This post is mainly about a set of travel brushes that I recently purchased from Cheap Joe’s, an online art supply retailer in the US.  In keeping with what seems to be my MO, I threw some other supplies into the post. I don’t think people tire of looking at travel set-ups.  I love looking at other people’s stuff to generate ideas.  I hope this helps you to generate some ideas for your own travels- near and far.  I’ll preface this with saying that I don’t think that travel brushes are necessary.  It’s easy to pack up one’s regular use brushes and use those.  Although it can be nice to have a separate travel sized set that stays packed to just grab and go, especially if space is limited.

Cheap Joes American Journey and golden fleece Travel brushes and da vinci cosmotop spin travel brush

American Journey Interlocked Synthetic Brushes– Travel Set- $32.  American Journey is  a Cheap Joe’s brand.

So cute!

This five brush set includes: Travel Round sizes 4, 6 and 10, Travel Flat 1/2″ and Travel Rigger, size 2.

“Each brush features golden Toray nylon and each fiber is hand moulded to reflect the curve of natural hair and set deep into a seamless nickel ferrule attached to a gorgeous deep green colored 4” wooden handle.

Toray Nylon is tougher and more durable than regular nylon filaments to withstand the rigors of all types of water media. The interlocked hairs work like a reservoir to hold an abundance of water and color.

An interlocking process enables these American Journey Synthetic Brushes to hold their shape while allowing precise stroke control when painting. Toray Nylon is the finest quality synthetic fiber available for artists working with watercolors.”

I also tried a Golden Fleece Synthetic Travel Round– Size 10- $6.39- also a Cheap Joe’s brand. A 4 brush travel set of Golden Fleece is $19.19, but it was on backorder, so I just got the one (the set looks to be back in stock now). I’m not sure why I purchased another size 10, but it gives me something to compare.

I’m tossing out the plastic sleeve they came in.  The top right pic is to show size compared to regular short handle watercolor brushes.  Both the American Journey and Golden Fleece are also sold as full sized brushes.

This is what they have to say about the lighter handle color Golden Fleece brushes:

“Our best selling watercolor brush! Cheap Joe’s Golden Fleece are made from 100% Toray Nylon synthetic fiber. Toray Nylon is the finest quality synthetic fiber available for artists working with watercolors. They’re made using polyester filaments of different thickness, thus offering almost all the same properties of natural hair including colour retention, spring-back, strength and fine tips. Toray Nylon is tougher and more durable than regular nylon filaments to withstand the rigors of all types of watermedia. Features-Golden Toray nylon, seamless nickel ferrule and a traditional watercolor handle. “

Cheap Joes American Journey and golden fleece Travel brushes with sticky sticker

All of the brushes had white UPC stickers on them, and they didn’t peel off smoothly, I had to chip away at them with my fingernail and it took a while. This annoyed me and under my nail started bleeding.  I used Goo Gone to get the residual sticky off.  This kind of stuff doesn’t bother some people, I’m not one of those- I can’t stand to leave it on there.

The longest brush is the size 10 pointed round, and it is a smidge over 5.5 inches long.  The green handled American Journey seemed to hold a slight bit more water than the Golden Fleece. They are both made from the same Toray Nylon filament, which is manufactured by a Japanese company- a lot of synthetic brushes use Toray.  The American Journey brushes cost a little bit more. Both brushes have good snap and spring, and are more of a firm brush compared to natural fibers. Comparing both of the size 10 pointed rounds, the Golden Fleece comes to a noticeably finer point. The American Journey bristles are slightly softer and finer- I’m splitting hairs with this though, the difference seems minute.  I like the look of the Golden Fleece lighter handled brushes better- from the site photos I thought they had a peachy tinge, but they don’t.  The synthetic fibers in both are comparable in feel and performance to the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Travel Brushes.

