Review by Tina Koyama
Since I don’t do much “real” watercolor painting – my main use of brushes is with water-soluble colored pencils – convenient water brushes serve me better than traditional paint brushes. Some new water brushes hit the scene recently at JetPens, so I jumped right on them: the East Hill line of three sizes ($8.25 each).
While most water brushes typically come in small, medium and large sizes and the occasional flat, the East Hill series offers a couple of shapes I thought were unique – Hake and Menso – and the more traditional Kumadori.
Hake is unique among all water brushes I’ve seen or tried. It has a round brush with a flat top, which mimics the shape of traditional Asian watercolor and sumi brushes used for making large, wet washes. (I photographed it with and without paint, trying to get a good image of the shape.)
I thought the “ultra extra fine” Menso would also be a unique offering that I was eager to try.
Since the nylon bristles on water brushes perform about the same, the most important feature of a water brush is how well water flow can be controlled. I’ve tried many (possibly all?) water brushes currently on the market, and my favorite is Kuretake (also branded as Niji and Zig). Unlike most, Kuretake water brushes have a plug between the reservoir and the brush, which aids significantly in controlling flow. (For an easy way to fill these brushes, see my review of the Kuretake that was included in my ArtSnacks box a few years back.) Others without a plug simply gush water to the brush when the barrel is squeezed. A photo in my review of Tombow water brushes shows the difference between those with a plug and those without.
When I first started reading the product information about the East Hill water brushes, I perked up when I saw mention of a removeable “nozzle,” because I thought it might be similar to the Kuretake’s. To my relief, it is not only similar – it is identical! As the barrels show, East Hill brushes are made by Kuretake! My favorite Kuretake brushes apparently go by many different brand names.
Shown below are brush strokes made with (from top) Kumadori, Hake and Menso. The Hake has the widest line variety and can make an unusual thick-and-thin stroke that will be fun to explore further. The Menso, described as “ultra extra fine,” turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. It’s the same as the small Kuretake/Niji.
If you want the finest stroke available in a water brush, I think the fine Pentel Vistage is finer than the Menso. The image below shows the Menso on the left and the Pentel on the right. My scanned image below shows a brush stroke comparison of the Menso, the Pentel and the Kuretake.
Although I think Menso and Kumadori are redundant, Hake is worth exploring and is a welcome addition to the Kuretake (by whatever name) water brush line. Water flow is reliably easy to control in all three brushes that go by the East Hill name.
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