Can You Use The Same Set of Brushes For Watercolors and Acrylic Paint

Difference Between Watercolor And Acrylic Brushes

You may think you need to memorize much or have keen eyesight to know the difference between watercolor and acrylic brushes, but you don’t.

In fact, with little details of the materials and shapes, you can tell right off the bat, which is which without having to pull your hair out trying to figure it all out.

This article contains some useful information as regards to whether or not it’s safe to use these brushes interchangeably, their clean-up process for longevity, and more.

But let’s start by answering one of the most frustrating questions.

Can You Use The Same Set of Brushes For Watercolors and Acrylic Paint?

Difference Between Watercolor And Acrylic Brushes

Not quite! And here is why:

Watercolors and acrylics differ in two aspects. One, in construction and the other in chemical compositions.

Watercolor brushes were formulated to carter for the fluidity and delicacy of watercolor paints and techniques. Whereas, acrylic brushes are optimized to work well with the viscosity and drying time of acrylics.

Don’t you think you would be sacrificing your craft, trying to use them interchangeably?

Both tools interact differently with these mediums. So it’s common sense to use brushes explicitly designed for acrylics mediums ONLY, and a separate set for watercolor.

Although it’s safe to use acrylic brushes on watercolors, you can’t use watercolor brushes with acrylics.

It is because acrylics are not friendly with watercolor brushes and can irreparably alter the brush within a split second – especially if the bristle is of natural hair.

Generally, acrylics are aggressive on paintbrush compared to watercolors. Therefore, it isn’t advisable for use with weak bristles.

If anything, they only shorten the lifespan of the brush due to the paint’s consistency and more intense cleaning procedure.

However, if your watercolor brush is of synthetic hair, you can apply acrylics with a rest of mind.

Watercolor synthetic paintbrushes can stand up to acrylic resin because they are more durable, excellent paint pickup gives a smooth finish, and are relatively easy to clean while retaining its form than real hair brushes.

Although some painters still use natural-hair brushes on acrylics for achieving several effects. And it requires immediately clean up after each use. More importantly, it isn’t advisable for beginners or amateurs who haven’t yet mastered the art.

The bottom line, natural-hair brushes will splay and never retain its original shape after washing off the acrylic paint. Even if the paint has not yet dried onto the brush, it would be ruined.

Read Also: Oil Vs Acrylic Vs Watercolor Vs Gouache

Difference Between Watercolor And Acrylic Brushes

Can You Use The Same Set of Brushes For Watercolors and Acrylic Paint

There are tons of manufacturers in the painting industry that are mercilessly pumping numerous paintbrushes into the market place with almost the same designs and materials.

And if you are not careful, you’ll get entangled in one of two problems. Either you end up buying an inferior bristle that quickly loses its shape because with was used with the wrong medium or you arrive at a sloppy result.

Problems like these are very common to those who fail to notices the tiniest shed of difference between these two brushes.

Thankfully, there isn’t much to scram with regards to using the appropriate brush with the right medium. So let’s get started, but first, with their familiarities so you can better understand their differences.

Their clean up Procedure

Unless you are using a natural hair watercolor brush, there is nothing bizarre or contradictory about their clean up technique.

The clean-up procedure for acrylic and watercolor brushes are pretty much the same with the use of soap and water.

However, if it is a natural hair watercolor brush, the use of regular soap is omitted. It is because the chemicals in it may take their toll on the fragile bristle, diminishing its longevity.

What you need, however, is a mild, organic soap or a brush soap like a master’s brush cleaner (my favorite). I’d encourage you to use the Master’s brush cleaner because it elongates the brush’s lifespan while cleaning them at the same time.

NOTE: it’s always advisable to use cold water to clean your brushes. For some reason hot water makes paint thicken and hard to remove.

The structure and shape

You can barely distinguish watercolor brushes from acrylic brushes if you rely solely on the structures and shapes because they both come in a nearly identical variety of shapes, sizes, and hair types.

For example, in terms of shapes, both watercolor and acrylic brushes come in eight forms, each suited for different techniques and levels of details:

  • Round
  • Pointed round
  • Flat brushes
  • Bright brushes
  • Filbert brushes
  • Angular flat brushes
  • Fan brushes
  • Detail round brushes

The materials

Both watercolor and acrylic brushes come in a wide variety of materials such as Sable, Squirrel, Ox & Goat, Hog Bristle, Camel Hair, Synthetic Fibers, and combination hairs.

