Da Vinci's Casaneo series of watercolour brushes are synthetic brushes with sharp tips, good springiness and large water holding capacity. If that sounds like characteristics of a good Kolinsky sable brush, well, they are.
This is the brush that I bought recently from Straits Art, a local art store in Singapore. Mine's the size 2 wash brush.
There are different series for the Casaneo brushes, namely:
- Series 498: Wash brushes
- Series 5098: Mottler
- Series 5086: Set of brushes
- Series 5586: Round
- Series 5898: Flat
- Series 898: Oval, pointed (Cat's tongue)
The brushes above are available in different sizes. They are all short handles. There's no pocket brush format.
This Casaneo series 498 wash brush I have looks very similar to a typical squirrel brush. The hair is bound and tied with metal wires to the wooden brush handle.
Wash brushes use different size numbering system compared to other types of brushes, and different companies also use different size numbering systems too. This size 2 wash brush that I have is quite similar in size to a size 8 to 10 from an Escoda. In other words, there's a lot of hair. This brush is good for painting A5, A4 up to 9 by 12 inches of watercolour paper. Actually A5 is kinda small for this brush but because of the sharp tip, you can still use it on such small paper.
Shown above are the Casaneo wash brush, ColorPro squirrel brush and the Escoda Ultimo synthetic squirrel.
Shown above are the Casaneo, Rosemary sable pocket brush, and Da Vinci Maestro pocket brush
The Casaneo wash brush has fantastic water holding capacity. In terms of water capacity, it does not seem to be different compared to real squirrel brushes. The water also releases easily and consistently. Painting large even washes is easy with the Casaneo.
The hair from real squirrel brushes are usually soft. When loaded with water, sometimes they just flop around, much like a mop (maybe that's why they are also called mop brushes). Real squirrel brush hair cannot go back to their original shape after each stroke because the hair is too soft.
This is where the Casaneo synthetic squirrel hair differs from real squirrel hair. Casaneo hair has terrific springiness. When I run the brush tip against my cup to remove excess water, I was surprised that the Casaneo snapped back to a point, a tapered point might I add.
On the left are strokes painted with the Casaneo. The right is with a sable brush. You could paint these strokes with a real squirrel brush, but you would have to adjust the brush after each stroke because the hair does not go back to its original shape. With the Casaneo, you can paint as if you're using a sable brush.
I've seen and used synthetic brushes that claim to perform like sable brushes but I've never been impressed. There are usually limitations. Synthetic brushes just do not have the same snap back compared to a real sable brush. And synthetic brush points are usually not as sharp or tapered compared to sable brushes. So when I saw that the Casaneo was able to snap back to its original shape, and remembered that it's a synthetic brush, I was pleasantly shocked.
You know how some artists like to flick their brush to get rid of excess water? With a real squirrel brush, the hair would lose its shape and sway to one side. With the Casaneo, after flicking it, it goes back to a nice shape with a tapered point? Oh my goodness.
If you have been looking for a sable brush alternative, look no more, get the Da Vinci Casaneo. It is really that good. It has none of the compromises or limitations of synthetic brushes.
This is a great brush for people who are against animal cruelty, or those who follow a vegan lifestyle.
The pricing is also very competitive. Since the hair is synthetic, it's cheaper than sable brushes.
5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
Jackson's Art has free global shipping for £20 worth of brush purchases.