Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brushes - Raphael and W&N Series 7

Today I've got another hobby-related post, this time on brushes. The first key point on brushes is that if you haven't switched to a top quality brush yet, you need to do so NOW! Back when I was using GW brushes and other equally average brushes, I had no idea what a difference using better brushes would make. Now that I've switched, I can't imagine ever going back.

Basically, the benefits of a high-end brush are simple. They hold more paint, hold their point forever, and will last for years if you take care of them. Compare that to some of the cheaper brushes I've used, where the point has split after a couple of months, and it means that the more expensive cost of the good brushes is actually balanced out by the more frequent replacement needed for the cheaper brushes.

If you ask people for their pick as the best brush, you will likely get one of two answers: the Winsor & Newton Series 7, or the Raphael 8404. Now, I've been using W&N for the past 2 years (the same two brushes for the whole time), and recently picked up some of the Raphaels. Both are in a class of their own when compared to the brushes of other companies, but there are some subtle differences between the two.


In my experience, the Raphaels are ever so slightly easier to paint with. They have a larger tip than the W&N brushes, which allows the well to hold more paint, but the point of the brush is still the same size, and holds just as well. This larger well seems to let the paint flow more, and you don't need to top up the brush with paint from the palette as often.

Winsor & Newton Series 7

On the other hand, I've also found that this larger tip makes the brush hairs slightly more bendy, and as such they can take a bit of getting used to, as even the smallest amount of pressure will cause the tip to bend. The W&N hairs are slightly more rigid as a result of being shorter, so this isn't as apparent.

Series 7 Miniature, Series 7, and Raphael (all size 0)

What it comes down to really for me then is just the price. Whichever brand you can source cheaper is probably the one I'd recommend. In NZ, we're stuck with the problem of ridiculous shipping prices from most US stores, so it's always been a bit of a hassle to sort out. Obviously this will not be an issue for readers in the UK/US. When I got my W&N's, it was as part of a group order from to save on shipping. More recently I got my Raphaels from The shipping on these was very affordable, and the brushes worked out at NZ$20 each delivered.

I'd also like to note the excellent service at Secret Weapon Miniatures. My brushes arrived slightly bent in the middle, and I was sent out a replacement immediately, so got 4 for $40! They also have a very good page comparing Raphael to W&N, although they only sell Raphael.

In terms of brush size, I've had a 0 and a 1, and that's all I need for all my standard painting (plus something else for washes and basecoating). I wouldn't bother with any of the the smaller ones, as the points are already fine enough on the 0 and 1 for all detail work. On the same note, I would skip the W&N Series 7 Miniature range, as the tips are smaller than the normal Series 7 brushes, and hence don't hold much paint.

Hopefully that's been helpful to those who either aren't using a top-end brush (and you should start immediately), or those who have used one type but not the other. Like I said, I like the Raphael slightly more at the moment, but I would be more than happy to pick up whichever is cheaper when I'm looking to buy new brushes.


  1. Completely selling myself short when it comes to brushes I must admit (being more of a "Hrm, while I'm at Bunning's wonder if I need new paint brushes" type of guy). I take it these are very definitely specialty miniature painting brushes? And so you couldn't find them or their equivalent in a high end art store?

  2. To be honest, I've never looked in an art store for them. I just figured that they would be cheaper to buy overseas like almost everything else

  3. to answer your question. I organized the group buy on the W&N Series 7 brushes 2 years ago and it worked out to about 22$ NZ per brush (maybe a little less if people bought several brushes) The equivalent brushes from our friends at gordon harris were 40+$ NZD (depending on size)

    I've also bought some Raphael's brushes, though I've not had a good project to practice on so far. I find they are a lot more flexible but I'm really curious to see how I adapt to them.

    BTW for comparison, I painted over 3000 points of nids and eldar on 1 W&N brush. high quality brushes are fantastic.

  4. Prices must've gone up alot since I used to shop there then, Blaise, because I always bought my W&N7 brushes from Gordon Harris and they cost about $16 each...

  5. A very helpful post for a noob painter like me. Much appreciated.

  6. I went to buy some W&N brushes today only to be told they are not the same quality as they are no longer made in England.