Sadie Saves the Day!


Art Supply Review: Faber Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pen

I got this pen specifically because of its lightfastness. I was pretty upset to find out that Copics are not lightfast, and wanted to find an alternative that wouldn't fade on me. So I turned to the Faber Castell Pitt artist pen.

The ink inside is actually India ink, which is pretty cool. That's what gives it its lightfastness. Unlike most markers, which use dyes, this is a pigment-based ink.

It’s not the most popular pen around on instagram, but it's very easy to pick up in Europe for an OK price. So this was one of the first brush pens that I tried to letter with.



Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It has a normal pen body, so it handles normally.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Stiff
Tip Size Medium
Sharpness Blunt
Ink flow Medium
Pigmentation Medium
Bleed No bleed
Watersolubility Waterproof
Copic/Alcohol Marker Proof Yes
Smell No smell
Lightfastness Very Lightfast
Acidity Acid Free
Toxicity Non-toxic
Color Availability 60 Colors


  • Very highly lightfast. Actually, some of the shades are so lightfast that they should last longer than 100 years!

  • Depending on what kind of paper you use, you can blend with these colors before they dry. It’s kind of difficult though.

  • I love that this comes in a range of grays, which is great for shadows and shading. I also love the fluorescent line, which is more of a novelty than anything else, but it’s fun!

  • Since they are waterproof, you could layer watercolors on top of the Faber Castell Pitt artist pen without worrying about it smudging or bleeding, which is awesome!


  • The tip of the pen is not conical, like some other brush pens. Instead, it’s kind of long and skinny. I find that I don’t really like this style for brush lettering because it doesn’t give you very thick down strokes.

  • When you first get this pen, it feels very stiff. However, with use it loosens up. The problem is that the very tip also becomes more and more blunt. That is super annoying when I’m looking for a sharp line. [1]

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

This is not one of my favorite brush pens, but it’s not one of my least favorite either. It’s a little too stiff for me and a little too blunt after a while.

However, it’s one of the only brush pens with a felt tip that I know of that is actually lightfast.

I wouldn’t recommend this to beginners because it can be a bit unwieldy, but it’s definitely an awesome pen to complement your collection.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Price and Where to Find It

  1. Apparently, there’s a way to fix this problem: Sharpen your PITT pen - YouTube  ↩

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Watercolor 101: How to Choose Good Brushes

Now you know all there is to know about synthetic and natural hair brushes, but I know that you have one more question for me. OK, what brushes do I get?

Well, let's figure that out.

This is a post in my Watercolor 101 series. If you haven't read the other posts in the series, check them out here:

  1. Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes
  2. Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes
  3. Watercolor 101: All About Synthetic Fiber Brushes

How Do I Decide What Brushes to Get?

Good question. That depends on a number of factors:

  • Cost: What is your budget for brushes? Remember that you still have to buy paper and paint. Is your budget unlimited? Then go all out on the top class brushes. Is your budget a bit smaller? Then look into higher quality synthetic brushes that should perform well without breaking the bank.

  • Your Style of Painting: Do you paint in many thin layers, building your painting up slowly? Then you will need very soft, precise, pointed brushes. Or do you paint in big loose strokes? Then a point is not so important to you, and you need something hold up under the pressure of your brush strokes. If you are simply planning on doing one or a few layers in a basic style, then nearly any type of brush will work for you.

  • Your Position on Animal Cruelty: This will determine whether you get natural hair brushes or synthetic fiber brushes. Do you feel uncomfortable about how the fur or hair in natural brushes is obtained ? Then they are probably not for you.

What about Sizes?

Well, this is about as fun as entering the women's fashion department. Brush sizes are not standardized. They can vary widely between brands, so you should not assume that just because two brushes bear the same number that they are the same size.

Round Brush Sizing

Round brushes used a kind of peculiar system. Smaller brushes are indicated by a number of zeros. You might see something like “00000” or “0/5,” which means that's a superduper tiny brush! “0000” or ”0/4” would be the next size larger, and then 000,00,0 until you finally reach normal numbers again.

Just for reference sizes 1 through 4 are pretty small size brushes. Sizes 6 to 10 are medium sized brushes and anything above that is going to be pretty large. A size 24 is probably going to be as large as your fist!

Flat Brush Sizing

Now this is a bit easier. It's super simple. They are just measured in inches. No surprises here.

So What Brushes and Sizes Should I Get?

As I wrote before, this is all dependent on what your painting style is, so it's very personal. However, I can make some recommendations based on the brushes that I find useful peer keep in mind that I paint on a fairly small size, normally no larger than A4, or 8.27 by 11.69 inches.

My Recommendation

  • A large brush (either a squirrel mop or a 1 inch flat) for washes.
  • One or two medium round brushes (size 6 or 8)
  • One or two small round brushes (size 4 or 2)
  • A super tiny, pointy brush or a liner/rigger

That's it! Just 4 to 6 brushes. That's not a lot of brushes, is it? But that's all the brushes you really need, and most of the time those are all of the brushes that I ever use.

What to Look for in a Watercolor Brush?

So now you're all ready to go buy a brush. But how do you know which is a good one? Well, look for all of these features.

Signs of a Good Watercolor Brush

  • All of the parts of the brush fit together properly and snugly. No parts are loose or unstable.

  • The hair or fibers are soft and springy.

  • The brush is able to hold the amount of water that you want it to. If possible, get a store assistant to let you test this out with water.

