Most art supplies have remained relatively unchanged over the years and little innovation was introduced.
The water brush is a clear exception.
A water brush is a paint brush with water reservoir attached to it.
This allows you to use them wherever you go. Simply fill them with water and take them to your favorite painting spot.
Your backyard? No problem! Or maybe the park? Fine as Well!
The versatility of a paint brush with water reservoir work perfectly in combination with an en plein air easel.
What is a Water Brush?
Water brushes consist out of two components. On one side you have a brush tip similar to watercolor brushes. On the other side, you have a reservoir that holds water, similar to the ink cartridge of a fountain pen.
A small amount of water constantly flows from the reservoir to the tip. Simply squeezing the barrel will increase the water flow.
The main benefit of these water brushes is their portability; you will no longer need to bring a special water container with you anymore.
Additionally, since the water will flow through the tip, the water brush can clean itself through usage.
What to Look for in a Water Brush Pen?
Like any other type of art brush, water brushes also come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Keep the following things in mind when buying new water brushes.
Brush Size and Shape
Water brushes normally come as round brushes or flat brushes. The point brush releases less water at a time and therefore work better for detailed work. The round brush normally comes in fine, medium or large size. The flat brush is great for covering big areas at once and applying washes of color.
The length of the water brush is mainly decided by the length of the water reservoir. As a result, the longer water brushes can hold more water and need less refilling than the short brushes. On the other hand, the short brush can easily fit in a pencil case.
Refilling the Water Brush Reservoir
Some water brushes have a removable top. You can refill the water brush by removing this top and pouring in new water. Other brushes don’t have a removable top. In this case, you need to refill the brush through suction. Squeeze the reservoir, submerge the tip into water and slowly release the pressure on the reservoir.
Although the suction method is easier and faster, it is almost impossible to completely refill the water brush pen through suction alone.
How to Use a Water Brush?
You probably already guess that brush pencils are used in combination with watercolor paint. They work especially well with small pans of dry watercolor paint.
Pulling the water from the watercolor pans is easy. Place your brush with water reservoir on top of the pan and gently squeeze to release extra water. Mix the water with the ink and apply it on the paper when you are happy with the color.
Don’t forget to use special watercolor paint paper for the best result.
The main challenge with using water brushes is controlling the water flow. Releasing too much water at once will blotch your painting. Especially creating smooth gradients or wash requires a bit of practice.
If you want to change from one color to the other, you can simply paint on some scrap paper or towel. The water from the reservoir will slowly flush away the paint on the brush tip.
The clean water brush can also be used to blend or soften the edges of color already on the paper.
Other Uses of Water Brushes
Water brushes make a great combination with watercolor pencils as well. Use the watercolor pencil to apply some color to the paper. Then use the water brush to dissolve the colors in water and mix them on the page. Alternatively, you can use apply the water brush directly to the tip of the watercolor pencil.
Besides watercolor paint, many kinds of fountain pen inks also dissolve well with water. Use the water brush on an ink painting to create special effects that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise.
But you can do even more with your water brush.
— Li’lHands Arts&Craft (@LilHandsPH) 9 July 2017
You can Refill your Water Brushes with Ink Too!
Let’s start off by saying that there are many different kinds of water brush brands out there and they are all different.
That being said, many water brushes can be filled with not just water but certain kinds of ink as well.
For example, you can fill your water brush with your favorite fountain pen ink and draw beautiful letters. By squeezing at the right time and releasing some extra ink, you get the best between painting with watercolors and writing with a fountain pen.
Another possibility is using the Copic marker refill ink with your water brushes. Since the tip of the water brush is different from the Copic marker brush you can get different effects. Although the flow of Copic ink with certain water brushes might not be as smooth as the marker itself.
According to this post by JetPens, you can use fountain pen ink, drawing ink and Copic refill ink in your water brush. While acrylic ink, white/opaque ink, dip pen ink and glitter/metallic ink don’t work well or might even destroy your water brush completely.
In the end, it depends upon the water brush you are using and if you are willing to risk ruining your water brush. If you own a cheap water brush it might be worth giving it a try.
Our Brush Pen Reviews
Sakura Koi Water Brush Review
If you are new to using water brushes but already own watercolor paint, then the Sakura Koi Water Brush set is a great place to start.
This set will give you 3 differently sized round brushes; fine, medium and large.
You can choose if you want the long 9 ml variation or the smaller 4 ml sized water brush.
Whatever way you go, the flexible brush tip made out of nylon fiber is capable of producing fine lines and strokes, which makes it ideal for controlled blending, shading or adding highlights.
If you are a completely new to watercolors, you could start out with the Sakura Koi Watercolor Field Sketch Set. Depending on the set you choose, this set will give you 12 to 48 different colors AND a 9 ml refillable water brush.
Although this set seems pretty small, it comes with some neat features. It contains a detachable palette for easy blending of colors,
Although this set seems pretty small, it comes with some neat features. It contains a detachable palette for easy blending of colors, a placeholder for the water brush and a small sponge inside that you can use to clean the brush.
Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush Review
The Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush is another option that is popular amongst artists. They are originally made by Kuretake Japan but are commonly sold under different names as well.
They have a rather sharp point which is ideal for more precise control of the watercolors.
Kuretake water brushes are characterized by a small filter cap on the water reservoir that controls the water flow to the brush tip. However, if you want to refill it using from a running tap, it can be quite cumbersome to remove the cap.
Derwent Water Brush Review
As you probably know, Derwent is a famous brand for colored pencils and watercolor pencils. But they have pretty decent water brushes as well.
The Derwent Waterbrush 3 Pack will give you a small, medium and a chisel tip brush.
They are marked by a different number and color so you can easily grab the one you need.
A special leak-proof valve will control the flow of water from the reservoir to brush tip made out of synthetic nylon fibers.
Derwent also offers a special set for complete beginners to watercolors.
This set includes the 3 differently sized water brushes mentioned above AND comes with a 12 pack of watercolor pencils.
You can use the pencils to apply watercolor to the paper. Followed by using the water brush to dissolve the paint.
The result will be very similar to using regular watercolor paint and a brush, but the pencils and water brush are much more portable and easy to store.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the best watercolor paint?
- What is the best paper for watercolor painting?
- Which watercolor pencils work well together with water brushes?
- Which watercolor paint brushes combine well with water brushes?