Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: Raphael 8404 Kolinsky Brushes

I've used a lot of different brushes over the 20 some years I've been painting these little metal and plastic soldiers. I started with that cheapo white handled brush that comes with Testors paint sets, moved up to value pack brushes and then to craft store art section brushes. But until earlier this year, I'd never bought a "high end" paint brush.

Well, after dealing with brush issues in the early part of this year and replacing them seemingly every month or so, I finally broke down and bought a set of Raphael 8404 Kolinsky brushes from Dick Blick's web store.

I've been using these brushes since mid-April, so I think now is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on them.

I picked up a 0, 1, and 2 and the first thing I noticed was the handle. It was thicker than the brushes I was used to, and at first it felt unwieldy and bulky, it just seemed massive. I've grown accustomed to it now though and the old brushes I used to use seem tiny and fragile, like I could snap them while painting.

The next thing I noticed was how smooth and soft the bristles felt and when I started painting they seemed to let the paint flow much better as well. The paint didn't seem to clump on the bristles and I was able to lay down smoother coats as well. It took some getting used to, as I'd been fighting the previous brushes forever and that seemed normal.

During the first few months, the go to brush for me was the 1. It was used for everything from base coats to fine details and washes. The 0 has seen some use, but the 2 was only used on larger surfaces and for blending. During that time, the 1 performed excellently.

Eventually though, I started noticing random bristles on the 1 beginning to fold in half and eventually breaking right off. I've never had this happen before, but the brush was at least 3 months old at that point and I thought maybe that had something to do with it.

I should point out, that I am very hard on my brushes. I paint on a nightly basis, sometimes for upwards of 4 hours plus. Usually they get rinsed in my paint water until the next day, and get a deep cleaning once a week, also I am a notorious brush licker (super bad habit, I know). So perhaps the amount of usage and other factors contributed to the bristle issue, it could be bad bristles too, I just don't know.

I do know that the 1 has lasted far longer than any brush I'd bought a Hobby Lobby's art supplies section, by leaps and bounds. When you consider that the Master's Touch brushes I had been using were getting replaced monthly, five months is exceptional. Even with it's bristle issues, the 1 is still a very good brush, but I've since switched to the 2 instead.

Switching to the 2 proved to be a boon to my painting. I didn't realize how much the larger brush helps with blending and having smooth layers. Also that brush holds a tip so well, that I've been able to paint eyes with it as well.

This surprised me, because for years I always believed that for small things you needed a small brush. But a small brush has issues with paint quantity in the bristles and sometimes they dry out faster. With the 2, I had enough paint to do entire areas without having to go back to the palette and refill. Or, paint multiple areas in one go. Its nice.

So, will these brushes magically turn you into an excellent competition winning painter?

While they are nice and will help improve your painting skills, I am a firm believer that no brush or brand of paint will instantly make you a master. So, no, but they will help you improve. I do know that, in the months since purchasing them, I feel they've helped improve my skills in blending and in laying down smooth thin coats. But like all things, practice is the key to improving.

That said, I do feel they are worth the investment. I paid somewhere around $48 for all three brushes. If I replaced my old brushes every other month, that's $36 a piece per year in new brushes. Where these have lasted nearly six months at approximately $16 a piece. Which means they've saved me a bunch of money in the long run.

So yes. I fully approve of these Raphael 8404 brushes.

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