My Brush Crisis


I don’t know what kind of brushes you use, but I am a Kolinsky sable person.  I have been for probably the last decade.  My preferred brush is from Dick Blick Art Supplies, the size 0 Master Kolinsy Sable brush with the short red handle. The size 0 is perfect because of its durability and because it holds a nice amount of paint.  Not a go to for everything brush, but for most figures it’s a brush I can use for coverage and detail. I can usually paint a year’s worth of miniatures–let’s say several hundred–with a single brush.


It’s all this varmint’s fault.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife put the kibosh on the importation of Kolinsky sable hairs from Russia.  The brush hairs come from tails of the Siberian weasel.  It’s a critter that isn’t grown in captivity and has to be trapped in the wild.  Though the critter is desirable for a variety of uses, and grabbing the tail hairs is a byproduct of its uses, the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife temporarily banned the importation of these hairs from 2014-15.

Entire classes of artist brushes simply dried up: Windsor and Newton, Escoda, and Blick were simply unable to get supply for brushes.  Those that were available became terribly expensive.

The limit on importation has changed from a ban to restriction.  That has contributed to a very spendy market.  But most importantly it has also changed my beloved brushes. The Blick Master Kolinsky has gone from a brush length of about about 8mm  to about 5mm. Still has a nice tip, but simply not suitable for covering much of anything.

During the crisis I’ve tried a number of things.  Most involve synthetics, and I’ve hated almost all of them. The don’t stay straight for long.  The only brushes worth a damn have been some of the Army Painter sets, but still not quite satisfactory.

I may have a substitute I can live with.  Blick sells the Princeton Siberian Kolinsky Sable.  I’ve been using one of these for about the last four months, a size 0, and it has served quite well. It’s tip is advertised at about 7.9mm.  Not quite as durable as my old Blicks, but not too bad.  At the current sale price of $6.17 on the Blick website, not a bad deal.  My chief criticism is they are long handled brushes–which can be easily altered to short handles–or I’ll poke myself in the eye.

You just can’t paint much without good brushes.


3 comments on “My Brush Crisis

  1. I’ve used the Windsor & Newton University Series synthetics for years: 000, 00, and 0. I’ve incorporated the curl into my brush technique. In fact, using a new brush is difficult because it hasn’t curled yet.

  2. kgsmyth55 says:

    I think we all figure out how to get comfortable with our gear. I just know I need my straight brushes. Besides, as I become more and more blind, I need to know where I think that point is supposed to be—no guessing.

  3. Greg says:


    You could give RoseMary & Co. brushes a try:

    I purchased a few and they were not expensive, and they are recommended by other miniature painters. Series 33 (standard handle) are the Kolinsky brushes – $7 or so each even with postage.

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