Brushes (All Media)

This is not an obligatory purchase. The AAHP supplies all brushes, for all media, in all courses, regardless of whether you choose Material Option A or Material Option B, for in-house use only. We have posted this brush list because it is a popular request.

Artist’s brushes are very fine instruments, There are two, key facts about artist’s brushes you must keep in mind before purchasing yours. First, anything less than an excellent artist’s brush is a waste of money, and it will seriously hurt your learning and production, much as a poor piano would impede you from learning music. The second, key fact is that excellent brushes are expensive, as they are made by hand to very high standards, using high-quality, and sometimes controlled and rare, materials, such as Kolinski hair.

The purchase of an excellent brush is a true investment, as said brush will outlive you if you care for it well. Many practitioners feel great pride, and feel honored, upon inheriting fine brushes from relatives who leave them to the next generation as heirloom prizes. I suggest you build your brush collection slowly, and carefully. Brushes for oils, acrylics, watercolors and inks can be very different from each other, and you will need a basic set for each practice.

The Academy invites you to use our large array of fine, well-kept brushes rather than purchase brushes straightaway. In-studio practice at the Academy will allow you to become familiar with different brush types and brands, and will teach you to maintain them as well. Slowly but surely you’ll learn what you need to build a gorgeous and useful brush collection. Dos’ and Don’ts when Acquiring Artists’ Brushes.


  • DO NOT purchase or acquire brushes labeled as “student-grade” or “economy pack” or “starter kit” and similar phrasing.
  • DO NOT purchase or acquire brushes sold by the bundle.
  • DO NOT purchase or acquire used brushes that are caked with paint, stiff, or otherwise weak.


  • DO purchase or acquire brushes made for professional practice.
  • DO purchase or acquire brushes that you can test yourself, or, if purchased online, that you can return if damaged.
  • DO learn to maintain, repair, condition and properly use your artist’s brushes.

In-Store Test

Tell the store represented that you wish to test the brush. Gently wiggle the ferrule and make sure it is not loose or wobbly. Gently tug the hairs and make sure they don’t pull off. Holding the brush loosely, tap the hairs down with the index finger of your free hand and make sure the hairs spring back to the original, normal position and shape. The hairs should bounce back with a nice, little snappy movement. Please do not purchase anything without this famous “snap” (do note that very long riggers may not have such a snap). Better retailers will even provide you with a bit of water to wet the hairs and ensure that they do not split awkwardly when wet. Ask, maybe they’ll let you wet-test the brush! Synthetic or Natural-Hair Brushes Most top brands make both synthetic and natural-hair brushed. The Academy’s bias is for high-quality, synthetic brushes made from soft Nylon, but you are welcomed to use natural-hair brushes if you so prefer. Note that poor, low-quality brushes can be made with either synthetic and natural hairs just as well.


Brush sizes are indicated by a number on the barrel. Traditionally, the smaller the number, the smaller the brush. However, some newer brands have actually reversed the convention!


The shape of a brush defines its singular function. Shapes, in turn, are defined by the metal ferrule or metal band that help attach the hairs to the wooden handle.


Most top brands make brushes along model lines, called “series.” They may keep a certain series or phase it out across the years. Series allow them to make brushes tiered from low quality to top professional grades. Again, avoid low-quality brushes at all costs.

  • warning Affordable Brands
  • warning Winsor and Newton (University series or Cotman series)
  • warning Utrecht
  • warning Princeton Art & Brush Co (made in India, not down the road!)
  • warning ArtTec (actually managed to design an excellent, viable, multi-purpose brush for water-based media!).
  • warning Robert Simmons
  • warning Bob Ross Paintbrushes: The Academy does not subscribe to, or recommend, this charismatic man’s approach to painting, but his name secured him an amazing line of brushes and art materials! RIP Bob Ross).

Brushes According To Media

Watercolor Brushes

It is best to purchase brushes in person so that you can see, touch, and test them. Online suppliers, however, are getting good at presenting you with photos and descriptions and return policies. Meanwhile, be sure you purchase brushes specifically made for watercolors. Traditionally, these are short-handled. However, several brands have been producing longer-handled brushes that can be used for all water-based media, such as inks, watercolors, and acrylics.

  • One large flat wash. Purchase one that measures 1.5 inches wide at the ferrule. The fine synthetics range from $15-$20.
  • One bright. A bright is square and short. Purchase one with a ferrule about ¼ in. wide.
  • One pointed round. Purchase one that is about ¼ inch wide at the ferrule.
  • One filbert. Purchase one about ¾ in. wide at the ferrule.
  • One fan. The ferrule is small and not helpful here. Purchase one that is at least an inch wide at the top of the fanning hairs.
  • One rigger. Also known as liner. Though tiny at the ferrule, find one that is at least an inch long at the hairs.
  • One rubber-tipped brush for applying masking fluid, glues, etc. Try one about 1/4in at the ferrule. The Academy used the popular brand is Royal Sovereign Ltd., UK.

Ink Brushes

You may purchase the watercolors brushes listed above at the Academy. Traditionally, Asian practice relies on straight-barreled, non-ferrule, wooden brushes sporting goat hair. These tend to vary only in size in the fanciness of the barrel. We also make these available to our students.

Acrylic Brushes

Brands such as ArtTec make brushes that can be used for watercolors/acrylics, or acrylics/oils. Check the labeling. We suggest soft, top-quality Nylon brushes.

Oil Painting Brushes

The following list is biased towards the smaller oil painting we produce in order to explore many techniques and processes across shorter periods of time (please refer to our brush diagram). Seek the same brands as noted above for other types of brushes, though by all means purchase even higher quality brushes if possible, such as those by Isabey. Oil brushes are long-handled, and traditionally made of hog hair. Top quality synthetics are fine. Avoid brushes made with crude, straw-like fibers and all other junk brushes.

  • One flat, about 1-inch at the ferrule.
  • One filbert, about ¼ in. at the ferrule.
  • One detail brush (tiny ferrule)
  • One fan, about one-inch at the fan’s spread at the top edge of the fan.
  • One pointed round, about ¼ at the ferrule.
  • One blender, about ¼ at the ferrule.
  • At least two palette or painting knives, diverse sizes and shapes.

warning We cannot store your materials and gear in-house. If you choose to purchase your own sets, please bring the to class, and take them back home with you each time.

warning All students carry the same materials, please label yours! Check our Lost-n-Found bin regularly. Thank You!