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Old 07-30-2013, 07:46 PM
book_stall book_stall is offline
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Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

I know it sounds like I'm asking about a college football team, but I'm actually interested in the brushes and if anyone has had any experience with them (good or bad). I tried to post a link to Princeton's website for reference, but because I'm new I'm not allowed to, sorry.

Long story short, I'm not a watercolor artist but am trying to teach myself. I had taken a watercolor painting class in college and even though it was my first time working with the medium, there were a lot of things our instructor "taught" us that just didn't sound right. One was his theory on goat hair brushes; "A brush is a brush and they all do the same thing, so why waste your money," was pretty much his attitude. These goat hair brushes he told us to buy (which were super cheap) have been shedding like mad, don't hold their shape, and are just making me hate trying to learn watercolor. Am I crazy for thinking that something is wrong with these brushes?

I want to make this work and have read loads of good things about the Princeton Neptune brushes. Anyone know if this is a good investment? I'm just looking to buy one or two to start. I would like a round brush and a good wash brush. I dislike the results I get with square wash brushes, so I'm thinking of an oval wash, but on some sites I have seen people refer to the Neptune quill brushes as "quill wash" brushes. What's up with that?
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:04 PM
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hblenkle hblenkle is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

I am trying out Sable brushes the last couple weeks, but I usually use a size 8 Neptune quill for my wash brush. For a year I painted most of my paintings with just that brush. I am not a beginner. I heard some beginners have trouble with the Squirrel or Synthetic Squirrel brushes because of all the water they can hold. They can hold several times the water a synthetic can hold. It takes a while for a beginner to get the feel for water control. There are several ways to control the water. Blot on paper towel or sponge remembering once in a while to squeeze out the water on the sponge, squeeze the brush hair with your fingers, or touch the brush hair to the watercontainers side to get the excess water off that would of dripped. A wet Squirrel hair brush will usually stay pointed especially the synthetic ones. Pressing for brush strokes can flatten and bend a Squirrel hair brush. When lifting up you can twist the brush a little to regain the point. Use a light touch. Let the hair do the work. The Neptunes are inexpensive but are a great brush. Don't know how well suited for a new beginner. One thread a while back the poster wanted to know how to control all that water. Oh and another way to control the water is to dip the brush into the water longer for more water to be absorbed and more of the brush hair into the water adjusting how much of the hair you want holding the water. Dipping an 1/8 inch of the tip in for a blink of the eye will cause only a little water to be held in the tip. Plunge the whole brush hair in for 20 seconds and the brush will hold a vast amount of water. I have Neptune brushes in 4 sizes and none have shed. The metal ferrule brushes are just as good and you might be bothered by the wires on quills. I bought the quill because I could get a bigger brush in the quills. I also like quills, but some people don't. A couple of the smaller Neptune brushes I have do have the metal ferrule.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:29 PM
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hblenkle hblenkle is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

For a small brush you may like the typical synthetic brushes better for starting. You may like them better for detail work since they spring back to shape the best. For small areas and detail you don't need the brush to hold a lot of water.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:40 PM
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

I really like my Princeton Neptunes! Can be found at Michaels craft stores now so use those 40% off coupons when they aren't already on sale.

And welcome to the WC!
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:51 PM
Undergoose Undergoose is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

I love Neptunes. In my opinion they're best synthetic on the market for watercolors, but there's also a learning curve involved with them. They're floppier than Kolinsky's, but you get used to it. They're the only synthetic I know of that equals and surpasses the natural hair they're trying to emulate. I have a lot of squirrel brushes that don't hold a candle to these.

If you have any background with sumi-e, you'll feel right at home with the larger rounds and quills. I prefer the quills to the large rounds, by the way. The quill handles feel a little more graceful to me, whereas the 20 round feels like I'm holding a piece of firewood. It makes you feel more secure when you're painting en plein air on the bad side of town, though. Or if you're hiking and need a walking stick.

I have around forty of them in all sizes and types, and the only time the hairs ever come off is when I pluck them, and even then it takes a good tug.

The mottlers (wide, flat wash) handle every big wash need that I have, and then some! I do 75% of my entire painting with the mottlers (the little 1" is a blast to use), 20% with the quill, and then I'll play with the smaller rounds for details, but when in doubt I always go back to the kolinsky for the critical and fine details.

I thought it was funny that hblenke has been working with the kolinsky's for the past couple of weeks, and I've been going the other direction, playing with using Neptunes for the majority. It definitely takes me longer to use them for detail work than the sables do, but I'm getting better at it. Overall, I think it takes more time and effort to master the Neptunes than the kolinky's, but maybe that's just me. The sables just seem to do all the work.

Keep your eyes peeled on Ebay for bundles of Neptunes. For about $150 I was able to find a few auctions cheap and now have almost the whole line aside from some oddball things, as well as some duplicates which are nice when you're using different colors at the same scale. Beats the heck out of paying upwards of $25 for some of them from the stores.