  • If it is a natural hairbrush, the hair should be stiffened with gum arabic and covered with a plastic In order to protect it from damage before purchase.

  • The fibers of the brush should not be misshapen, frayed, split, or crooked. You can't fix that later.

  • Round brushes should come to a point.

  • The lacquer on the handle should not be chipped or peeling.

One more thing

Just another tip. I wouldn't buy a whole bunch of one type of brush at once. What if you don't like that brand? What if filberts are just not the shape for you?

When I got my first batch of "grown up" brushes, I picked one or two from different brands so that I could see which I liked best without spending a whole bunch of money on big sets of brushes.

Also, I like to look at the brushes in the store but order online. Lots of people like to bend and play with the brush fibers in the store, which ends up damaging them before they are ever purchased. I don't want to spend money on that!

So instead, I order the brushes online, and I normally get pristine ones from the warehouse that have never been tested by prying fingers. Win!

OK, so were almost at the end of this part of the series. All that's left is for you to learn how to take care of your brushes, which we'll talk about next time! See you then!

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Watercolor Marker

I'm not really sure what I was expecting when I bought this!

Something between a watercolor marker and a Copic marker? An alternative to the Tombow dual brush? Something to allow me to do watercolor lettering without lugging around paints and water?

Well, this pen is none of those. And that's not necessarily a bad thing!


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It’s a bit thicker than normal pens, so that can be a bit uncomfortable.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Medium
Tip Size Broad
Sharpness Medium
Ink flow Wet
Pigmentation Dark
Self Cleaning Unknown
Bleed No bleed
Watersolubility Watersoluable / Not Waterproof
Copic/Alcohol Marker Proof Yes
Smell No smell
Lightfastness Very Lightfast
Acidity Unknown
Toxicity Non-toxic
Color Availability 36 colors


  • Holy cow! This thing is pigmented. Just like the Faber Castell Pitt pens, these watercolor markers are actually formulated with pigments. However, instead of Indian ink, these markers use the same pigments that are used in watercolor paints. I really didn't expect the color to be so intensely pigmented, but they are wonderfully deep and rich. It is a very very wet pen.

  • In terms of handling, I would say that this is somewhat like the Tombow dual brush pen but a bit stiffer. It gives wonderfully thick downstrokes.

  • This is actually meant to be a watercolor marker, and the intense pigments definitely would result in beautiful hues for painting or sketching as well as calligraphy or hand lettering.

  • The colors blend out very easily with a bit of water.

  • You might not care about this if you're not into watercolors, but the fact that each brush is labeled just like a tube of water color would be makes it really easy for me to understand what is going on inside of the brush.

  • The color label is very accurate, so you don't have to second-guess what color will be coming out on the paper.


  • The nib is nice and flexible, but only to a certain point. It seems to stop somewhere halfway up the brush, which is kind of weird.

  • The tip of the brush is not very sharp, so upstrokes are not as thin as I would like.

  • Something about the brush seems a little squishy or unstable, so it's a bit harder to control than the Tombow dual brush pen.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Actually, this was very close to having five stars. I mean, high lightfastness, non-toxic, no odor, what’s there not to like?

However, I have a bit of difficulty managing this pen in comparison to the Tombow dual brush pen, so it gets knocked down one star.

Still, I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a highly pigmented, lightfast brush pen.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Where to Get It

Official Website

Water Colour Markers | Winsor & Newton


Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Watercolor 101: All About Synthetic Fiber Brushes

OK, today we're going to learn about synthetic brushes!

This is a post in my Watercolor 101 series. If you haven't read the other posts in the series, check them out here:

  1. Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes
  2. Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes

Synthetic Fiber Brushes

In the last post in this series, we learned about natural hair brushes. Synthetic brushes are basically the opposite of those. Instead of being a maid from the hair of animals, synthetic brushes are made from nylon or polyester (often called Taklon).

While less expensive natural hairbrushes are generally of lower quality, there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between the majority of synthetic fiber brushes, regardless of price. The big exemption here are faux brushes, which have been modified to act like natural fiber brushes and tend to be a bit more expensive.

However, since synthetic fiber brushes are cheaper overall, they may be a good option for the beginner because they are not as intimidating as far more expensive brushes.

Advantages of Synthetic Brushes

  • Most often, synthetic brushes are much cheaper than their natural hair counterparts.

  • Synthetic brushes are not the byproduct of fur or food industries, so there should be no animal cruelty concerns.

  • Can be used with other mediums without damage to the brush.

  • Synthetic fibers are less likely to be damaged by solvent, bugs or mold, or acrylic paint.

  • Many artists find synthetic brushes easier to clean than natural brushes. (I personally find Kolinsky brushes the easiest kind of brushes to clean.)

  • Less likely to be damaged by rough surfaces.

  • Keeps a point better than cheaper quality natural hair brushes.

  • Can be great for the artist who doesn't always take the best care of their tools.

Disadvantages of Synthetic Brushes

  • Do not last as long as natural hairbrushes, even with proper care.

  • The tip of round synthetic brushes tends to curl up after some use and needs to be replaced.

  • Synthetic brushes do not carry water as well as natural hair brushes.

  • Synthetic brushes generally do not distribute pigment as evenly as natural hairbrushes.

  • Synthetic brushes generally tend not to be as soft as natural hair brushes.


