November 9th, 2010
Review -Rosemary & Co Brushes
At this point I think I've covered many of the biggest names, and some of the not so biggest names in brushes. However after almost every review I posted, at least one or two readers would send me a comment suggesting that I should take a look at some brushes from a company called Rosemary & Co.
I conducted some research of my own after the last brush review I had posted. In doing so I learned that on many popular online forums for miniature model enthusiasts that Rosemary & Co brushes are also quite popular among a majority of members there as well.
I also discovered why I had never heard of them before, it's because they're a UK-based company, and it's a more common brand in the UK than it is here in North America. They're not limited to the UK tho, they have quite a large catalog of brushes, and they operate world-wide via their online store.
Rosemary & Company has only been in business 25 years now, which isn't very long at all compared to Winsor & Newton, which was around when Queen Victoria was still alive and kicking. However it's evident that Rosemary & Co is a very serious operation, one that has figured out a way to offer quality brushes at amazingly reasonable prices, and to still be at it 25 years later.
Rosemary & Co advertise that their products are just as good as most of the competition, but at 50%-60% less. There's no middle-man, they create the brushes right there in their factory and buy the Kolinsky/Sable fibers direct from sources world-wide. That's how they manage to keep prices low.
I reached Rosemary herself, and she was kind enough to send along a nice little assortment of brushes for me to put together this review with. The product lines that I felt most miniature model painting enthusiasts might find useful include the Series 33, 22 and 99. Those are the lines I'll be reviewing today...
Series 33: Pure Kolinsky Pointed Brushes...
Series 33: Pure Kolinsky Pointed is one of the most popular ranges from Rosemary & Co, and it utilizes what they call Pure Koninsky Sable fibers, harvested from the Kolinsky of Siberia and North-East China. This line comes in sizes #24 all the way through to #10/0. These also come in a Short Handle or Long Handle option, and the longer handled version costs a little bit more per brush. The Short Handled brushes on average are 6-6.5 inches long, while Long Handled ones are said to be 10-11-inches
I've been reviewing a #2, #1, #3/0 and #10/0 from Series 33 of the Short Handled variety. The first thing I noticed straight away is that the ferules are single crimped to the handles, not double crimped like most other brushes I've seen in the past.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing either, just an observation that stood out. Their design is clearly different than that of most other brushes I've seen thus far. In actual use I didn't have a problem with the Series 33 brushes. With these brushes I've painted up a variety of Mechs for BattleTech, a bunch of 6mm scale sci-fi vehicles and aircraft models from PlasmaBlast Games, and even some Tengu Models 28mm scale miniatures that I recently reviewed.
The Series 33 hold a point very well, the belly caries paint quite effectively, and the handles are a tiny bit shorter than any of the other brushes I have on-hand. In use these are definitely better than most brushes that can cost almost twice as much too, so there's some truth to their advertising claims. If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was using an $8-$10 USD brush, not a $4-$5 USD variety one.
Series 22 Pure Kolinsky Designer Brushes...
As the name implies, this is a series of brush they created to cater to design departments of film, graphics and illustration firms. The same Pure Kolinsky fibers are utilized as Series 33, but the tapering it a wee bit different. The description for the Series 22 in the catalog I was sent claims that the the point is "somewhat longer and slimmer than the Series 33".
But when set side by side with a Series 33 brush of the same size, it becomes clear that the Series 22 is actually a bigger belly brush than the Series 33. I checked Series 33/22 #1 sizes, and I also set a Series 22 #0 and Series 33 #0 next to each other as well, and the Series 33 tips are clearly the slightly smaller tip of the two brush lines.
I've been reviewing a size #2, #1 and #0 in the Series 22 line. The same single-crimped ferule design is in place here as well, and the handles also look identical. These also come standard as Short Handled brushes, but they will make Long Handled versions by special order if needed.
I honestly didn't see a big difference in performance between the Series 22 and Series 33, however the brush tip is clearly a wee bit bigger, but the point quality seems the same too. Performance-wise I'd think this was the same brush if I didn't know any different. Due to the slightly bigger belly, it can carry a tiny bit more paint, but that's about it.
The biggest difference between the Series 33 and the 22 is that the Series 22: Pure Kolinsky Designer series comes in less smaller sizes, as it's only available in sizes #20-#0. So there's a lot less options in this line for detail work if you're a miniature painting enthusiast. The Series 22 also cost more than the
Series 99 Pointed Pure Red Sable...
This is their most inexpensive series of Sable brush. To keep the cost down and to offer a decent entry level brush, this series uses Pure Red Sable not the more expensive Kolinsky Sable. This is a fiber harvested from a different breed of weasel altogether.
The one thing I know from experience is, that over time the Kolinsky variety brushes will hold their point with proper care long after the regular variety of Sable brush has found its way to the trash bin. For the here and now, the Series 99 can do what you need it to, but to be realistic you can't expect a $1.50-ish USD brush to last as long as a $5+USD Kolinsky brush either.