Aesthetically they blow everything else away that's even remotely close to that price range. Absolutely beautiful brushes and very well made. They hold TONS of paint, too, which is great, unless, like me, you're too lazy to grab a smaller brush for something small; when you stick one of those big, thirsty monsters into a good sized mix puddle, it'll about empty it. Then you paint that one little rock, mailbox or bird and destroy your clean water rinsing out a dime's worth of paint.

They do a passably good job on Oriental calligraphy and sumi styles as well. Without having to destroy the integrity of the points and bristles, you can mold them by hand when they're damp for some really nice split-brush/stippling/dry brush techniques. You can also mold the rounds into almost a razor-thin flat when you need sharp lines like shorelines or fence posts. One dunk in the water and they're back to a perfect point and belly. Rolling the sides of the rounds gives really nice strokes, too, with lots of variations.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:54 PM
book_stall book_stall is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hblenkle
I am trying out Sable brushes the last couple weeks, but I usually use a size 8 Neptune quill for my wash brush. For a year I painted most of my paintings with just that brush. I am not a beginner. I heard some beginners have trouble with the Squirrel or Synthetic Squirrel brushes because of all the water they can hold. They can hold several times the water a synthetic can hold. It takes a while for a beginner to get the feel for water control. There are several ways to control the water. Blot on paper towel or sponge remembering once in a while to squeeze out the water on the sponge, squeeze the brush hair with your fingers, or touch the brush hair to the watercontainers side to get the excess water off that would of dripped. A wet Squirrel hair brush will usually stay pointed especially the synthetic ones. Pressing for brush strokes can flatten and bend a Squirrel hair brush. When lifting up you can twist the brush a little to regain the point. Use a light touch. Let the hair do the work. The Neptunes are inexpensive but are a great brush. Don't know how well suited for a new beginner. One thread a while back the poster wanted to know how to control all that water. Oh and another way to control the water is to dip the brush into the water longer for more water to be absorbed and more of the brush hair into the water adjusting how much of the hair you want holding the water. Dipping an 1/8 inch of the tip in for a blink of the eye will cause only a little water to be held in the tip. Plunge the whole brush hair in for 20 seconds and the brush will hold a vast amount of water. I have Neptune brushes in 4 sizes and none have shed. The metal ferrule brushes are just as good and you might be bothered by the wires on quills. I bought the quill because I could get a bigger brush in the quills. I also like quills, but some people don't. A couple of the smaller Neptune brushes I have do have the metal ferrule.

I'm not having any problem with maintaining a drier brush for the detail work, but am desperate for a brush that will actually hold a decent amount of wash. Right now the idea that I could have a brush that holds "too much" water seems hard to believe, but I do understand what you're saying and thank you for the tips and advice. I'll have to bookmark this for reference when/if I get some Neptunes. What don't people like about quills? Is it the shape or performance? And this may be a little off-topic, but I've noticed that there are dagger brushes in the set as well. Are those used for a wide variety of things? Is it worth me looking into getting one or just sticking with a round and a wash for now?
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:03 PM
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

I use my daggers for holding more paint but for the same application I'd use a rigger for.

FYI I've never spent more than $10 EACH for any of my Neptunes at Michaels with my coupon or on their sales.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:10 PM
Undergoose Undergoose is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WthrLady
I use my daggers for holding more paint but for the same application I'd use a rigger for.

FYI I've never spent more than $10 EACH for any of my Neptunes at Michaels with my coupon or on their sales.

Wow! I wish I'd been so lucky. Back in PA, I got my first two mottlers and #6 quill at Michaels (three days in a row printing coupons and burning gas in the car ). I got the two incher at 50% off and it was still over $20. The other two were $18 and $19. I was shopping at the wrong Michael's!
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:37 PM
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

The Neptunes are wonderful brushes! I've tried them in a few sizes, and personally I really like them in larger sizes. I think that's where the Neptunes really shine, since they are a bit floppy and great for looser work. The quills are wonderful - I have all 3 of them, I'd say the 6 is my favorite and a very versatile size. If you'd like to try using a quill, I think that's a good start. I'm not much of a quill painter, but I use a Neptune 14 round in most of my paintings. I've never tried the Mottlers, but have heard good things about them. Ebay often has Neptunes for good prices, lower than standard retail.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:52 PM
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

They're my favorite brushes now. I have a medium sized round, a #4 rigger, 1" and 2" mottlers, 2 quills and a couple of oval wash (cat tongues). I have to say I like the oval washes best because they're so versatile. You can get a good wash and yet define areas with the fine point. The quills are nice for initial dilute washes but they dump the paint so fast!

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Old 07-30-2013, 11:09 PM
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Welcome, book_stall! To this forum and to watercolor. We're all learning here, so please don't be afraid to ask questions.

Another vote here in favor of Neptunes. I'm starting to use larger brushes and found myself wishing for something big but with a needle sharp point... that wouldn't drain my savings account. Bought a #10 round Neptune on a whim at Michaels (with a coupon ) and I could not be happier.

