Monday, September 23, 2019

Product Review: Faber-Castell Water Brush

Faber-Castell water brush

At least two symposium swag bags I’ve received have included a Faber-Castell Art & Graphic Water Brush. I’ve tried quite a few water brushes over time, and I keep going back to my favorite, but I thought it was time to give the F-C a try.

First off, the F-C brush unit, as well as its reservoir, is one of the smallest I’ve seen; the only one slightly shorter is the Sakura (second from left, below) that came with my 12-color Koi watercolor kit, which I used when I first started sketching. It’s even shorter than Kuretake’s compact size brush. It’s handy if you want to keep your kit as compact as possible, but the tradeoff is that the water will not last long. (Pictured below from left: Faber-Castell, Sakura, Kuretake (standard length), Kuretake compact, Tombow, Pentel.)

From left: Faber-Castell, Sakura, Kuretake (full size), Kuretake (compact), Tombow, Pentel

Like most water brushes, the F-C reservoir has no plug (as my long-time favorite Kuretake does), so water tends to gush to the brush when the reservoir is squeezed. I find the flow a bit too heavy for the way I sketch with watercolor pencils, though I could probably learn to get used to it. Sometimes when I pull the cap off, drops of water fly out, which means water has been pooling on the brush or inside the cap.

Faber-Castell has no plug.
Kuretake's plug

Since the Kuretake is the brush I started with and continue to use because I like it, I didn’t realize until I began exploring other brushes that its plug is a unique feature. In addition to the ones pictured above, I’ve also tried the Derwent and the Molotow, and none of them has a plug between the reservoir and the channel leading to the brush. I think the Kuretake’s plug makes it much easier to control water flow.

Faber-Castell brush tip
The F-C’s brush size is comparable to a Kuretake medium, which is versatile, especially since the point is well-tapered (though not as pointy as the Pentel, which has the most tapered water brush point I’ve seen). As far as I know, the F-C comes in one size only. I wish it were available one size larger (comparable to the Kuretake large), which is the most useful for me when sketching on location. The F-C’s point is better for small details, though.
Brush stroke comparison with watercolor on 120-pound Canson XL watercolor paper

A unique feature of the F-C water brush is the scraping tool on the cap. While the paint or other water-soluble medium is still wet, the tool can be used to make rough texture marks in sgraffito fashion (the technique is demo’d in this Faber-Castell video). I admit that I haven’t used this feature beyond this small sample; it’s a bit outside my sketching style box, but if I continue to use this brush, I might eventually give it a try in the field. (This is a tool that Suhita Shirodkar or Marina Grechanik would probably enjoy!)

Scraping tool
Sample of scraping (watercolor pencil and water
 on 140 lb. Canson XL paper)
This might seem insignificant, but the F-C brush’s absolute best feature is the solid, audible click the cap makes when pulled off, replaced and also when posted. Despite my fondness for the Kuretake, its cap goes on and off with a decidedly more squishy feel – not at all solid. Posting it hasn’t been a problem, but that has an even squishier feel. I really appreciate the F-C cap’s distinct snap, which makes me fully confident that it is secure on either end.

Unfortunately, a cap’s snap probably isn’t the best reason to use a water brush. I’ll stick with my Kuretake for most uses.

However, there’s one function that the F-C would fulfill well: when I want a fast, juicy water flow to wet the paper with clean water before dropping in some sky color. I usually wet the paper with a spritzer, but if the area is small, and I want to control the water application better, I use a water brush. I’ve been using the Derwent for this task because it’s a gusher, but the F-C (with its nice cap) would be even better. And who knows – someday I might find a use for that scraper tool, too.


  1. I didn't realize the cap had a scraper...thanks for pointing that out. I like the fact that the cap clicks too. I have lost far too many caps from water brushes.

    1. Let me know if you try the scraper! I haven't done much with it yet.


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