Many artists love the soft and springy nature of sable or squirrel hair brushes and the fact they hold much more water than synthetic taklon brushes, but for a variety of reasons, some painters prefer not to use genuine animal hair products. Luckily some art supply manufacturers have been working on creating synthetic bristle brushes that mimic natural hair, and one of these is the Princeton Neptune range.
These brushes have been designed to mimic squirrel hair, and they do such a good job that it’s hard to tell the difference in performance between one of these brushes and the real thing. I only have the quill mop and the rigger pictured above, but they have fast become favourites in my brush collection. The rigger lets me create long, continuous lines without having to stop and pick up more paint all the time, and the mop is excellent for creating large washes with a minimum of fuss.
Princeton makes their Neptune brushes in a variety of shapes – including rounds, flats, riggers, quills (also called mops) and mottlers – and sizes, so no matter what size watercolours you like to paint, there will be a brush in this range to suit your needs. They’re also beautifully crafted, with gorgeous wooden handles and gold print. They also don’t seem to shed the way a lot of other brushes do; regardless of whether they were natural or synthetic hair, I often find that new brushes keep dropping hairs in my palette or on my painting the first few times I use them, and then gradually over the time as they get worn. One set of expensive synthetic taklon brushes I had shed worse than my German Shepherd. I’ve been using these Neptune brushes for a few months now and they haven’t lost a single hair.
As always, the price will depend on what size you’re buying and what retailer you’re buying it from, but from looking at the art supply sites I usually buy from online, the Princeton Neptunes seem to be either around the same or significantly cheaper than the equivalent size/shape brush made from genuine squirrel hair in other brands. This means if you do want to make the switch from natural hair to synthetics, you can do so without breaking the bank.
I highly recommend Princeton Neptune’s synthetic squirrel hair brushes to watercolour artists. They perform just as well as the real thing without involving animals, and without causing so much pain to your wallet.