Water brushes make 'No mess painting' possible!

There are so many little things to be thankful for every day and today I want to be thankful for having these little water brushes in my toolkit. They say big things come in small packages and yes, it's so true.

I vaguely remember someone telling me about these watercolor brushes a year back saying

"They were the most portable painting brushes ever. You just need to fill the water reservoir of the brush and voila! you don't need to carry any extra water with you."
No mess painting?


Being an urban sketching beginner, this was a total game-changer for me. I used to pack my mini travel kit and paint on the go while taking strolls in the city. Although water brushes - also called aqua brushes/water brush pens allow a very fluid experience, many artists do not prefer them. Its continuous water drip feature is a little tricky to control the amount of water on the paper.

In this blog, I am going to cover some simple topics to help you get started with them:

What’s a Water Brush?

A water brush, unlike traditional brushes, has a water reservoir at one end making it a portable watercolor brush. The reservoir is a soft plastic-like barrel that can be filled with either plain water, colored water, or even ink. When you squeeze the barrel the water enters the bristles, making it moist and you’re ready to paint. As you paint, the water gradually sips down the reservoir, keeping the bristles damp all the time. All water brushes out there in the market work on the same principle. Although, they may differ between brands in size, bristles, and shape.

It's the best of both worlds, using a brush without having to bring any extra water supply. It makes the whole painting experience much more joyful and worries less. No need to find a suitable spot for painting with a sturdy surface to keep your water jar, no need to hide from kids to paint, no pain of always changing the water in the jar. This indeed is a revolutionary art supply that is a total game-changer in the art industry.

Water Brush Pros:

Water brushes avoid the need to carry water when traveling: Already the painting materials like the portable watercolor setmini sketchbooks, and pens are highly portable supplies to carry while traveling. When you use water while painting there is a high probability it will spill/slosh about. Since water brushes have their own barrel of water and promise a 'no-mess painting' experience, it is the most minimal painting travel set yet in the market

Water brushes allow a more smooth painting experience: While using traditional brushes the hand movement is always from water cup - paint set - and then paper. With water brushes, your movement becomes much fluid and smoother. You don't have to struggle between colors to add water. Paint effortlessly and follow your flow

Lightweight and handy: Managing extra baggage weight has always been a concern for backpackers and excessive travelers and for me, every bit in that backpack counts! Especially when I am trekking or hiking in the mountains. The size and weight of water brushes are very convenient and no need to carry an extra tumbler for water

Water Brush Cons:

Non-environment friendly: They are all made of plastic which gives a very cheap, uninspiring kind of vibe to it. For me, plastic art tools are not very attractive and if I get a more eco-friendly option I would definitely shift to that.

Bristles can wear off easily: Many artists using traditional brushes prefer having synthetic bristles. But, the synthetic bristles used for the water brushes can wear off sooner than expected. I was very fond of the sharp tip of the bristles but with time they frayed and became blunt. 

Lack of water control: This is the most common complaint you would hear from the artists. At times you need to make intricate paintings or have dry brush strokes in which water control can be very crucial. The continuous water drip principle makes it very difficult for the same.

List of 10 things that I think they are best for:

1) Urban Sketching
2) Traveler Artists who paint on the go!
3) Journaling
4) Mix-Media Artists
5) Stampers & Scrapbookers
6) Hobbyists who want to avoid bulky painting setups
7) Lettering artists
8) A5 size landscapes & Portraits
9) Ink arts
10) Abstract art

Being a perfect addition to a travel paint set, water brushes are best for artists who paint on the go or for those who want to avoid having spillable water cups around their artworks at home/studio. These can be very handy for stampers or scrapbookers who love to use mixed media in their art but want to avoid the risk of having a water jar on the table. Haha, I am one of them!

If it is solely for painting, I think these can be best used for smaller pieces of work. I use them for A5 size paper/sketchbooks. For a size higher than A5, I would prefer the traditional brushes that enable me to give washes and cover large size areas easily. 

For instance, if I want to cover a large area in my painting and need to have even washes throughout the page. The normal brushes would help me do that as I can reload it with the pre-mixed colors and it will give me strokes of the same intensity. With the water brush, it is slightly complicated as it is designed to have a continuous flow of water, affecting the intensity of the pre-mixed colors all the time. 

Of course, you can get really good at controlling the water flow with a lot of practice. But it can be challenging at times.

Lettering artists (with ink/watercolors) would love these too as they need the brush to be moist with water throughout their writing. You can do lettering with plain water and dab it with multiple colors. The colors would spread out wherever the water is giving you a beautiful mix of colors. Try it!

Urban Sketchers can very well use the perks of having a water brush in their toolkit too. It makes it so easy for them to paint at the location without having to carry an extra water supply. They can also paint standing. My tool kit consists of an A5 Sketchbook, a water brush, portable Viviva Colorsheets, a small piece of rag/paper towel(to clean the brush). That's it! The whole toolkit literally fits in my pocket or my sling bag and I am good to go!

How to set it up?The brush has 3 main parts:

  • Soft plastic barrel to store water
  • The screw-on ferrule that connects the bristles to the water supply
  • And the cap that keeps the water from leaking out

Unscrew the barrel, open the tiny cap and keep it under the running water tap.


Simply squeeze the barrel, immerse it in a water container, and release.
The water will fill the barrel using the suction principle. You can then screw back all the parts.

Tada! You are now all ready to start the magic of painting... 

How to use Water brushes? and how to clean them?

Once you are done with setting up the brush, make sure the screw-on ferrule has water in it (As the water from this ferrule seeps into the bristles). If not, squeeze the barrel gently for the water to enter the ferrule and then dip it into your paint set to load the bristles. Paint like a pro! without worrying about spilling or splashing water on your artworks.

For cleaning, water brushes are dead simple, Just take a rag/rough paper and brush off the extra pigment until the bristles go back to being white. Now you can load it with another color or simply close it with the cap and pack it in your bag.  

Also Read:

Viviva's portable color palette
Viviva's portable watercolor booklets

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