Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton is the world famous art manufacturing company founded in 1832 and today based in Sheffield, England. Probably best known for its line of fine watercolor paints, the company also offers highly regarded watercolor papers and incidental watercolor painting equipment — brush holders, paint boxes, painting media — as well as several lines of watercolor brushes. However, the Winsor & Newton brush sets (tuft and ferrule) and handles are now manufactured in India or Ceylon, then exported for assembly in England.

Some visitors to this site, as well as artists I have spoken to, claim that the quality of Winsor & Newton brushes — particularly the quality of the sable hair used — has declined over the past decade or two. In fairness, this is a complaint that many artists make about their favorite papers and brushes, regardless of manufacturer. Based on my experience, there are many other companies out there that make a poorer quality brush. But then, few brands charge a higher price.

Kolinsky - The Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky round is (next to Isabey) one of the most expensive kolinsky brushes I know of, although Winsor & Newton has reduced the brush price over the past few years by as much as 25% in some outlets. The brushes I have tried are indeed slightly more resilient and accurate than any other top end brush I've tried. However, the black lacquered handles are a little too long to be conveniently stored (at 27.9cm long, the #10 won't fit in a standard brush box) and I find the brush has an awkward balance when gripped near the double crimped nickel ferrule. The tuft is also somewhat smaller for the size than other brands (33mm long and 26mm around at the ferrule, with a 9mm belly when wet), and the point has an unhappy tendency to split. I don't often use them. Flats are not available. The rounds range in size from #000 to #10 (in the USA). Prices: #6, US$48.50; #10 (note size!), US$182.00 (note price!).

Other Sable - Winsor & Newton also markets a line of Cirrus Series 110 kolinsky red sable round and flat brushes that are intended as an affordable alternative to the Series 7 and as the premium label to offer natural hair flats. These brushes have double crimped, nickel plated ferrules and short, dark blue lacquered handles. Rounds prices: #6, US$38.50; #12, US$48.00; flats prices: 1/2", US$17.00; 1", US$29.00.

Winsor & Newton also offers a shorter handled kolinsky brush (Series 707) and a red sable round (Series 3A) that is very nice. Sizes of the red sable brushes range from #000 to #8 (in the USA). Price: #6, US$40.10.

Synthetic Blends - Sold under the "Sceptre" trademark, the Winsor & Newton synthetic blends are made of red sable and synthetic fiber, with a glossy dark magenta handle and gold plated nickel ferrule. Sizes range from #0000 to #20. Prices: #6, US$7.30; #12, US$20.10.

Other Types - Winsor & Newton offers synthetic (white nylon) rounds (Series 223), wash brushes, fans, and squirrel mops that look almost identical to the Isabey mops, although I prefer the Isabey brushes for their slightly stiffer and more absorbent tufts. Selection and prices vary by retailer.

In my opinion, the old Series 7 brushes were simply not worth the price. However, prices have come down, and manufacturing sources have changed, in order to bring these brushes within the realm . Some consumer products companies find themselves, for one reason or another, coasting on a brand reputation built up with products that no longer exist. In the category of natural hair brushes, Winsor & Newton may be such a company. However, their blends and synthetics are very well made, more sanely priced, and stand up favorably to comparison with any other brand.

Winsor & Newton Series 7 kolinsky rounds (#2, #6 & #10)

Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold rounds (#6 and #12); Winsor & Newton aquarelle (3/4"); Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold flats (#10 and #20)