The top right photo is a comparison of the size 6 American Journey and a size 6 Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin travel.  The American Journey is closer to the size 5 Da Vinci.  The look of the synthetic fiber color of the Golden Fleece and Da Vinci Cosmotop is very similar.

Above left is a comparison of the Golden Fleece and American Journey from Cheap Joe’s, two Da Vinci Comotop Spin travel brushes sizes 5 & 6, a Da Vinci Kolinsky size 2 travel brush, and a super short handled Da Vinci Kolinsky size 4 travel brush- found a synthetic version of it here.  Right photo is all three synthetic brush types. Click photos to enlarge.

I was a little disappointed in the consistent flow release across a page of Arches cold press watercolor paper.  But all the synthetics I’m showing here- including the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin acted the same way.  In my experience, that’s just most synthetic fibers in general.  These all feel pretty similar to each other.  For juicier washes I still want to bring along a squirrel, Kolinsky, or Raphael SoftAqua.

Cheap Joes American Journey and golden fleece Travel brushes and da vinci cosmotop spin travel brush

Comparison- Cosmotop Size 6, Golden Fleece Size 10, American Journey Size 10

A three brush travel set of Da Vinci Cosmotop spin with sizes 4, 6 & 10 is $82 on Amazon.  Cheap Joe’s five brush sets- around $20 for the Golden Fleece set of four (on the description it says 7 brushes- but I only count 4 from the wording & photo), and $32 for the American Journey set of five.  A size 10 Cosmotop Spin Travel Round is $46 on Dick Blick- for a synthetic- this is crazy to me. I paid just over $6 for the single size 10 Golden Fleece. I’m not sure about wherewithal between the two brands, because these are new. They feel sturdy and if taken proper care of, they should last.  They aren’t as fancy, and don’t have a nice case, but the Cheap Joe’s brushes are a comparable synthetic fiber, and a more economical purchase- actually a screaming deal compared to the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin.  I tried to find out if the Cosmotop Spin is also made with Toray Nylon- the Da Vinci site doesn’t say, but I bet it is.

After making a post on Instagram (@jessicaseacrest) with a Cheap Joe’s brush in the picture, a few people commented about their love of the brushes that they offer.

Da Vinci travel brushes will fit into smaller places like Altoid tins, medium sized metal palettes, and the like.  The top is protected in the handle, whereas these type from Cheap Joe’s aren’t, but they sell other travel bushes that insert into the caps.  The Cheap Joe’s travel brushes featured here, do not fit into a medium sized metal travel palette- like the Schminke and no name brands pictured above.

The Cheap Joe’s set fit perfectly into this MIjello Mission Gold Perfect Pan Set of 12.  A review of Mission Gold Watercolors can be found here.

Cheap Joes American Journey and golden fleece Travel brushes and da vinci cosmotop spin travel brush Mochi Things Better Together note pouch v3 watercolor travel setup, mission gold perfect pan watercolors

For educational purposes- How to Test Watercolor Brushes– from

This brings us to a little travel set-up.

This is a MochiThings Better Together Note Pouch v3– 5.3W x 8.9H x .8D inches- $31.  I love it, and it is totally overpriced.  After I bought it, I found some similar and much less expensive possible options on Amazon- see below.  I like this because it’s slim and neat and easy to slip into a tote bag.  It’s a little smaller than the size of a hardback book. I didn’t buy this with a travel set-up in mind, but it works for one.  It came with it’s own removable wire bound flip notebook. It would make a great daily carry.

Inside I was able to fit a pocket soft cover Stillman & Birn Alpha, a Whiskey Painters Palette, mechanical pencil, the travel brushes above, a Rafael SoftAqua, two Niji Water Brushes, three fountain pens, some sheets of hand torn watercolor paper, and a pocket notebook in the front slot.  That’s a lot and I could have fit more pens or brushes.  There is also a zipper compartment on the back that I didn’t put anything into- good spot for cards and cash.  An iPhone 6s Plus will fit into the inside, and into the front slip pocket.

