Today I’m reviewing two of ZenArt’s brush sets, the 4-pc Art Nomad Pocket Travel Watercolor Brush Set and the 17-pc ZenART Verbena Brush Set for Acrylic, Gouache and Watercolor.
The two sets are the opposite of each other — one a small pocket-sized travel set for on the go watercolor, and the other a full-fledged set with nearly every brush you might need for watercolor, gouache and Acrylic. The one with small brushes meant for watercolor sketching, and the other with larger brushes for simple to complex paintings.
The one thing they have in common is quality.
As usual, I started out with a huge puddle of water and juicy paint. I used brushes from both sets, playing around to get a feel for what I could do with them. My mermaid ended looking a little unhappy, but that wasn’t how I was feeling at all! I was very pleased with both sets of brushes and ready to rock and roll.
ZenART Art Nomad 4-pc Retractable Brush Set
This pocket sized set comes in an eco-leather case, with a lid for the strap to slide through. The strap keeps the lid secure yet it’s easy to slide in and out.
The case is lined inside, and nicely stitched, for extra sturdiness.
The lid folds back, allowing the case to stand, for ease in sliding the brushes in and out. The collapsed brushes fit snugly in the case, but can be placed or removed with no problem.
This 4pc travel set includes:
One Filbert, Size 8.
One Flat, Size 6.
Like most retractable brushes, these break down into two piece. The bristled end slides into the cap for easy storage, or the brass cap end slides snugly into the cap to create a small brush for painting.
The brushes ARE small, and light, but nicely balanced. The beautiful dark wood adds enough weight to the metal cap and ferrule.
Because of the size, these brushes aren’t going to hold a tremendous amount of water. But that makes them good for quick sketches such as you might make in a journal or while on the go, where you want your work to dry quickly, and you may not have lots of water on hand.
The bristles are a synthetic Kolinsky sable hair. They’re a medium stiffness, with good spring and they keep their shape well. I’ve yet to find a synthetic flat that doesn’t splay as it gets dry, but it is pretty minimal with the flat and the filbert in this set.
There is a pamphlet that comes with the set showing some of the strokes possible with each kind of brush.
Of course, I had to try the brushes for myself! I love the variety of strokes you can get.
This 4 x 6 inch painting shows the amount of detail you can achieve using the size 1 round, and the larger sweeps of color with the flat, and lovely shapes with the oval.
You could use these brushes for almost any subject, and get complex details at a small size.
The ZenART Art Nomad 4-pc Retractable Brush Set is a lovely little travel set. Definitely an easy carry, small enough to slip into pocket, pouch, even a Pee-chee folder and flexible enough to create sweet little paintings.
ZenART 17-pc Verbena Brush Set for Acrylic, Gouache and Watercolor
I have to admit that I got a little nervous about reviewing this set. Fourteen brushes and three tools! They’re designed for acrylic, watercolor and gouache, but I’ll only be using them for watercolor here. That’s a lot to cover!
The set comes in a woven grass roll-up case, with a red ribbon tie. When it first arrives it has a lovely, sweet scent — with my allergies I was worried, but never had a problem with it. About two weeks later, the scent has entirely faded, so if you do have a problem, simply set it aside for a while.
There is a PVC plastic flap on the inside to help keep the brushes in their slots.
The 17-pc set includes fourteen synthetic artist brushes and three non-brush tools:
Mop #1/2″ & #1/4″ — for washes, blending, softening.
Slant Size #1″ — for washes, flat straight lines, large curved strokes.
Varnish Size #1.5″ — for washes, wide brush strokes, varnishing.
Round Size #4, #12, & #16 — for fine details, washes, filling in, thick to fine lines, spotting.
Flat Size #14 — for broad strokes, thin lines, a variety of marks. Useful for architectural details.
Angled Size #8 & #12 — for shading, tight corners, curved strokes and straight, thin lines.
Dagger Size #10 & #14 — for thin to wide in the same line, calligraphy, texture and long thin lines.
Feather Size #12 — for spaced lines and textural effects.
Fan Size #12 — for soft blending and textural effects.
Palette knife — for mixing paint, scraping white lines, textural effects. With acrylics or gouache, it can be used for impasto effects, building up thick paint. You might think one palette knife is as good as another, but the shape and stiffness can make a difference.
