Budget travel – brush test

I have heard some sad stories of favourite pens and brushes rolling down foreign drains and off jetties and into the water. So I understand why a lot of people seriously think about what brushes they will take when they are travelling. Discussions generally end by deciding to cut off the end of regular brushes so they can fit into their bags or investing in special travel brushes. But is there a third option?

If you live near a certain Swedish store, then this might be an option.

In the children’s section you can find a set of six small brushes which might suit your needs. They are synthetic brushes, with lightweight wooden handles. All 6 together weigh 41 grams so they would be good for those travelling light. I got these for just under $6, so you certainly won’t break the bank buying a set.

Here are some test sheets made using the three round brushes. To give you and idea of brush size, the middle size brush is similar in size to a round No. 10 brush. However I don’t think these pages tell you much except that all the brushes maintain a fine point and hold a reasonable amount of paint.

To give them a ‘proper’ test I decided that I should use them to sketch a building on my regular paper. I pulled out an old photo from a trip to Germany to sketch.


For this sketch I used the middle and small round brushes and the medium size square brush. I wasn’t overwhelmed with the results, but I was painting quite fast so that probably effected the outcome. It shouldn’t be a surprise when I say that these brushes don’t really compare to good quality watercolour brushes.

What I did find was that the brushes made paint harder to control. I think this was due mainly to the shape of the brush. You could do a fine line, but the fast angle change to the wide section of the brush often resulted in too much paint coming onto the page.

The most useful brush was the square brush, which easily gave an even coverage for painting the sky. I also discovered that this brush could give a lovely fine feathered edge if it was used fairly dry. Here is a detail showing that effect.

In summary these brushes are good for:

  • People who just want to add some simple colour to sketches
  • Those people who don’t want to worry at all about taking good brushes on holiday, and
  • People who are packing for extremely light travel.

BEST OPTION: consider packing the medium or large square brushes if you need a brush for adding your skies.

DON’T BOTHER: if you plan to focus on painting serious watercolours. My advice would be lash out and buy a travel version of your favourite brush.