The 9 Best Brushes For Miniature Painting Every Wargamer Needs
I've been painting miniatures for over thirty years now, and I've used a lot of different kinds of brushes. I've gone through a cheap synthetic phase, and I've gone through a fine-art sable phase, but I've landed on my favorite miniature painting brushes.
In this article we're going to talk about the nine best brushes for miniature painting that every wargamer needs.
Let's get some truths out there right now: first, for a big part of your miniature painting work, you don't need a Kalinsky sable brush. Yes, there are times when you want one, but a lot of the time--base coating, dry brushing, shading, etc--they don't add anything of value. Honestly, you can use much cheaper brushes.
At the same time, there are times when a cheap brush simply won't cut it. And this has more to do with lifespan of the brush than about the size. You can get a synthetic in any size and it will do the job just fine for the first few times you use it--but it won't last.
Consequently, there are some painters--some excellent, award-winning miniature painters--who use nothing but cheap synthetic miniature brushes and throw them away as soon as they lose their tip. If that's the case with you, you can choose any miniature brushes you like, but brand that we have always bought has been BOSOBO. They're really inexpensive (like, less than 20 cents per brush) and you can essentially treat them as one-use, disposable brushes.
But after trying out all the brands on the market, there is one brand of brushes that we find to be the absolute best miniature painting brushes. They are easy to find, relatively cheap to purchase, durable, and painting miniatures well. This brand is The Army Painter.
There are five Army Painter brushes that we recommend every miniature painter has on their hobby desk.
#1. The Army Painter: Regiment
We're jumping straight to the winner. The Regiment brush is hands-down the best brush we've used, when it comes to overall value. It is about a #1 size brush (Army Painter doesn't use traditional size numbers) with a large belly and excellent bristles (it has sable bristles), and it holds a great tip. This is absolutely a first pick--if we could only have one brush to paint all of our miniatures with, this would be it. The overall winner.
#2. The Army Painter: Character
Coming in a close second to the Regiment, the Character is an excellent brush for painting miniatures. Slightly smaller than the Regiment, at about a size 0, it also is very durable, holds a great tip, and will last a very long time if you treat it right.
#3. The Army Painter: Monster
The Monster is bigger, used mostly for base coating larger areas. It's about a size 3, but has all the qualities of the other Army Painter brushes that we've talked about. It's got a good belly that holds a lot of paint, it keeps its tip, it cleans well, and it just does everything that a great miniature paint brush ought to do.
#4: The Army Painter: Detail
The Detail brush is the smallest that you're ever going to need, and is about a 000 size brush. You'll mostly only ever want this for tiny highlights in eye lenses and that kind of thing. The Army Painter sells two brushes that are smaller than this one (The Insane Detail and the Psycho) but they're really unnecessarily small. At some point, a brush becomes so small that the paint doesn't build up in the belly of the brush and stays wet, but dries on the tip of the brush almost instantaneously--and that's what the Insane Detail and the Psycho do. While we do recommend that you get the full Army Painter Mega Brush set, which comes with those two brushes, we really don't think you need them.
#5: The Army Painter: Vehicle/Terrain
This is a synthetic that The Army Painter makes, and, as you can imagine from the name, it is bigger. On a brush like this you're not as concerned about things like how well it holds its tip, and honestly you could swap this one out with a cheaper synthetic, but this one will last longer than the BOSOBOs and cleans easier.
So those are the five Army Painter brushes that we recommend, and they will handle just about all your hobby needs. So what are the other four we mentioned? Drybrushes. Why do you need four sizes of drybrushes? Two are for models, one is for vehicles and monsters, and one is for terrain.
For drybrushes we absolutely recommend makeup brushes rather than specially-made miniature brushes. (The Army Painter Mega Brush Set comes with two drybrushes that are not nearly as good as a sturdy makeup brush.) We recommend this set of BESTOPE makeup brushes, not because they are anything special, but because the size variety in this particular set is the most useful.
The four drybrushes that every miniature painter should have are:
#6: The 1-1/4" makeup brush
This is your biggest drybrush that you'll want for terrain and for the biggest of models--dragons and monsters.
#7: The 1" makeup brush
This is the one that you'll want for your medium-to-large pieces--things like tank treads and scenic bases and giant wings.
#8: The 3/8" makeup brush
This is the workhorse of your drybrush set, the one that you'll turn to more often than any other drybrush.
#9: The 1/8" makeup brush
Finally, the brush that you'll use for any fine detail on models, like chainmail, cloth texture, fur, etc.
Bonus: The Citadel Outil Texture Spreader
This isn't exactly a brush, but it goes in the same mug on the desk, so we're including it here. Yes, the argument could be made that this is just a stick and that it could easily be replaced with a good popsicle stick or piece of plastic, but we've used both of those things and this Citadel texture spreader ("outil" is just he French word for "tool") is perfectly made for getting in around legs, feet and tails to put texture on bases. We never thought it was going to be as handy as it is, either, but we use it all the time.
Final Bonus: The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver
If you're paying money for decent brushes, then you ought to spend the extra eighty fifty to make sure they're always clean. This stuff is made for the end of a long painting session to wash out your brushes--to get out the stuff that the rinse water doesn't get and to condition the bristles. It's even good at cleaning out brushes that may have been left overnight and gotten a little crusty. It's not a miracle worker--it can't rescue every brush that's been mistreated--but it'll solve many problems and, if you use it regularly, you won't ever have problems that need solving.
WAIT! Is there one last bonus? Yes! We highly recommend the Citadel Water Pot. You can read the full review of that product here.
Are you ready to paint some miniatures today? Do you have the right brushes?