DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Princeton Artist Brush Co.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Princeton Artist Brush Co. is based out of Princeton, New Jersey, USA and is one of our sponsors for World Watercolor Month. Check out all about World Watercolor Month festivities here– July is just around the corner!  Princeton has serious variety and sizes of brushes, it’s impressive.  In this review we are looking at five sets of brushes good for watercolor, and a couple others not in these sets that I threw in for good measure.  A bountiful bouquet of brushes today- New Jersey is “The Garden State.”

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

“Over 25 years ago, Howard Kaufman began a small brush business in the basement of his home in Princeton, New Jersey. Previously the president of one of the world’s largest art supply manufacturers, Howard had gained a vast knowledge of brush-making and an understanding of the needs and desires of artists. He believed that by focusing on innovation, value and the best service, he would always have an appreciative audience for his products. Enter Naohide Takamoto, third-generation of Japan’s revered Takamoto brush-making family. The two worked tirelessly to create the finest synthetic sable, beginning with Princeton’s flagship Series 4050. Howard Kaufman and his team have continued to innovate, inspire and set the industry standard in hair, handle technology and innovation, releasing Neptune, Catalyst™ Polytip and Velvetouch™ in the past few years.”

Princeton sent several types of synthetic paint brushes for review.  I’ve been a fan of their brushes for some time.  I use a 10/0 Select Series 3750 more than any other brush. Tapping, splattering, scrubbing, watercolor, ink, and acrylic- I’ve beat the heck out of it. It still works and has kept all its bristles.  I bought a second one as a replacement, but I continue on with the well used version, we have a relationship of sorts.  That’s it on the right in the photo.  The Select Series is very affordable, so much so that at one point I went to town trying out all different shapes.  These are a few Princeton brushes that I’ve purchased from my local art store, which carries a wide variety of Princeton brushes.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

I use a Princeton size 4 Siberia Series 7050 Kolinsky Sable pretty much exclusively for sumi ink sketching and painting- love this brush. That’s it in the photo above- black, second from the right.  It is capable of making super fine lines. It’s very pointy.  The hair thin trunks on the trees in this tiny sumi sketch were done with this brush.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit, sumi painting on kraft paper by jessica seacrest

Every brush I’ve used from this company has been a very well-made brush.

Brush pet peeve (BPP)- when there are stickers on the handles, and they don’t peel off clean and leave goo.  I am not down with BPP– I CAN’T leave the stickers on.  I will use Goo Gone to get them off if need be. The brushes that came in the packaged sets didn’t have any stickers and the stickers on the single brushes peel off clean.  Yay!  High five Princeton.

The other thing they do that I love- some of their flat wash and angled brushes come with a translucent handle with a chiseled end for scrapping.  The different colored handles are pretty, and to me, adds a zest to their lines.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Now on to the five sets of synthetic brushes they sent along for review. Brushes are sold in sets of four and singly.  Some of the shots below have more than four because they sent along some singles. Click the brush name links for pricing and sizes.  The pointy rounds all come to a fine point and hold their shape- comparison pic towards the end. Here is a link to their entire watercolor brush line. Okay- it’s super hard to photograph plastic without it glaring like mad. I wanted you to see the packages they came in.

Heritage Series 4050- Synthetic Sable made from golden taklon fibers. “Heritage was developed for Princeton by master Japanese brush-maker Naohide Takamoto, the “Tak” in “taklon.” These are the Princeton flagship series.  Stiffness rating is 3 out of 5, and they are also suitable for use with acrylic.  Large belly, fine point, spring, and great capacity.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

The sets below are “NextGen synthetics that perform like professional quality natural hair brushes.  They hold more color than traditional synthetics and are more durable and more affordable than most natural hair brushes.”

Elite Series 4850- Synthetic Kolinsky Sable.  They come to a fine point, hold a lot of water and pigment.  Lots of variety and sizes in this line and the handles are nice to the touch. “Each individual hair is pleated just like pure Kolinsky, not smooth like most synthetics.”  Not exactly like using the real thing, but for the price, darn nice brushes.  To put it in perspective, their size 12 Kolinsky is listed for around $126, and the size 12 Elite for around $23. I’m not a good enough painter to pay $126 for any brush- I’ll go with this version. Stiffness rating for these is 2 out of 5.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Neptune Series 4750 – faux squirrel.  These are beautiful brushes, with well-made wood tone handles.  The wire wraps on the quill variety are very well done, no sharp wire ends sticking out to snag the brush wipe.  They didn’t send a quill, but I have one. This isn’t my favorite kind of brush, but neither is real squirrel mop/quill- too floppy and sloppy for me.  They are very soft brushes that hold an incredible amount of water and pigment.  Works great for covering large areas, but not the brush you are looking for if you want a lot of spring/snap, or detailing.  The flat comes with a “sea glass” acrylic handle- really lovely.  I am always surprised how much water and pigment the little ¼” flat that I have holds.  The stiffness rating is a 1 out of 5.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