  • DaVinci Cosmotop Spin: These lists are probably starting to look like an advertisement for DaVinci, but it's not my fault that they make awesome brushes! these are probably my favorite out of all of the synthetic brushes that I have tried. They hold a lot of water and pigment for a synthetic and keep a sharp point.Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Brushes - BLICK art materials

  • Escoda Baracco and Perla: These are supposed to be very soft and great brushes for a watercolor painting. They are also very popular amongst many artists. However, personally I have not been impressed by them and find them too stiff for glazing or layering. Actually, they're kind of scratchy. I’m including these on the list because I know they seem very popular, so they might be the perfect brush for someone even though they aren't the brush for me. Escoda Perla Toray White Synthetic Short Handle - BLICK art materials | Escoda Artist Brushes - Products - Synthetic brushes-Perla

  • Simply Simmons: I picked up one of these so many years ago, and it's still going strong. I use it for mixing and painting with glass. The bristles are not soft, but the not scratchy either. And after all this time, they have not splayed at all even though I have abused it quite a bit. These are really great brush for a low price! Simply Simmons Synthetic Brushes - BLICK art materials

Faux Brushes

This is where synthetic fiber brushes shine. Recently there have been advances in technology that allow manufacturers to modify the polyester bristles that make up synthetic brushes. The bristles are cut, abraded, or treated with acid to create the same kind of cuticles as natural hair brushes.

While it doesn't seem that these faux brushes have completely caught up to natural hairbrushes yet, they are a fraction of the price and some of the better ones can be nearly as good.

Who could argue with that?


Mixed Brushes

Some manufacturers are also creating brushes that mix synthetic and natural hair. This creates a cheaper brush that purports to have all the best properties of both synthetic and natural hairbrushes.

The idea is great, but in practice many of these brushes don't live up to the hype. Definitely try these brushes out before buying a whole range of them.


  • Silver Black Velvet: This brush is a mixture of squirrel and synthetic fibers that many watercolor artists have been raving about. The combination is supposed to provide the absorbency of squirrel with the spring and point that is possible from synthetic fiber. Besides, the black just looks cool! Silver Brush Black Velvet Brushes - BLICK art materials | Silver Brush - Black Velvet

  • Da Vinci Cosmotop Mix B and F: The Da Vinci Mix F is a mixture of Kolinsky, ox tail, and Russian Fitch hairs with synthetic fibers. This is meant to make the brass has a sharp point, high water carrying capacity and superior stiffness. The Mix B is a mixture of Kolinsky, Russian blue squirrel, and the Russian Fitch hair with synthetic fiber. This is supposed to combine the pointing of Kolinsky's, though water capacity of squirrel, and the stiffness of Fitch and synthetic. To be honest, I was not impressed by these brushes and hardly ever use them now. They do not have very good points, and they also don't have the same kind of water carrying capability as my smaller squirrel quill. So painting with them is a bit frustrating. I got these brushes because they were an economical alternative to Kolinskys at high sizes, but I'll probably be replacing them eventually. Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix B Brushes - BLICK art materials| Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix F Brushes - BLICK art materials

Woo! That was a lot of information about synthetic brushes! I hope that helps you to understand the range of brushes available.

Next time, we’ll be looking at how to choose your brushes and take care of them. See you then!

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Art Supply Review: Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen

The Tombow Dual Brush Pen is one of those brush pens that you see all of the time if you follow calligraphers and hand lettering artists on Instagram. It also seems to be a big hit with many crafters.

So, I was pretty excited when I finally was able to buy one. Be calm and a ton of colors, and I have to say that they are worth all of the praise. The colors are gorgeous, and the brush has tons of flex. I think I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try brush lettering.


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It’s quite long. That seems to make it unwieldy for some, but it’s okay for me.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Medium
Tip Size Broad
Sharpness Medium
Ink flow Wet
Pigmentation Light
Waterproofness Not Waterproof
Lightfastness Not Lightfast
Acidity Acid Free
Color Availability 96 Colors!


The Tomboy Dual Brush ABT comes in a rainbow of colors! Since it is a water-based pen/marker, it has a lot of other abilities besides just putting down ink. You can blend colors with the Tombow and even do imitation watercolor patterns with it!

Not only that, but the squishy felt head gives you very smooth calligraphy, so it kind of erases your imperfections. Very nice.

Probably my favorite thing about this pen is how the colors fade out at the end of the downstroke. It gives this pretty gradient effect to your writing.

Oh, and since it is double-sided, it has another site which is not flexible, but you can use it for faux calligraphy or adding details to your lettering.


I haven't had this problem yet, but some people say that the tip doesn't last very long. apparently it's very easy for the felt tip to start fraying, making it unusable for lettering.

I wouldn't ever use this pen for something I was creating for a client since it is not lightfast, and would fade with time.

Also, since it is water-soluble, you couldn't use this underneath watercolors or any other water-based media.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

This is overall a great pen, and I can see myself buying a whole bunch of them in the future! I also think that this would be of very good beginner brush pen because it is easy to handle and makes very smooth calligraphy or hand lettering.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Price and Where to Find It

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes

Hey everyone, welcome back to my Watercolor 101 series!

This is my second post in the series, so if you haven't read the first one, go check it out here:Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes

So, in the last post I covered the difference between watercolor brushes and other brushes, gave you a rundown of brush anatomy, and gave a snapshot of different types of brush shapes. That probably sounds like a lot, but there's still more to learn, so let's get to it!

Brush Materials

Once you get past all the different shapes of brushes, brush materials are probably the biggest thing that can be bewildering when choosing a brush in an art shop. What do you get? A pack of cheap synthetics? That huge natural fiber brush that's sitting in a glass case?

