Brushes comparison : natural vs synthetic

This week i tacle a big controversy : natural brushes or synthetic brushes.

Lot’s of watercolor painters are natural (squirrel and sable mostly) brushes afficionados. And i have been influenced by this thinking too. And natural brushes are very very nice brushes to paint with, no doubt in that. But they have quite a big drawback : the price. So lots of companies are proposing now synthetic version of their brushes. And sometimes they aren’t much cheaper than natural ones…

natural brush vs synthetic
Top Escoda Aquario (natural), bottom Jackson’s Raven (synthetic)

My brushes are quite miscellaneous in shape, size and quality but i admit that the one i’m using the most are natural hair brushes. Essentially, they are very soft and can manage a lot of water. So i wanted to know if a synthetic brush could replace my very trusty but old (the point isn’t very pointy any more) Raphaël 803 brush. And for this trial i decided to put to the test the cheapest synthetic mop brush i could find. So i’ve chosen a Raven mop brush from Jackson’s Art Supplies because i have easy access to them here in Stockholm. With a price tag at 16€ for a 1,3 cm diameter, it’s unbeatable !

Of course there is differences, but nothing crazy ! So in the video i compare it to my most expensive brush i own, my Escoda Aquario and paint the same painting side by side with the two different brushes. In a nutshell, the synthetic brush is a bit less flexible and i have some small troubles to release water on the paper, but it’s a very good brush nonetheless ! And i’ll use it with great pleasure, mostly for plein-air or when i’m travelling because this brush is less fragile than a natural one (and cheaper to replace is something happen or if i lose it). It would have been nice to know about this brush four years ago when i started to paint !

Brushes comparison : natural vs synthetic in video

Supplies :
Brushes : Escoda Aquario nº18, Jackson’s Raven nº4.
Paper : Canson Héritage rough.
Colors : Indanthrene blue (Sennelier), Quinacridone gold (Daniel Smith), Rose madder lake (Sennelier), Burnt sienna (Schmincke).

And here you have the finished painting (click to enlarge) :

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