miniatures, which is worth much more than $10. Actually even $10 is pushing it.
The fact is, while these da Vinci brushes and those I've covered in the past from Winsor & Newton are high-end, built to last, and ooze quality, it's not like there isn't a $4-$6 brush out there that can't do the same job. The defining difference is, that the $4-$6 variety sable brushes can paint a miniature just as nicely, but you will go through two, three, maybe even four of the $4-$6 variety brushes, before this single da Vinci, or W&N brush begins to ever show signs of aging. If you take care of them properly, most high-end brushes will last literally years, not just months.
There's many more brush lines than just what I covered in this article available from da Vinci. I counted about 13 different sable-based brush lines being available from da Vinci under their watercolor brushes alone. The ones I covered, I think are the ones that are best suited for miniature painting. They even make cute little retractable sable brushes, and screw apart sable options for travel. There's so many options to choose from, that I'd suggest checking out the website provided in the link at the end of this article to see them all for yourself. Chances are, there's a few more brushes available from da Vinci that would be suitable for miniature model painting.
da Vinci also has one major advantage over Winsor & Newton, which benefits miniature painting enthusiasts big time. da Vinci's Konlinsky Sable-based brushes come in sizes much smaller than what W&N offers. So if you have W&N Series 7, or Artists Water Color Sable brushes already, and wish you could find a 5/0, 10/0 and like sizes, but don't want to loose the quality you're accustomed too, da Vinci has you covered. They definitely compliment each other very well too. The only noticeable difference is that the W&N brushes have much longer handles.
A big thanks goes out to the exclusive US importer of the da Vinci line Gregory Daniels Fine Arts, as they provided the samples to put this article together. I also added a link to Blick Art Materials below, since it was suggested by Greg Daniels as one of the best places to purchase the da Vinci series of brushes online at reasonable discounted prices.