Well, probably neither of those, but let's see what makes one different from the other.

Natural Hair Brushes

Natural hair brushes are just what they sound like. They are brushes that have natural hair for their bristles. Sounds simple enough, right?

These brushes are generally more expensive than synthetic brushes. On the highest end, we're talking hundreds of dollars, but there are also affordable natural brushes.

The big advantage of most natural brushes is that they hold more water than synthetic brushes. Just like the hair on your head, these brushes have little hooks in them (the cuticle) that allows them to hold water. That's kind of a big deal when you're working with a water-based medium.

Not only do natural brushes hold more water, they also release that water more evenly than synthetic brushes do. They also release pigment more evenly, so it's easier to get an even wash.

One thing to keep in mind with natural hair brushes is that the majority of them are probably byproducts of the meat and fur industries. So if you are against that, or do not use animal products in your life, then natural brushes are not for you. But don't despair! There are lots of other alternatives in synthetic brushes that are pretty cool.

Sable Brushes

If you look up watercolor brushes, you're probably going to hear a lot of people talking about sables. So what are they?

Sable brushes are not actually made from Sables. They are made from the hair of the Siberian weasel, which is native to much of the Asian continent. I guess it was easier to get people to spend a lot of money on something they considered a luxury item (Sable furs) than an animal that's often considered a pest (weasel).

Kolinsky Sable

So this is the top of the top. Kolinsky is most luxury watercolor brush you can buy, and also the most expensive.

So what's the big deal about these?

They hold water amazingly well. They retain their shape and are very flexible, and so are easy to control. Also, these brushes will give you the finest point out of anything available. If maintained well, Kolinsky brushes will last for a very long time.

When I tried these brushes for the first time, I felt like all was right with the world. I was very frustrated with the synthetic brushes I had, and was having a really difficult time building layers and glazing. As soon as I got some Kolinsky brushes, those problems melted away. It was like magic.

Another thing that I really liked about Kolinsky brushes that cannot necessarily be said for all natural brushes is that pigment releases from them super easily. All I have to do is push it in water to get my brush totally clean. So I feel like I'm wasting less pigment in the water and more of it is ending up on my paper.

This is also great at the end of a painting session, because I don't have to grind the hairs in soap in order to get the pigment off. Most of the pigment is normally already gone when I rinsed them in my painting water.

So, a big pro for lazy painters!

  • Holds water well
  • Soft
  • Fine point
  • Retains shape
  • Easy to clean
  • Expensive!! No, but like seriously. Over $50 for a brush? What is that? Do I look like I'm made out of money?
Best For
  • Artists who use many layers and glazing techniques in their paintings.

  • Artists who can afford it, or will save for these expensive brushes.

  • As I said before, too much!
  • Anywhere from $4 to several hundred dollars for a single brush.

  • I have heard that you get what you pay for, so it may not be worth it to get cheaper priced Kolinsky Sables.


Red Sable

But what if you don't want to have to eat Ramen for a month after buying your set of watercolor brushes? Well, you’re in luck!

Red Sables, or simply Sable brushes are made from any weasel with red hair. High quality sable brushes are a pretty good alternative to Kolinsky brushes at a much cheaper price. They have many of the same qualities as Kolinsky brushes and the biggest difference you're probably going to see is the fineness of the point.


So, these are not actually sable brushes but I'm going to include them here because it can be confusing. Sabeline brushes are actually brushes made from Oxford hair dyed to resemble Red Sable. So they don't have any of the same qualities as other sable brushes.


Now for something very different.

If I have my art supply history correct, squirrel hair brushes were originally used by porcelain painters in France for glazing. They were adopted for watercolor painting when an artist needed to buy some extra brushes and just used the ones that were available locally.

Recently, these brushes have become more popular for very loose and expressive watercolor painting styles.

The most sought after type of squirrel is the Gray Squirrel (Petit Gris, Taalayaoutky). These are small gray or black squirrels that are native to Russia, and the brushes made from their hair is very expensive. After that is the Brown Squirrel (Kazan), which is very similar, but has less snap to it.

Squirrel hair overall is very thin and fine. It holds a ton of water, probably more than any other type of brush. So squirrel hair mops are the best for quickly getting your paper full of water. Also, since they are so absorbent, you can use them to lift up water and pigment very easily.

The difference between squirrel and Kolinsky brushes is that Kolinsky brushes come to a point and retain their shape. Many people who use squirrel brushes for the first time don't like them because they are very soft and squishy.

They are definitely not for detailed work. I like using them for wetting down my paper, putting in initial washes, and for making quick sketches.


  • Absorbs a ton of water and pigment
  • Very soft
  • Good for looser painting styles


  • It can be difficult to get pigment to release from this brush

  • Not for detailed painting

Best for

  • People who paint with large washes of color and water

  • Artists looking to loosen up their painting style


  • Midrange to crazy expensive. The most coveted squirrel brushes are made by Isabel, who claim to have invented the squirrel quill style. Their brushes are still handmade and insanely expensive.

  • I have heard, but not cannot verify, that there is not a huge gap in quality between cheaper and more expensive squirrel brushes.



These brushes are not actually made from camel hair. They are just camel colored. Generally, Camel brushes are some kind of mixture of squirrel, goat, ox, or pony hair. You may come across these in children's art sets that have natural hair brushes.


