Today on the blog I take an initial look at the new Citadel STC synthetic range of brushes from Games Workshop. I’ve been using these for a week and I’ve painted 4 models with them.
These brushes were kindly sent to me by Games Workshop for review, my thoughts are my own.
Firstly, why should we care about synthetic over natural bristles? Well, natural bristles come from animal hair. Natural brushes tend to be called Kolinsky Sable, that’s not a fancy marketing name invented to sell brushes that’s actually two different animal names: a Kolinsky/Kolonok (Mustela sibirica) and a Sable Marten (Martes zibellina). Kolinsky Sable brushes are made only from the tail of the Kolinsky. Finest Kolinsky Sable being made from just the males whilst the other brushes are a mix of male and female tails. Kolinskys are a species of Siberian weasel and difficult to raise and farm in captivity so they’re trapped in the wild. In China, the Siberian weasel is considered a pest in China. Its Conservation Status is ‘Least Concern’ so isn’t an endangered animal (I’m not justifying, purely relaying the information).
For some people, knowing their brushes come from a trapped animal is enough for them to stop using those brushes and seek out synthetic alternatives. For others they need to know if the performance of synthetic fibres can equal or out perform natural hair bristles and that’s what I’m going to give some initial thoughts on here.
One of the biggest problems with synthetic brushes is tip curling. Tip curling is self-explanatory. The tip of the bristles curves round, I don’t know why they do it and I can’t find a reason online. However, I’m happy to report that over the past week I’ve not had any brush points turning into hooks, although my friend did have a small hook happen after only a day of painting with the STC Shade M brush. Going on my own experience my initial impression of the shape of the brush is a positive one.
Something that is important to painters is the feel of the brush. Some brushes lack a certain ‘snap-back’ of the bristles. You want the bristles to move as you drag them across the model but not too much. You don’t want to paint with bristles that perform like wet spaghetti. I’m happy to report the feel of these bushes is very good and that snap-back feeling is there.
These brushes hold a point even after a week of painting and feel good. So what’s the downside? Well for me the tip of the layer brushes isn’t pointy enough. It’s hard to explain but as you paint with the tip it kinda flattens out and rounds out a bit making what should be thin line highlights a touch thicker than what I’d like. I think the Layer S (small) is the smallest brush in the range and for me it’s not small enough for edge highlighting. Most people using it will be perfectly happy with it but I need something with a pin sharp tip and sightly smaller.
I clean my brushes with painter’s soap and the white bristles still have some light staining. The white is a bold choice by Games Workshop. I neither love it nor hate it. It’s an aesthetic that doesn’t affect performance.
These brushes will find a place in my painting setup. They’re good solid brushes that can easily tackle army painting duties like mass base coating and heavy washes. Sadly I’m still going to have to keep a few Kolinsky Sable detail brushes to hand for detail work but I’ll definitely be buying less of them.
I’m going to continue using them and I’ll report back in a few months for a long-term review to see how long the brushes lasted.
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That’s really interesting. I wonder if using warm water to clean the brush would help.
You can hold them over boiling water (not in, just in the steam) and form a point and they will go back to the non-hooked shape.
Thanks for this review, interesting as always.
Just a remark there ‘s an embed image issue on the article for ”
30 minutes into painting and the synthetic brushes are performing like a decent brush.”
https://taleofpainters.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/PastedGraphic-1.tiff as tiff images are not displayed on Chrome (I think needs a specific extension).
Thanks, I’ve fixed this.
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My guess for synthetic brush curl would be friction. The simple act of receptive brush stroke generates heat, the heat in turn warps the plastic. When then cooled rapidly in cold water would cause the heated side to contract pulling the bristle out in a curve. This is also aided by pressure on the heated tip of the brush.