Review: Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush

I've heard many good things about the Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolour brushes. On Dick Blick Art Materials, the brush was rated 4.8 out of 5 stars from over 200+ reviews. It's about time to replace some older brushes so I wanted to get one to see just how good it is.

So I bought a WN Series 7 size 7 from Jackson's Art (UK).


I paid US $75 equivalent including shipping which was quite comparable to brushes of similar sizes from other brands. Jackson's Art provide free shipping for brush purchases above £20.

US $75 is actually quite pricey for a brush. But if you take good care of the brush, it can last for a long time so it's still a good investment.


The brush came in a nice cardboard box.


This "finest quality kolinsky sable brush" was made in England.

Just to give you some basis for comparison, I'll be comparing the brushes with the Da Vinci Maestro, Escoda Reserva and Nevskaya Palitra kolinsky watercolour brushes that I've been using for years.


The WN Series 7 is a beautiful brush. It's a short handle brush with black glossy body.


With all my new brushes, I will always wash the brush thoroughly first to get rid of the coating that gels the brush hair together.

I noticed it was almost impossible to get this brush to taper to a point.


When the brush is in water, I could see the hair spread out untidily and there were a few strands of wavy hair.

Actually it doesn't matter how the brush looks in water as long as it performs well.


That's how the Da Vinci brush looks. Neat and tidy, and all the hair are kinda straight. Escoda and Nevskaya Palitra also looked similar.


The brush was not able to release water evenly no matter how I tried. The other brushes had no problem on this Fabriano 5 watercolour paper which by the way isn't that good.


The paint and water looked weird on the brush. It's like the brush hair is repelling the water. With the other brushes, the water would coat the hair evenly to make the hair look like huge water droplet.

This looks like a problem with the brush. I posted a few photos of the brushes online and some said the WN quality control has gone down. One suggested putting the hair in boiling water to make it straighter and apparently there's a Youtube video just on this. I tried that too with the hair in boiling water and it did not work.

So eventually I had to return the brush to Jackson's Art. Shipping cost was reimbursed and they shipped me a replacement quickly.


From left to right: Escoda, Da Vinci, Nevskaya Palitra, Winsor & Newton.

The replacement brush was better but definitely not as good compared to the other three brushes. Getting the WN Series 7 brush to taper to a point is challenging. The other three brushes could taper easily to a sharp point.

The WN Series 7 hair is also kinda soft which is not a problem but it doesn't have the same firm snapback that I've come to associate with kolinsky sable brushes. Maybe that's why it's difficult to get a sharp point on this brush.

Lastly, the paint and water still look weird on the brush but at least the performance now is much better.


These are strokes on the Fabriano Studio (25% cotton) watercolour paper.


It may look like the brush is unable to release water evenly but if you make a conscious effort with your technique, you can release water evenly.


Strokes on Fabriano 5 with other brushes. WN at bottom.


Strokes on Daler Rowney Aquafine student grade watercolour paper. It was able the the brush to release paint evenly but I wasn't able to get a sharp point as easily.


I didn't have much issues painting this quick sketch.


Main issue here is the difficulty in achieve a sharp point. So it's difficult to paint thin lines and details in tight areas. Strokes start and end thick, as if painting with a blunt brush. I guess you can shape the brush to a point but you actually have to manually do it rather than have the brush do it by itself.

When I leave the brush to dry, it dried with the hair all spread out, just like how it looked in water. To prevent that, you have to coat the hair with soap to shape it so that it dries to a point.

Conclusion

There could be quality control issues with Winsor & Newton.

The first brush I bought was horrible. The second brush was better but clearly not at the same quality as the other kolinsky brushes I have.

I won't be returning this brush to Jackson's Art anymore because there's no guarantee that the second replacement will perform better.

I used to think that brushes can't be bad when you use kolinsky hair to make them. Well, I was wrong.

So based on my limited 2-brush experience with the Winsor & Newton Series 7, this is not something I can recommend.

If you happen to be using WN Series 7 brushes, please share with me your experiences in the comments section below.

Availability

Just check out more reviews from these affiliate links to the product pages:
Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)

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4 Comments

All Kolinsky brushes can

All Kolinsky brushes can potentially have such problems as they are made from a very specific kind of soft natural hair. That is the reason why you have to test their point and their snap before you buy them.

You can do the test as follow: You have to soak them into water in order to remove the protective film from the bristles ( that is usually Gum Arabic) and when they are completely clean and soaked in the water, you either shake them on the air, like a thermometer or knock them lightly on the edge of the water container. If the brush is manufactured properly with high quality ( and not curly, or bent ) hair, then it will come to a straight and very sharp point.

The opposite will happen if the brush has any kind of manufacturing problem.

Keep in mind that all natural hair brushes don't look pointy when they are dried. They get pointy only when they are wet and only if they are made with the right kind of natural hair. As they are all hand made from hair that come from different animals the quality might not be consistent.

That is the reason why you should always test them and buy your Kolinskys at a store and not online.

As for W&N: I have read the recent years various complaints about the quality of its products and I have noticed my self that the quality of their watercolours is not as good as it used to be. They have probably changed the way they manufacture them and they are less pigmented and tend to shrink and dry rock hard
something that didn't happen previously.

If you interested to get some seriously pointy and high quality brushes check the Loew Cornell Ultra Rounds. These are synthetics of course but I'm not either way a fan of natural hair brushes ( for reasons that I will not discuss here). I'll review these brushes in my blog as they are currently my favourite brushes. Check them out and lets see if our opinions match!

The winsor and newton brushes

The winsor and newton brushes had such problem even before. It is therefore, not related to quality control issues, but much more on how they form the tuft of the hair and bundle them together. My guess is they are crimpled way too near the edge of the hairs, beyond the 2/3 so they exhibit the "spraying" of hairs, this is like if you bind a bundle of fibers, the strands will try to burst apart because of too much tension: and most of the brushes that i bought that exhibit such kind of behavior either have too much hairs on the bundle and they are short as well so the hairs wont taper. Kolinsky brights (which are flats that have shorter hairs out of the ferrule) exhibit the same thing. The review from jacksons' own blog by professional artist Juliet Losq has the same finding: Difficult to wick to a point:

https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2018/06/15/comparing-two-top-sable-wate....

Even the most visited website for watercolor reviews which are several years old have the same finding, which is from Bruce McEvoy and I quote:

"The tuft is also somewhat smaller for the size than other brands (33mm long and 26mm around at the ferrule, with a 9mm belly when wet), and the point has an unhappy tendency to split."

and here is the link:http://handprint.com/HP/WCL/brush3n.html

I don't think the amazon reviews for winsor and newton series 7 could be more accurate because of the number of reviews that gave it positive ratings. Sometimes the quality and property of a brush can vary from small to bigger sizes because the kolinsky hairs will be only as effective to a degree where the shape and the flexibility of the hairs can still be adequate for its size and sometimes it takes a great skill of an artist to fully discern tools that are on par with his/her skills as an artist.

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