The highest grade of ox fiber comes from behind the ears of auction. It has a strong body and silken texture. The fibers are very resilient, and have a good snap, but no pointy tip. This makes them pretty good for being either large wash brushes or flat brushes.


This is probably one of the cheapest natural hair and is mostly used for student grade brushes. Not a great material.


Sometimes manufacturers create brushes with a mixture of hairs in order to reduce price or optimize certain features. For example, one common mixture is squirrel hair and Kolinsky hair. This sort of brush would hold a lot of water, but still have more body and hold its shape better than a pure squirrel hair brush. However, it would not have the same sort of point as a pure Kolinsky brush.

OK, that's all for natural hair brushes! Check back next time for an overview of synthetic hair brushes.

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Creative Link Love - December 21, 2015
 creative link love

Hey guys! I just wanted to share some cool things that I’ve come across lately. I hope that you enjoy them and find some inspiration!

Calligraphy and Lettering

Calligraphy Tutorials

Gift Guides


Art Tutorials


Just Cool!

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Cotman Compact Set Watercolors
Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Cotman Compact Set Watercolors

Now, this was probably my very first set of watercolors ever. Yeah, I was really lucky and my parents spoiled me by splurging on student grade watercolor paints instead of Crayolas. I don’t even know how long I’ve had these paints, but it feels like forever.

Since Winsor and Newton is such a famous company, I think it’s fair to say that their Cotman line of paints is where many new watercolor artists begin. So, I thought it would be a good idea to start my series of reviews with this set.

Bear with me though, because it’s old and it looks like it!


This is a pocket-sized plastic box full of paint. It’s about 13 cm wide by 11 cm long, by 2 1/2 cm high when closed. When fully opened, it’s around 26 cm long, which is a lot of mixing space!

The plastic housing has a thumb hole, which makes it easy to hold when painting en plain air (that’s French for outside) or urban sketching. It has two palettes, one of which is detachable.

The Cotman Compact Set also has a little dish that you can use for holding water or painting mediums. The little distance on either side of the pallet or in the middle, where your thumb goes.

Oh, and it also comes with a totally cute Series 3 Cotman watercolor brush in size number 5! I’ve lost mine, so you’ll just have to imagine it.


The Cotman Compact Set comes with 14 halfpans:

  • Lemon Yellow Hue [1] (PY 175)[2]
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue (PY 97, PY 65)
  • Cadmium Red Hue (PR 149, PR 255)
  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue (PY 65, PR 265)
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue (PR 206)
  • Purple Lake [3] (PV 19)
  • Ultramarine (PB 29)
  • Cerulean Blue Hue (PB 15)
  • Viridian Hue (PG 7)
  • Sap Green (PY 139, PT 36, PR 101)
  • Yellow Ocher (PY 42)
  • Burnt Sienna (PR 101)
  • Burnt Umber (PBr 7, PY 42)
  • Chinese White (PW 5)


$23.10 on Amazon and $22.86 on Dick Blick.

Let’s Talk about Student Grade Versus Artist Grade Watercolor

Cotman is Winsor and Newton’s student grade line of paints. But what does that mean exactly?

Less Pigment, More Binder

Student grade paints generally have less pigment and more binder and artist grade paints. That means that the colors are often less intense or saturated than the exact same pigment in an artist great paint.

In addition to using more binder, student grade paints can also use lower quality binders, which make the painting process a bit more frustrating.

This can also make student grade pigments more chalky and dull. If you have pan or cake watercolor sets, like the Cotman Compact Set, student grade paints may be harder to re-wet and take more scrubbing to get pigment.

But They Are Cheaper, Yay!

Artist quality watercolors are pretty pricey. I have paid over $10 for a single tube of paint! That’s half the price of this entire 14 pan set!

The exact same compact set using Winsor and Newton’s artist grade watercolors costs $99.46 [4]. That’s almost $77 more expensive than the Cotman line set!

Because they are cheaper, student quality watercolors might be easier for watercolorists On a budget to start with. However, some artists recommend only using artist grade paints, and simply buying fewer of them in order to spend less money.

The Cotman Line

Let’s look at the Cotman line itself. There are 40 colors in all, which you can see in a color chart here. Winsor and Newton also provides a detailed list of all the paints with their properties here. I’ll be looking at each of those aspects below.

Fewer Single Pigment Paints

The majority of the paints in the Cotman line are not single pigment paints. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s much easier to mix bright, clear colors when you are using single pigment paints.

When too many pigments mixed together, the colors tend to be dull and brown. Using single pigment paints means that when you are mixing a red and yellow paint, you know that you are only mixing two paints. If you are using paints with multiple pigments, you could be mixing together three, four, or even eight pigments without even knowing it!

That’s a surefire way to get into trouble while mixing your colors.

Of course, if you don’t mix colors too much, then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Out of the 40 colors, 19 of them are single pigment paints. In the Cotman Compact Set, eight of the 14 pigments are single pigment paints.

Cheaper Paints

All but one of the paints in the Cotman line are considered Series 1 paints. What does that mean?

Manufacturers often label their pigment Series 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Series 1 paints are the cheapest, and Series 5 paints are the most expensive.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are worse pigments, just cheaper. For example, most earth colors (burnt umber, yellow ocher, you know, the brown ones) are really cheap because they are literally made out of dirt.

One positive aspect of this is that student grade paints, and these Cotman paints, are often less toxic than artist grade paints. Pigments like cadmium are more expensive and are not often used in student grade paints.

I personally don’t paint with toxic pigments, so I have to be careful when selecting my artist grade paints.