The following two series are good for mixed media use- meaning watercolor, acrylic, or oil.  Stiffness rating is 3 out of 5.

Velvetouch Series 3950 Luxury Synthetic- the handle feels velvety, comes to a super fine point with nice spring- “comprised of a multiple-filament, luxury synthetic blend for excellent color-holding capacity, precision tapering and resilient spring.”  They come in regular and long rounds. Below, two of them are long rounds- super pointy those.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Summit Series 6850- white synthetic hair.  I’ve always wanted to try a white hair brush like these.  Not for any reason other than I think they look neat. Tapered edge, fine point. “Paint directly on wood, slate, and other rough surfaces in addition to traditional substrates.”  These were developed to use with fluid acrylics, but work just as well for watercolor. I’m excited about these because I’m hoping to take this awesome looking Fluid Art online class with Mindful Art Studio using fluid acrylics.  Those blue handles are mesmerizing.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Some helpful info for those newer to choosing brushes.

Anatomy of a Brush


“In synthetics, two brushes can have the same hair color, but that may be where the similarities end. Inexpensive synthetic brushes often use a single diameter filament while better quality brushes are a blend of filament sizes. Multi-diameter filaments hold more color and are designed to simulate natural hair. Synthetics are often more durable and usually less expensive. The best synthetics and synthetic sable blends are indistinguishable in performance from many natural hair brushes.”

Rather than me rambling on and going into what kind of marks each shape of brush makes, click here for a printable PDF.  They also have a Tips & Techniques page that might be of interest.

Here’s a photo of the rounds for comparison. From left to right- Heritage, Elite, Neptune, Velvetouch, Summit.

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

I call this a KISS sample- had to get it done on my lunch hour. Simple little doodles to show brush marks and I did lettering and lines with the tips-  Heritage, Elite, Neptune, Velvetouch, Summit. As you can see- I’m not really good at lettering, but it gives you an idea. Perhaps you are thinking- if you had to pick one, which one would it be? It all boils down to personal preference and just because I like one over another, doesn’t mean it’s suitable for everyone’s preferences or style. If I had to pick, I would pick the Heritage Series for its fat belly and fine point, but that is splitting hairs because they truly are all nice and affordable brushes. The Neptune synthetic squirrel series is not as suitable for my style of painting because I use a lot of tiny marks and non traditional papers. That series might be suitable for many other folks.  Different brush stroke for different folks 😉

Princeton Artist Brush Co. watercolor brushes, heritage, elite, Neptune, velvetouch, summit

Other things that comes into play are color, feel, and scent.  This can often seem subconscious, or a more intuitive choice process. I like red and the handles on the Heritage Series are red, I also like the light blue of the Select Series.  I like the hard wood finish over the soft touch finish.  I didn’t like the way the Velvetouch smelled out of the packaging, although that wore off. Yeah, I smell my art supplies. I find the Neptune handles super appealing, and initially purchased a few because of that. Maybe these type of things aren’t a big deal, some people don’t care much about brushes, and some are connoisseurs, but it all rolls into our choice making- ‘gnothi seauton.’

If your local art store carries this brand, it’s definitely worth a trip to go and check them out- touch/feel/smell ’em. My small local art store carries so many varieties and shapes and sizes from Princeton that I became a little overwhelmed when I was first looking at them.  Now that you have an idea, it might not seem so overwhelming if your local spot carries a wide selection too.

I look at a lot of art supply sites to research and write these art supply posts.  I’d like to mention the clean, uncomplicated and user friendly design of the Princeton website.  It’s a great site with high quality pics of all the varieties of brushes. This kind of care, usability and attention to detail speaks to the quality company they are.

Supply reviews are shared with the intention of helping other creatives figure out what supplies might be right for them as they go along in their own creative journeys. Many other art supply and watercolor reviews can be found under “Reviews.” May you go forth with the full expression of your creative spirit- it matters and you matter!  Thank you for taking the time to read this review.  Because of the excitement and buzz about World Watercolor Month, there will be more reviews than usual in the coming weeks. Until next time- happy painting and sketching.