Top right- I was able to fit the ArtBin Slim Line Magnetic Palette into it (I reviewed that last post), and a pocket Moleskine Watercolor Journal. This pretty much stretched it to capacity.  In either of these set-ups, the brushes aren’t securely in there, if I were to tip it forward, they would fall out.

Above, the plastic water bottles are Nalgene, the brush wipe is a cut off tube sock that can be worn around the wrist. The little earth tone palette is from Redwood and Willow Handmade Watercolors- reviewed here.  The travel brushes fit nicely into a little toiletry bag that I have.  Out of all of this stuff, my favorite travel carry thing to use is still an inexpensive 5″x 9″ Alvin plastic mesh zipper bag- shown top right, all the stuff listed above would definitely fit into it.

MochiThings is based out of Seattle and they have all kinds of interesting (and very cutesy) pouches and carryalls– but they are overpriced.  Some similar items are found on Amazon, I’ve linked to a couple below.

Passport/Document Wallet– (7.5″ L x .8″ W x 9″ H)- $21.  A pocket journal, like the ones mentioned above, will only fit into the one large inner side pocket on this one, not in the other smaller pockets.  Many cheaper options on Amazon.  For an art travel carry, look for one without card slots. This one is 9 x 6.7 x 1 inches for $14.  They both look almost identical and both say “What a Day” on the label, just the dimensions vary. I’ve ordered both of these from Amazon to compare and will return one.  If you are interested and want me to report back, let me know.

Check out what Guest Doodlewasher Annie Glacken did with this canvas bag from Harbor Freight!  I have one of these bags, it’s great, very roomy with lots of pockets- and inexpensive.

More reviews on other travel set-ups can be found under “Reviews” at the top of the page. To save you some searching- here is one on mental travel palettes, and here for a Grace Art converted travel carry, and here for Charlie’s travel palette. How to make your own palette out of various tins here.  A post on other brushes here.

Cheap Joes American Journey and golden fleece Travel brushes and da vinci cosmotop spin travel brush, daniel smith watercolors in sodalite genuine, rose of Ultramarine, autumn mystery
Daniel Smith- Sodalite Genuine, Rose of Ultramarine, Autumn Mystery

All previous review posts can be found under “Reviews” on the menu or click here.   Doodlewash has a Facebook group called World Watercolor Group.  Huge variety of folks from all over, and a wide variety of painting styles. We have a lot of fun over there, join in if you haven’t already!

Supply posts are every other Saturday. See you next time!

Happy painting!


Posted by:Jessica Seacrest

Hi I'm the Doodlewash Supply Blogger and offer biweekly reviews of various types of art supplies, watercolors, and helpful tips. I approach artistic expression with a light-hearted point of view. I love to see, and support others opening up to, and embracing their creative process with any medium or creative expression.

14 replies on “DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Cheap Joe’s Travel Brush Set, Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin, Travel Carry Set-up

  1. Thanks for another great review! I seem to spend more time using water colors in “mobile” environments than at home, so this information is really appreciated. And I am ALWAYS looking for pouches and bags to carry things efficiently. Even though I have several pouches in rotation right now, I’m giving some serious thought to the passport holder. (I get a lot of my pouches and bags from, which generally carries Japanese things, although they are in the US.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ellie…I love JetPens! I have a thing for Japanese art and stationary supplies. A note on the two passport holders I listed down in the bottom of the post- one was $14 and the other was $21. I can verify that they are exactly the same, just different color choices.


    1. I like it a lot! Was just about to sit down and decide what I’m putting into it. I bought it for pens and keeping a Field Notes type notebook in. It’s versatile!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another fun and information post. I love you doing all the research and we get all the benefits. You do a great job Jessica!
    Ps Escoda is my favorite travel brush but water brushes seem to get used more. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Teri. I always appreciate your kindness and encouragement. Yeah, even though I’m packing these CJ brushes, I’m bringing along 2 water brushes😉


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