A brush is a very important tool for an artist, some even consider it their power tool, so it’s highly recommended to have a different set of brushes for different art mediums since they have different chemical components, and consistency.
You can technically use the same set of brushes for both watercolor and acrylic but there are a considerable amount of consequences. Take, for example, acrylic is harsher on brush compared to watercolor paint, and using watercolor brushes for acrylic paint could ruin your brush for good.
Difference Between Watercolor and Acrylic Brush
Let’s go ahead and closely compare the differences, as well as the similarities between each brush, the materials used, how they are built to accommodate the paints, and how to clean them up to keep their shape and structure for a long time.
Acrylic brushes are usually longer compared to watercolor brushes, this is because of how an acrylic painting is created, artists who use acrylic paint tend to work on their feet in front of an easel, and the longer handle makes it easier for them to achieve the brush strokes that they want to achieve in their canvas.
Watercolor brushes are shorter because artists who use watercolor paint usually apply it with the canvas flat on its back, which is closer to the painter’s body therefore a brush with a shorter handle makes more sense and is easier to maneuver for certain techniques.
Acrylic brushes are usually made with synthetic hairs and tend to be denser in comparison with watercolor brushes, due to the heavy composition of acrylic paint. The brush should be strong enough to hold the thickness of acrylic paint and not fall apart. Natural hair brushes for acrylic are usually made with tougher hairs from hogs or sometimes pony.
Watercolor brushes are made with softer materials, it is mainly because of the layering and gentle brush strokes that artists do with watercolor to achieve a certain effect on their canvas. Natural hair brushes use sable or squirrel hair which works perfectly with the watercolor if maintained properly.
Synthetic watercolor brushes are usually also made of soft materials to match the natural hair texture but are a little less sensitive to chemical reactions from the paint.
It is all the same procedure for synthetic brushes, you wash them properly with cold water and soap, and make sure that all the paint is removed before you dry them, it’s pretty much the basic clean-up process.
For natural hair brushes, we can’t use soap because it could easily be damaged and the chemicals in the regular soap will surely do that. What you can use are organic soaps or a master’s brush cleaner which is specifically made to be gentle enough but will thoroughly clean your brush.
It is also important to note using hot water is not recommended since it has a damaging effect on the quality of the brush (not just the bristles) as a whole. Use fairly cold water each time you clean your paint brushes to maintain the quality of your brush.
Can Acrylic Brushes be Used for Watercolor?
Well you technically can, but the actual question here is, will it give you a good result? Will it be the same on canvas when you use a watercolor brush? We just can’t guarantee that. Because it will hold the watercolor paint in a very different way, acrylic brushes are stiff and strong, it was not made to hold the fluidity of the watercolor.
It was built specifically to handle the acrylic paint’s viscosity and thickness, so even if yes, you can use it for watercolor paint, it is not recommended. Unless you are trying to achieve a certain outcome that will need a stiffer brush, then go ahead and use an acrylic brush.
These are more like guidelines rather than hard concrete rules in doing your art, it is still a freedom of expression and experimentation, so go ahead and feel free to do whatever your creative mind desires.
There is not really a battle between watercolor brushes versus acrylic brushes since they are clearly made very differently and serve very distinct purposes with the paints, some artist knows what they want to appear in their artworks, and sometimes they have to be extra creative and use what they know would achieve exactly that.