World Watercolor Group Logo Header by Doodlewash

Join us for World Watercolor Group!  It’s a group for everyone who enjoys watercolor. It is a very active group. There’s also the #WorldWatercolorGroup tag to use when sharing your work on social media.  More info in the link above, or click here.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
  1. Monique 6 years ago

    Thanks Jessica! I have been intrigued by these..Jenna Rainey(Monvoirco on IG) uses these..I have not found any here..but the next time we are in the US for a lonegr time..I will get one or two.
    Love the website..Pinned always thanks for your reviews.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Hi Monique! You’re welcome, glad the review was helpful for you 🙂

  2. Laura Hale 6 years ago

    Thank you, Jessica for another wonderful review. We really appreciate the time and energy you put into this. Your posts are always informative and fair, with the right amount of humor thrown in for good measure.

  3. Bekki 6 years ago

    I’ll have to pick up a pack of Heritage. I’m a “squirrel girl” and love both Neptunes and Silver Black Velvet, but sometimes a lady needs to make her point a little more firmly. I am a huge fan of synthetics in general, and really enjoyed this review!

  4. M. L. Kappa 6 years ago

    Also enjoyed this review as usual, Jessica, Thanks! 😍🌺

  5. Fredric 6 years ago

    Thank you for a lovely and timely review Jessica. I’m off to the art supply store today to see, feel, and now smell my way through the store.

  6. Sheila 6 years ago

    Thank you…a bunch! for this review. I look forward to all of your reviews. As Laura above said…your writing is informative, fair, and fun to read. Visited Cheap Joe’s home store in Boone, NC last week! Talk about art heaven! Left with a full bag…and an empty wallet! LOL Seeing all the brushes available was impressive and a bit overwhelming.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Oh wow Sheila! What a trip! And just in time for World Watercolor Month- yeehaa! 😉

  7. Joe Domeier 6 years ago

    I have to mention. Howard K. is one of the nicest and concerned humans on the planet. He listens to the concerns of artists and responds accordingly. He also understands the need to keep his brushes affordable! #princetonbrush

  8. ybromfield 6 years ago

    This was so helpful! I’m not very knowledgeable about brushes, so maybe time to invest in quality ones. Thank you!

  9. jaimiecampbell 6 years ago

    Jessica, another outstanding review. BPP had me rolling on the floor😂. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my paint brush neuroses. I don’t know where you find the time to write such extensive reviews, but I really appreciate the depth of info that you always provide. Thank you and happy painting!

  10. Cynthia Hintz 6 years ago

    I perked up when I saw your review because I am most interested in Princeton brushes. I use their watercolor and acrylic brushes and am very happy with them. I especially like the Heritage – it feels wonderful to paint with. My personal quest is to now find a way to prevent cracking and pealing; this is a problem with all brush companies, I tried fingernail polish but it didn’t work. oh well. But the Princeton brushes are built to last and I will definitely buy more.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      I’m glad this was helpful Cynthia. I’ve had a little bit of trouble with cracking, but only on the brushes I use to splatter with because I knock them on other brushes. Do you leave yours in the water a lot?

      • Cynthia Hintz 6 years ago

        No, but I do tend to put them in a jar with brush tip up. After your post I started Googling and came across an interesting article addressing this problem of cracking varnish on brushes. It points out that brushes left to dry in the “elevated” position allow water seepage through the ferrel and into the wood, which then expands the wood. The process of expansion and compression is what causes the cracking according to this artist. It makes sense. I’m going to try a different method and see if that helps. Especially since I just bought my first Kolinsky!

        • Author
          Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

          That totally makes sense. I leave mine flat on my brush wipe diaper until they dry, and then turn them up in the jar. It’s super dry where I live though, so it doesn’t take them long, but I leave them flat overnight. I saw a post one time where someone was using a fake leafy plant as a prop to stick their brushes tip down in to dry. Looked like it worked great. Ooo Kolinksy- score!

  11. Carol Hartmann 6 years ago

    Thanks for yet another in-depth, easy to follow review, Jessica. Great information!

  12. André Mangabeira 6 years ago

    Thank you for such informative review.