Combination hairs are the coming together of other kinds of bristles as one. For instance, sable and synthetic fiber or sable and other less expensive natural hair.

However, you will frequently see watercolor brushes made out of soft synthetic materials, natural sable, or squirrel hair. It is because painting with many layers demands gentle touch.

Their sizes [range from 0000 right up to 50]

However, in terms of sizes, most acrylic paintbrushes often come with long handles.

It is because acrylic artwork requires a stand-up easel, which compels the painter to stand and work at a considerable distance from the canvas. As a result, they need extended handles to paint conveniently.

Although many also include short or even shorter handles in their set for up-close painting.

As for watercolor brushes, they are usually shorter because watercolor painters tend to work relatively close to their piece, and often horizontally. As such, a brief handle brush is much more preferable and convenient for them.

Read Also: Best Paintbrushes for Watercolor

How do you tell the difference between acrylic and watercolor brushes?

Most watercolor brushes have short handles because watercolorists usually paint small scale and sit right in front of their work, while oil and acrylic brushes can have either short or long handles, so that one can stand back a step while painting and keep an overview of the entire composition.

What type of brushes are best for acrylic painting?

The Best Synthetic Brushes for Acrylics Will Last Through Intensive Projects

  • Princeton Velvetouch, Mixed-Media Brushes.
  • Royal & Langnickel Zen Series Set.
  • Da Vinci Oil & Acrylic Long-Handled Paint Brush Set.
  • Winsor & Newton Artisan Brush.
  • Grumbacher Degas Bright Oil and Acrylic Brush.

Does it matter what brushes you use for watercolor?

Like it so often does with art supplies, selecting paintbrushes for watercolors ultimately comes down to personal preference. Your choice rests on the watercolor techniques you like to use, how much you’re willing to spend, and simply how certain brushes feel in your hand.

Is watercolor or acrylic easier?

Which Is Harder to Use Acrylics or Watercolors? Acrylics are much simpler to use than watercolors. They are much more forgiving of mistakes. There are a lot let elements to learn with acrylic basics.

Is watercolor or acrylic better?

If you want bright paint, watercolor is the option for you. The pigments are bright and produce a light, tinted effect. Acrylic paints are more vibrant in color. Because you can layer lighter colors and whites over dark acrylic shades, you can create brighter works of art.

How do I choose a watercolor brush?

Watercolor Brushes: 5 Tips for Choosing a Brush

  • Know the lingo. When artists talk about watercolor brushes, there are some terms you are going to hear over and over again.
  • Think long term.
  • Go big.
  • Opt out of the “natural vs synthetic” battle.
  • Ignore price.

What is a Watercolour wash brush?

A mop brush is a large, round wash brush most commonly used to cover large areas in watercolour or other diluted or liquid colour whilst a wash brush is a large flat brush that does a similar job. With practice, you can learn to roll the brush and apply different pressures when making marks so as to overcome this.

How do watercolor brushes work?

A waterbrush is unlike any other brush. The two bits screw together, and the clip-on cap stops the water leaking out when you’re not using the brush. As you use the waterbrush, water gradually seeps down from the reservoir onto the bristles. This means the brush bristles are permanently moist or damp.

How do watercolor brushes work

Are synthetic brushes good for watercolor?

Yes, and no. You can use synthetic or natural brushes for watercolor painting. However, you should not use your natural brushes with acrylic paints because the chemicals in the acrylic paint can damage or break down the natural brushes.

What are acrylic brushes?

The acrylic wash brush is a paint brush that is VERY big. If you purchase a set of paint brushes and notice a brush that is gigantic compared to the rest – it is most likely a wash brush! Acrylic wash brushes are best known for covering large parts of canvas or paper quickly.

Which watercolor brushes are best?

Traditionally, the best watercolor brushes are made with Kolinsky Sable. Kolinsky is regarded as the best grade of sable hair. Another option is squirrel, which holds more color than sable but has less snap. Camel hair (which is really pony or goat) is a more economical choice.


In the end, the right brush is the one that feels most comfortable in your hands.

It doesn’t matter if the brush is long-handled, short-handled, filbert, or flat – what really counts is how productive you work with it to create a masterpiece.

So it may take a little bit of time and experimentations to find what works best for you. But hopefully, this guide has cleared things up about the difference between watercolor and acrylic brushes.

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