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Review: Real vs Synthetic vs Mixed Squirrel Brushes

Someone on Youtube was asking me about squirrel brushes so I made a video about it.

It just so happens that I have three different types of squirrel watercolour brushes: the real, fake (synthetic really) and mixed.

The brush with real squirrel hair is the Colorpro series 2803, a Japanese brand. Colorpro is difficult to find outside of Japan. Searching for their brushes online is also difficult. This brush that I have was a gift from Straits Art, an art supplies store in Singapore.

The brush with synthetic hair is the Escoda Ultimo. It was from the Fabio Cembranelli set of three brushes.

The last brush with the mixed hair is the Da Vinci Series 5530 Cosmotop Mix B. It has a mixture of Kolinsky Red Sable, Russian Blue Squirrel, and Russian Fitch (Black Sable), along with small amounts of synthetic hair.

These is how the three look like when wet. From top to bottom: ColorPro, Escoda and Da Vinci.

Squirrel brushes are noted for their ability to hold a lot of water. They are also known as mop brushes. These brushes are commonly used for painting large areas because they have the water capacity and large brush sizes to do so.

With so much hair, you should take care wash the brushes thoroughly because paint may stay deep within the brush without you knowing. And it may affect your next colour mixture.

Extra care also has to be taken to dry the brushes properly because so much hair will take a longer time to dry compared to smaller brushes.

As usual, manufacturers like to use different numbering standards for sizes. Both these brushes are similar in size but different in number.

Squirrel brush hair are usually tied like this. So this is one quick way to identify a squirrel brush. Even the Isabey squirrel brush that was featured before on my blog was tied like that.

Even though the Da Vinci brush looked a bit larger, it actually carried the same amount of water compared to the two smaller brushes.

Some squirrel brushes have sharp tips but they aren't as springy compared to sable brushes and cannot snap back to its shape. After it application, the brush hair will appear distorted, until you use it to pick up paint again. In a way, it works like a mop.

Here, I'm testing for their water releasing capability and these are all quite similar. It deposits more water and paint when you press down harder.

Video review


I did not notice much difference in terms of performance between the real, fake and mixed squirrel watercolour brushes. Maybe perhaps the Da Vinci brush is a bit stiffer because of all the other types of hairs included. The real and synthetic squirrel hair are very soft, like cosmetic brush-type of soft.

As for pricing, there are more affordable ones as well as expensive ones. ColorPro is quite worth the money for the price. Escoda Ultimo is a good performer that's mid-range in price. As for the Da Vinci, well, you got to research for the pricing yourself. Anyway, there are a lot of different squirrel brush manufacturer.

And then there's the pricey Escoda Aquario squirrel brushes.

Some links above are to Dick Blick Art Materials (US), you can also check Jackson's Art (UK) for these brushes. You get free shipping for £20 brush purchases, and they have a huge variety of brushes, including many brands I've not heard before.