  13. Robin Edmundson 6 years ago

    Thanks so much for the review! I’m a big fan of the velvet touch long rounds for most of what I do in watercolor. Great brushes. I will note that after a lot of use, the tips curl. That’s useful for different kinds of marks, but means that I replace my brushes a couple of times a year. Luckily the prices are such that new brushes don’t break the bank.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Hi Robin, thanks for the info on the tips curling. I’ll let people know if they ask. Those ones are so pointy! So I can imagine that this would happen.

  14. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 6 years ago

    I love Princeton brushes – they always bounce back to a great shape, hold paint well, and lay down the stroke I intend. With you on the sticky labels – ugh! And I like when brush companies get innovative about handles as long as it’s not at the expense of bristle quality. I’m intrigued by the white hair brushes, especially as I use acrylics often. Thanks, Jessica – your reviews are always informative and fun.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 6 years ago

      Thanks Sharon 🙂 It’s nice to be around like minded folk (virtually).

  15. […] can’t really name any particular brand of brush. I used to love these Princeton Art Advantage brushes that I would always get at the $2 bin at the university bookstore in Oregon, […]

  16. Debra "Kate" Powell 6 years ago

    I’ve loved Princeton brushes but was utterly disappointed in the Neptune Quill: fat, fluffy, doesn’t hold any kind of “point”. It was more like a wash. Thankfully that day I also tried my favorite brushes, the da Vinci Cosmotops, and so had a happy outcome!

  17. Steve Kobb 6 years ago

    Terrific article, Jessica. I’m going to follow your articles from now on.

    It’s so great to know there are other crazy people around who love art supplies as much as I do!

  18. Mia Archambeault 5 years ago

    The Princeton Elite Round 6 is my most used brush but I am itching to try out the Velvet touch series after reading this review.

  19. Susan Cuss 5 years ago

    Thanks for this review Jessica! I’ve been thinking about some new brushes for a while, and this info will help me in my decision.

  20. Kyra Vicory 5 years ago

    I have the neptune brushes in smaller sizes. I need to get a bigger brush 8 or 10 with more snap like you said. I don’t like how soft these are.

  21. […] use Utrecht watercolor brushes (2,0,6, 1/2, 10, 12) , and  Princeton watercolor brushes (6,2,4,1/4, 2/0). I also use Angora watercolors and Canson XL watercolor […]

  22. Frank Napster 5 years ago

    Great article! very informative and this is awesome suggestions for artist paint brush.Thanks for the guideline. It’s very helpful.

  23. […] Arches Cold Press Paints: Daniel Smith Tube Watercolors Brushes: Princeton Artist Brush Co. – Heritage […]

  24. 4 years ago

    so helpful. thanks much.

  25. Vikki Hansen 3 years ago

    Thank you for reviewing the Princeton line. I noticed you mentioned the stiffness rating on a few of the lines, but not for the Velvetouch. Do you happen to know the stiffness rating for them? I prefer a stiffer brush and would like to stay with a Princeton brush.

  26. Jim Morrison 3 years ago

    For beginners purchasing brushes can be confusing for a number of reasons. Personal preferences differ. There are 100’s if not thousands of brushes available. It isn’t always clear that increased cost means increased quality. Sometimes I take old brushes that I consider “cheap” in the field and it turns out I’m very pleased with the results. So thanks for clearing up a few things. I think your reviews were a great service especially to new painters.

  27. Rich 2 years ago

    To get sticker goo off, or wax, or oil.. use Bestine Rubber Cement Thinner (no any other brand – they leave an oily residue!) . Bestine is really hexane. It evaporates very quickly, so put the top right back on the can. Best sticker goo remover ever.

    Been a graphic artist for 40 years, and we used it to clean drawing surfaces, pressure sensitive wax, mechanicals ( Flats for offset printers) permanent marker, and spray glue and sticker/tape glue residue every day. it doesn’t last long enough before evaporating to attack painted or plastic surfaces, and cuts glue instantly- but don’t soak it too long. It is magic.

  28. […] the brushes, my favorites are from Princeton Artist Brush. Series like Heritage, Velvetouch, Siberia are the best. It is a pleasure to work with such […]

  29. […] I don’t like when things are too symmetrical and find the prettiest pieces are slightly perfectly imperfect. Next I use some scrap watercolor paper to play with colors that I will choose for the piece. My favorite papers are cold press watercolor papers from Arches, Canson Heritage, and Strathmore. I love Daler-Rowney paints and my go-to watercolor brushes are Princeton Heritage brushes. […]

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