Natural sable does seem to hold the most water, synthetics hold enough but dump it faster. When I bought a #4 red sable (also a Princeton) it was a bit of a learning curve working with the slower water flow. Neptunes are between the two kinds, I think.

No, you are absolutely not crazy re: goat hair brushes. An experienced watercolorist can get desired effects with just about any brush, or none at all if so inclined... but that comes with time. For now, there is so MUCH you'll be learning, why complicate that process with tools that make you unhappy? Goat hair brushes are not "wrong" for someone that wants them, but if they are slowing your progress... it's legit to conclude they are not right for you! Go dig up a coupon or head to Ebay and try one Neptune. Look at them all in the rack and find one with a fine pointy tip that's not bent or frayed. They'll have some sizing that kind of glues the hairs together for display (it washes out easily); this will advertise the point nicely. I'll recommend a #10, it'll hold plenty of paint and water, and cover big swatches of paper quickly, but that fine point will let you into little crevices without having to switch to a smaller brush in mid-wash.

Even if you conclude you prefer other brushes in the future, this will allow you to get started without being distracted by frustrating tools. Let us know what you pick!
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Old 07-30-2013, 11:56 PM
book_stall book_stall is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Thanks for the info, Undergoose. I've been eyeing up the quills because I like the way they look, but I can't see spending the money if they don't do what I need them to do. Sounds like they make for good wash brushes though, so that solves that. Looks like one of those would be a good purchase after all.
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Old 07-31-2013, 12:01 AM
book_stall book_stall is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WthrLady
I use my daggers for holding more paint but for the same application I'd use a rigger for.

FYI I've never spent more than $10 EACH for any of my Neptunes at Michaels with my coupon or on their sales.

Wow! I'm not one for shopping at Michaels because I can always find what I need some place else for less. I've never actually looked for coupons though. Definitely going to have to give that a go!
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Old 07-31-2013, 12:24 AM
book_stall book_stall is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyntada
No, you are absolutely not crazy re: goat hair brushes. An experienced watercolorist can get desired effects with just about any brush, or none at all if so inclined... but that comes with time. For now, there is so MUCH you'll be learning, why complicate that process with tools that make you unhappy? Goat hair brushes are not "wrong" for someone that wants them, but if they are slowing your progress... it's legit to conclude they are not right for you! Go dig up a coupon or head to Ebay and try one Neptune. Look at them all in the rack and find one with a fine pointy tip that's not bent or frayed. They'll have some sizing that kind of glues the hairs together for display (it washes out easily); this will advertise the point nicely. I'll recommend a #10, it'll hold plenty of paint and water, and cover big swatches of paper quickly, but that fine point will let you into little crevices without having to switch to a smaller brush in mid-wash.

Even if you conclude you prefer other brushes in the future, this will allow you to get started without being distracted by frustrating tools. Let us know what you pick!

My instructor was one of those people that could sneeze on a canvas and end up with something that looks like the Mona Lisa, so your explanation on his brush preferences makes sense now. I still can't confirm that I'm not, but it's good to know that you don't think I'm crazy!

Took me a while to figure out that I needed to use different paper (stuff I had was pilling on the first wash), and now I'm on to the brushes. I'm still trying out different weights/brands of paper to find what I like best so I'm working on small 8"x8" size pieces. Now to figure out what sizes to get!
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Old 07-31-2013, 12:42 AM
Undergoose Undergoose is offline
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Re: Opinions on the Princeton Neptunes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by janinco
They're my favorite brushes now. I have a medium sized round, a #4 rigger, 1" and 2" mottlers, 2 quills and a couple of oval wash (cat tongues). I have to say I like the oval washes best because they're so versatile. You can get a good wash and yet define areas with the fine point. The quills are nice for initial dilute washes but they dump the paint so fast!

Jan

I only have the 1" oval wash, and I still haven't gotten my head wrapped around how to use it for anything. I use my mottlers and quills for washes. What type of strokes do you use them for? I'd love to be able to find an awesome way to use it for something besides dusting my keyboard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by book_stall
Thanks for the info, Undergoose. I've been eyeing up the quills because I like the way they look, but I can't see spending the money if they don't do what I need them to do. Sounds like they make for good wash brushes though, so that solves that. Looks like one of those would be a good purchase after all.

The #6 quill is a beast, I love it. SO versatile, big and the handle is still pretty slender for good control with that pointy point. Just FYI, on the quills (mine, at least), the number 4 is a little skinnier and only about 1/8" shorter than the 6. The 6 is the same length as the 8, but the 8 is fatter. They don't scale at all, proportionately. The 4 is nice and long, the 6 is middle ground, and the 8's actually kind of stubby feeling. I like the variations, actually; you have many more options for strokes between the set of three.
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Last edited by Undergoose : 07-31-2013 at 12:47 AM.
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