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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some helpful info for those newer to choosing brushes.
“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.”
Here’s a photo of the rounds for comparison. From left to right- 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 😉
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.
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