Here's where it all starts to come into perspective, lets talk price for a minute. The Series 33 Pointed Pure Kolinsky Sable size #1 will set you back 3.10 GBP (which includes VAT), or $5 USD minus 17.5% VAT equals about $4.12 USD. All of Rosemary & Co's prices include VAT, so they'll knock off 17.5% of the cost for any orders outside of the UK.
The Series 22 size #1 is 4.35 GBP, or $7 USD, minus the VAT taxes it ends up at $5.78 USD. The Series 99 size #1 is priced at just 1.74 GBP converted to USD equals just about $1.50 USD after subtracting the VAT taxes.
As you can see the Series 99 is clearly the best value, especially for a quality Sable brush. Most average sable brushes from lesser quality manufacturers cost twice as much, or more. For instance Games Workshop charges nearly $8 USD for a single standard variety sable brush in a similar size. The Series 99 is ideal for starter brushes without a doubt, and isn't a bad option for even more advanced painters who are on a tight budget. I'd also say that the Series 99 is a step up above the red-handled options from The Army Painter as well.
For a few dollars more you can jump up to a brush like the Series 33 that will very likely last at least five times longer with proper care. When it comes to the Series 22, I'm just not seeing the logic in paying more for a Series 22 over a Series 33.
Coming from the mindset of a miniature painting enthusiast, it's not worth it. The Series 33 is the best option from Rosemary & Co overall. To me the Series 22 doesn't make sense to me economically, unless you really want to pay almost $2 USD more for the same brush as the Series 33, with the only benefit being a belly that's slightly thicker.
I've seen others attempting to compare the Rosemary & Co Series 33 to a Winsor & Newton Series 7, and I don't see that being a fair comparison at all. I think Rosemary & Co can compete quite well with other brushes that are easily priced at almost twice as much as they are, but not the Winsor & Newton Series 7. The Series 7 is just clearly made better than most brushes, and in terms of durability I'm yet to see a brush that ages as well as a Series 7.
I'm also not completely convinced 100% that these are better than the da Vinci brushes I reviewed a while back either, but it's clear that they cost less, and perform just about as well. Which isn't a bad thing, because I've also said that the da Vinci brushes can perform as well as the Winsor & Newton Series 7.
Therefore the Series 33 can definitely offer similar performance to the more expensive options from Winsor & Newton and da Vinci, but I believe the Series 7 is made better and will last longer over time. I also feel that the da Vinci brushes are made a little better than the Series 33 too, and I like the handle options on those better as well.
There's just a few things that the competition does a little better, like for instance all of the handles on these brushes are simply average. Yes I do realize that for the most part a handle is a handle, but after knowing first-hand how comfortable a triangular brush from da Vinci, or even from The Army Painter can be in hand, a regular round handle feels quite average to me now.
What I think would push the Series 33 into position to better compete with the higher end options would be to adopt some bolder and more varied handle designs. Handle length honestly doesn't bother me either way (because that can be cut down to size), but I should mention that the Rosemary & Co brushes all are a little shorter than the da Vinci, and they're definitely alot shorter than the Artists Water Color Sable brushes from Winsor & Newton.
As a miniature painting enthusiast, I do appreciate a shorter handle brush too, so no complaints there. I know that I myself wouldn't mind paying 50-cents or maybe even $1 more for the same Series 33 brush, only with a different more ergonomic handle attached to it.
If I had to pick one brush option that I'm confident that the Series 33 is better than, it would be the Winsor & Newton Artists Water Color Sable variety of brushes. The Series 33 is also leaps and bounds better than the options from Games Workshop in every possible way too.
I know that keeping it simple is probably what allows Rosemary & Co to keep costs down, and also grants them the means to spend more on quality fibers and the other more vital brush components, as opposed to making the prettiest looking brush on the market. However in this competitive market, sometimes doing a little something more outside of the box is what it takes to topple the bigger competing companies out there as well.
I can't help but recommend the Series 33 for the cost, and they've definitely proven to me and many other miniature model painting enthusiasts that Mrs Rosemary can make a damn good brush for almost 50% of the cost of most of the competition, just not all of the competition.
If you demand a slightly larger belly, the Series 22 is the option to pursue. Lastly the Series 99 is so inexpensive that it's hard not to recommend them for starter brushes. They can perform so well, that even an advanced painting enthusiast can benefit from the Series 99 when funds are limited.
I must also rate them high for how they shipped the brushes from the UK. I'm all the way across the big pond here in the US, and I was quite pleased by how the brushes were packaged. Each of the series of brushes I was sent for review were sealed inside of individual plastic bags. All three of the bags were also sandwiched between cardboard and rubber bands holding it together, and then the 55-page catalog of Rosemary & Co brushes further protected the contents.
While they did use a padded envelope, the way they protected the brushes inside shows that someone was paying attention. So I think I can say that you can order from them from pretty much anywhere in the world with confidence.