Lower Lightfastness

Only 18 out of the 40 Cotman colors are considered to have the highest lightfastness rating as assigned by ASTM international.

What does that mean?

Lightfastness is how likely the paint or pigment is to fade when exposed to sunlight. Most student grade paints have lower lightfastness then artist grade paint. That means if you hung a painting you made with paints that are not lightfast, it would probably fade over time and lose its vibrancy.

If you are just painting in a sketchbook, lightfastness probably doesn’t matter very much. That if you ever plan on selling your art or displaying it, you should probably pay attention to the lightfastness of your pigment.


And finally, a note on the packaging. The packaging for Windsor and Newton’s Cotman line is exactly the same as it is for the artist line. So be careful, because it’s really easy to get them mixed up!

Testing it out

So, how does this thing actually work out when you’re using it?

The Palette


The palette is made out of plastic, which has its good and bad points. It’s great because it’s light and durable. Also, plastic doesn’t rust.

It’s not so great because, especially in the beginning, plastic is not a really good material for mixing on. The paint kind of blobs together and makes it difficult to see what you’re doing properly.


The pans are basically normal half-size pans. The only problem here is that they come out really easily because they are loose in the palette.

Don’t be surprised if you open up your pallet and the pants are all over the place.


This palette is a very good size for traveling. It could be a little bit smaller, but the size allows you to have a ton of mixing area.

The Cotman set is comfortable to hold in your hand and it also lays on the table very easily.

Basically, the format is great!

The Paint

Color Selection

The color selection of the Cotman set is really good. You get a warm and cool of each color, which is basically what you need to mix a ton of colors properly. It also includes purple, which can be difficult for beginner watercolor painters to mix.

The one thing is that I’m not sure why there is a white included in the set. I can only guess that they are including it to cover up mistakes or something like that.


Here are my swatches of all of the paints that I actually had from the set. Before painting, I added a drop of water to each pan and let it sit for five minutes.

As you can see the colors are pretty bright and vibrant. I didn’t really have to scrub to get the pigment out, and the paint is not streaky at all.

The Sap Green is kind of weird though, because I’m used to it being a more dark, natural color instead of this light green that we get in the Cotman Compact Set.

The Burnt Umber it is also a bit problematic. It’s very gritty and leaves big chunks of paint in your swatch. No good.


The colors mix very easily. Here I mixed green, purple and orange. The colors are mixed were bright, vibrant, and clean.

No problems here!

Versus Artist Paints

To show you the difference between the Cotman colors and some artist grade paints, I used my own palette and picked colors I thought would be close to those in the Cotman set.

Can you see the difference?

By now, it’s probably pretty obvious to you that the artist grade watercolors are much brighter and more vivid than the Cotman watercolors.

However, that’s not saying that the Cotman colors are bad. You would just need a lot more of the same pigment to achieve the intensity you can get with artist grade watercolors.

Tomato Test
The top image is using Cotman colors, and the bottom image is using artist grade watercolors.

The top image is using Cotman colors, and the bottom image is using artist grade watercolors.

This is just a super quick wet in wet sketch of some tomatoes to see how the paints interact with one another.

As you can see the Cotman colors mixed together very well. The gradation between colors is very soft and nice. They were also very easy to control.

Below is the same thing done with artist colors.[5] The colors blended much more evenly, and were more active, but the effect is still very similar. Some people might not be able to tell the difference.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Inexpensive Lower grade paint
Less Toxic Less lightfast
Portable, great for sketching Fewer single pigment paints
Good color selection -
Easy to get nearly anywhere -
Reputable manufacturer -

Who is it for?

I would recommend this Cotman Compact Set to the beginning watercolor painter or artist on a budget.

Of course it’s better to get artist grade paints if you can afford it, but if you can’t this is a great pace to start. Some people might say that it’s better just to get three to six tubes or pans of artist quality watercolor. The price difference is not that huge then.

However, I think that it can be kind of frustrating for the beginning watercolorist to deal with such a limited palette. It’s a really great way to build up your mixing skills, but it might be frustrating to beginners who are not very good at mixing colors just yet.

This would probably also be a good set for crafters or anybody doing simple watercolor and projects that doesn’t require a lot of mixing or layering.

I would also recommend a set over the artist grade set for children because the artist grade set definitely includes toxic watercolors. Not exactly what you want when paint can end up on little fingers and faces.


Here are a couple of alternatives that I have seen around in a similar price and quality range.

  • Sakura Koi Watercolors 24 pan set, $19.50 (Review) I used these paints when I was a teenager and I loved them! Having said that, I wouldn’t use them now because there is no pigment information or lightfastness information available. If you are just sketching and you’re not worried about your pigment fading, this is wonderful bang for your buck.

  • Zig Kuretake Gansai Tambi 24 pans set, $19.53 (Review) The thing about these is that they are gorgeous! Brilliant colors. Superbright. The whole shebang. But they are not watercolors, at least not in the European sense. Gansai are traditional Japanese water-based paints that use hide glue as the binder. That’s not a bad thing, but it means that these paints behave differently than Western-style watercolors and might be confusing when you are just learning how to paint. They are also more opaque than Western-style watercolors.

  • Crayola Watercolors, 8 pan set, $1.48 (Review) Just don’t do it. Please. I know that price is really tempting, but it’s not worth it. And not just the Crayola brand, all the ones that are like this. Please just stay away. (To be fair, you can make beautiful things with these pains, but it is just so much extra work that it’s better just to pay to avoid the frustration if you can afford it at all.)