This one is a good shape for scratching narrow lines. You can impress a line into the surface of the paper before painting and they’ll be darker when you add paint. While not the triangular shape more commonly seen for mixing paint, it’s a good shape and size for mixing it in a half-pan, and has enough flex to mix it on a flat palette.
Two paint shapers — except for mixing paint, these can be used in much the same way as the palette knife with somewhat different results. These are also very good for applying masking fluid, giving a variety of line sizes and it’s easy to peel off the dried masking fluid afterward. No worry about ruining a brush.
These deep brown synthetic bristles are dense! Although, the brushes all have the same synthetic hair, the shape of the brush makes a difference. Some of the set are softer and more like squirrel, while others are stiffer and more like Kolinsky sable.
Where squirrel bristles loose shape as they dry out, all these brushes keep their shape. They have a beautiful spring, and are quite flexible.. There is very little splaying even when the brushes are almost dry. I think this is due to the thickness of the brushes. Despite the thickness, it’s possible to get wonderful thin lines with many of these brushes.
I find them a little more difficult to clean up. Spending more time cleaning out the paint is a good idea.
The brushes are short-handled, made from a beautiful birch wood and have a UV Coating that will prevent water damage. They aren’t too heavy, but feel a good weight in my small hand. The ferrules are made with rust-free nickel-plating.
As with the Art Nomad Travel brush set, the Verbena set comes with a pamphlet showing what you can do with the brushes.
And, of course, I did my own.
I was impressed with the flexibility of the brushes, and variety of marks I could achieve!
Note that with many of these brushes, I was able to twist the brush enough to draw a circle in one stroke.
Although, I didn’t do full circles above with the Slant and Varnish brush, it was for lack of room, not because the brushes were unable to do it.
I did a small 4 x 4 painting with each brush.
In the first example, I used the paint shapers to apply masking fluid for the white flowers, and scraped the small flowers to add texture, using the palette knife. I used the Mop brush to add the color.
The flat brush gives beautiful thin lines, and is easily twisted and curved.
The fan and feather brushes are not really meant to be used on their own for a complete painting, but they create wonderful textures, especially for foliage.
Where the angled brushes have short, stiff bristles, the dagger brushes are long and soft. They’re more like a squirrel brush while the angled are like a Kolinsky sable.
The round brushes are also stiffer, more like sable and make lovely shapes and washes.
For the Slant and Varnish brushes, I went to an 8 x 8 inch painting. Even at that, the strokes were wide enough that I had to keep things simple.
This one was done with the slant brush.
I hadn’t thought about trying these brushes with full circles at the time that I did this painting.
It took me a little practice, and I didn’t quite achieve full circles with my Varnish brush at first.
This painting was done with both the Slant and the Varnish. I loaded up different colors at each side of the brush and twirled it around. It was fun! I was having so much fun, I did several pages of circles, lol. It’s addicting.
Both of these brushes are so large that they won’t fit completely in either a half-pan or full-pan. If you want to load the entire brush, you’ll need to use another palette and mix your paint and water in an area where the brush will fit.
It’s important for brushes to hold a good amount of water and paint. You can get more even washes and cover larger areas without stopping to load more onto your brushes. But it isn’t just the amount the brush holds that is important. The release of that water and paint is also a factor. A brush that releases all the water at once leads to uneven paint dispersion, blossoms, and washed out areas.
I don’t think there is a synthetic yet with a release as even as a good animal bristle brush, but synthetics are getting much better in this regard. This set has a good release.
Overall, this is a comprehensive set. The variety of stiffness and softness from brush to brush allows for a wide variety of mark making and techniques.
Despite the number of brushes, the case rolls up to about the size of a pencil case. The set is surprisingly light. While not as easily tucked away as the Art Nomad set, you could still carry it in a medium-sized purse, pocket or bag. If you were going on vacation or intended to do some extended and serious plein air painting, this would be a great for the purpose.
Meanwhile, at home, this might well be the only set you’d need for all your painting!
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Links of Interest
I received the17-pc Verbena Brush set for water media and the 4-pc Art Nomad Retractable watercolour brushes, from ZenArt Supplies for the purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in