  • St. Petersburg / White Knights / Yarka, $57.84 (Review) First of all, I have to let you know that I’ve never actually tried these paints. The manufacturer describes these as artist grade paint, but some people consider them student grade. The problem is that apparently some of the colors are not as lightfast as they claim. However I have seen these the sets used by many professional watercolor artists, and they look gorgeous. They are a bit more expensive than the Cotman Compact Set, but cheaper than the Artist Grade Compact Set. So a nice middle ground.

The Last Word

  • Price: ★★★☆☆
  • Quality: ★★★☆☆
  • Overall: ★★★☆☆

They are pretty okay! Not the top-of-the-line, but definitely not the bottom. This is a solid choice for any beginning painter or painter on a budget.


Amazon, $23.10 // Dick Blick,$22.86 // Jackson’s Art, £15.19

Other Reviews

  1. When a paint name includes the word “Hue,” that means that the manufacturer is not using the pigment that is normally associated with this name, but a substitute that is generally cheaper and of lower quality.  ↩

  2. Those strange numbers and letters that you see in the parentheses are the pigment codes. If there is one, the paint is made out of one pigment. If there are more than one, the paint is made out of many pigments.
    These pigment codes are important because different manufacturers give their paints different names even when they are using the exact same materials to make their paint, and that can be really confusing!
    If you want to learn more about watercolor pigments, head to  ↩

  3. When a paint name includes the word “Lake,” it means that it is a paint made with dye or that are very transparent.  ↩

  4. I found the artist grade set on Amazon for a bit cheaper: $75.67  ↩

  5. I used much less pigment for this drawing.  ↩

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes

Hi! Welcome to the very first post in my watercolor 101 series.

In this series, I’m planning to explain a lot of things that could be confusing for people wanting to enter the awesome world of watercolor painting.

I know a lot of these topics were really confusing for me at first, so I hope that they can be helpful to you in your journey!

So, today we’re going to start with brushes!

What Are Watercolor Brushes?

You would think that a brush is a brush, but that's not quite true. There are a ton of different types of brushes, and it can be really confusing staring at walls of them in an art store.

So first of all, let’s make sure that you’re looking at the correct type of brushes to begin with.


Watercolor brushes are different from oil and acrylic brushes because they are shorter.

Why’s that?

It’s because oil and acrylic painters tend to work standing up on an easel, fairly far away from their canvas. So they need a long handle to paint easily.

On the other hand, watercolor painters tend to work fairly close to their paper, and often work horizontally. So a short handle is much more convenient for them.

Of course, you can technically use oil and acrylic brushes for watercolor painting, but it's probably not the best idea.


I’ll be talking more about materials at another time, but here's the important difference between the materials used for watercolor brushes and other types of brushes.

Watercolor brushes are generally made with softer materials. That's because painting with many layers requires a very gentle touch.

You will generally see watercolor brushes made out of things like soft synthetic materials (often called Toray) and natural sable or squirrel hair.

Oil paint brushes are made with things like hog hair and stiff synthetic materials. That's because the paint is really thick and just won't make it onto the canvas otherwise.

Don't use these! They'll just eat up your paper!

Parts of the Brush

Okay, now you're looking at watercolor brushes instead of oil or acrylic brushes. Let's take a closer look at how brushes are actually put together.


We'll start at the bottom because that's the easiest part.

This is the part that you'll hold in your hand. Most watercolor brushes have handles that are either made out of wood or plastic.

Nicer brushes tend to be lacquered and have ergonomic curves that bulge out where your fingers would hold them so that you don't need to grip tightly. They are also well balanced so that they are easy to hold in your hand. Cheaper ones tend to be straight, and have lacquer that easily chips or no lacquer at all.

The handle is also where you’ll probably find information like the size of the brush, the brand, the material, where it was made, and the model of the brush.


Well, there's a funny word.

The ferrule is in many ways the most important part of the brush. The bristles are obviously pretty important too, but everything falls apart (literally) without the ferrule.

So this is what connects the bristles to the handle. It's almost always a long piece of metal. In some special cases, this part might be made out of plastic or natural bird quills, but that's pretty uncommon.

A quick tip about the ferrule: make sure not to get any paint in there. That's a surefire way to ruin your brushes. The paint dries in the feral and then makes the bristles spread out, ruining the brush shape. Don't do it!


This is where the bristles of the brush enter into the ferrule.


On the bottom of the ferrule, is the crimp. This is the little indentation that you see on the metal, and it serves to secure the metal onto the wood of the brush.

When you’re buying a paintbrush, make sure that the crimp is well done. If it is not, Then your ferrule might just pop off of your paintbrush!

Now this is the exciting part, the head of your brush!

Regardless of what material it is made out of, or what shape it is, this part of the brush is called the head.

It has two important parts: the belly and the tip.


The belly of the brush is the widest part of its bristles. This is what will determine how much water and how much pigment it can carry.

A brush with a bigger belly will carry more water and more pigment than a brush with a smaller one. So, even though liner brushes are great for doing detail, because they are so thin they cannot carry very much water or pigment.


Some might consider this the most important part of the head of your brush. It is also the area where cheap brushes and higher quality brushes differ the most.

What you want here are for the bristles to taper to a very fine edge. In the case of round brushes, you want a super sharp tip that can make very tiny lines.

Poor quality brushes have tips that don't taper into a fine line, and make it difficult for you to control the shapes exactly the way that you want them to.

Brush Shapes

Now you know your way around the brush. You can tell your ferrule from your toe, and you won't get fooled by flimsy crimps. But you've probably noticed that even if all of the other parts of brushes are the same, there is a huge amount of variability in the brush head.

Let’s explore the different types of brushes.


I'm starting here because this is the most basic and important brush for watercolor painting. You can have a collection of just rounds, and you'll be able to paint anything. Seriously. Anything.

Rounds are called rounds because their ferrules are, well, round.

They are generally narrower at the heel and the tip, and fuller at the belly. A very good quality round will have such a sharp tip that you can make fairly thick and thin lines with the same brush. That's great because then you don't have to switch between brushes in the middle of a painting.

You can use rounds for making all kinds of lines and shapes. Some (including me) would consider them to be the most versatile of all the brushes.

I love my rounds.


This is probably the other most common type of brush.

They are called flats because their ferrules and bristles are flat.

Flats are really great for making straight lines, like when you are painting buildings or other architectural details. Large flats are also good for putting down big washes of water or color.

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really use these, since I mostly paint pretty organic subjects.


A bright is basically like a flat, except wider and shorter.

Why would you want a wider and shorter flat, you ask? It's because it gives you a bit more control and is generally a bit stiffer than a regular flat.

This is not a very common brush for watercolor painting, but it makes a great stiff scrubber to erase mistakes by lifting the pigment.


A filbert is kind of like the love child of a round brush and a flat brush. The ferrule is squished flat, just like a flat brush, but the tip is rounded, just like a round brush.

This is also a very versatile brush. It can be used to paint round objects as well as angular objects with ease. It just depends on how you hold the brush to make the stroke.

Pretty cool, right?

Cat Tongue

These are pretty uncommon, but I thought I'd mention them because they look pretty cool!

Cat tongues are basically filberts where the end comes to a sharp tip instead of a rounded arc. This means you can fill in large spaces, just like with a regular filbert, but you can also make tiny thin lines, like with a high quality round brush. Some people paint with only this brush.

Specialty Brushes

These brushes are for when you want something a little extra.

Specialty brushes are not really basic brushes, and are not really necessary. However, they can sometimes be really useful for a very specific effect. Also, they sometimes do their job much better than a regular brush would.


So if round brushes are called rounds because they are round, and flats are called flats because they are flat, an angled brush is called an angled brush because… it's angled!

These types of brushes are also good for architectural details. Angled brushes give you a bit more control in making lines, so it might be easier to make a straight line with one instead of a flat or a liner brush.

Swords and Daggers

These are my favorite types of angled brushes, but also fairly uncommon. They look kind of weird, just like a sword or dagger.

What’s the point of them?

You can use them to make straight lines with more control. They also hold more water and pigment than a liner brush, since they have a fuller belly. You can also use them to make more expressive, calligraphy lines because they are not as wide and thick as a flat brush.

The tiny tips can also be used to make fine lines like grass or even eyelashes very easily. Swords and daggers also make painting tree branches a breeze.

Can you tell that I like them just a little bit?


Another specialty brush that I love is the mop.

You might be looking at this and wondering what is the difference between a mop and a round? Not a ton. Mops just generally tend to have a bigger belly and don't have to have a sharp tip.

The point of the mop is to get a ton of water on your page quickly and efficiently, just like a mop.

A beginner probably doesn't need one, although it makes life a lot easier. You can just use a large brush for the same purpose. However, if you're like me and you hate dipping into your water glass over and over again just to went down a piece of paper, you will love a mop.

Quill Mops / Petit Gris

These are just mops that don't have regular metal ferrules, but instead have a quill connecting them to their handles.

This style of mop has become very popular for painting expressively, and I use them for very loose painting and sketches.

Plus, they are also just cool to look at.


Riggers, also called liners, are thin brushes with extremely long bristles.

These are definitely not for regular painting. They are used to make expressive lines, like when you're painting grass or trees.

Decorative painters often use them for super long, uniform, steady lines.

Be warned, because they’re so long, liners can be difficult to control at first. However, they are a useful tool if you often paint foliage, or other things requiring long thin lines.


You probably get the theme of why brushes have their names by now. So yeah, this brush is shaped like a fan.

This is the brush that confused me the most In the beginning. What in the world could that be for?

Fans could be considered "special effects" brushes. You don't really use them to put paint on the paper, but instead to move paint around once it's already been put down.

You can use them for painting a ton of grass at once. They can also be used to paint fur. Depending on how the brushes angled, the fan brush could even be used to paint certain types of trees.

Now You Know All about Brushes!

I hope that was helpful in understanding the basics about paintbrushes, particularly watercolor brushes.

Next time I will talk a bit more about the materials that brushes are made out of and what properties they have.

Do you have any other questions about watercolors or paintbrushes? Is there anything that you want explained in my watercolor 101 series? Let me know below!


Need a cheatsheet? I've got one for you below!

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop

Merry + Bright // Free Wallpaper for December 2015

It feels like the year went by in a flash! Just yesterday it was the beginning of November, wasn't it?

2015 is coming to a close and it's time to look back on the year and look forward to the next one. This has been the first year of my calligraphy training, and I'm so thankful for all the things I've been able to learn throughout it.

I hope that you are all enjoying these cold (or for some of you, not so cold) days ahead and having a very merry and bright December!

Download the Files Here

Instagram | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio | Shop