|Winsor-Newton series 7 and Rafael 8404 series Brushes|
Just like I started my airbrush review, let me tell you that I am not a great painter. At best, I am an average to decent painter. I can usually make my armies look decent, but they will not see the final table of any judging. I think that is what is going to make my review of these brushes appealing. I have no mad skillz. I'm just an average painter.
A while back, I was painting my Necrons with the brushes I got from citadel in the various Paint sets and the 'eavy metal set I had. I have to say, I thought I was doing ok, until I started listening to the podcasts. All of them, Screaming Heretic, Independent Characters you name it, I listen. Whenever they talked about painting, they all stressed getting good brushes and taking care of them. Well, I thought I had good brushes but then I heard and read an article on the Winsor-Newton Series 7 (WNS7) brushes. I went to Dick Blick's and ordered a set of 4. I have to say, there was an immediate improvement in my painting. I also learned from the podcasts and articles not to paint with the tips, but the sides of the brushes. Nifty trick there.
Months go by, I'm taking care to clean my brushes (like Joe from Screaming Heretic, rinse, soap, lather, repeat, set a fine point and place in a rack). I really like the WNS7 brushes, but every now and then, I would get a wild hair (not the brush, mind you) or something that would make me frustrated to the core. As I moved from the Necrons to the Space Marines, my frustration grew a bit. I rationalized that it was just my frustration at not being able to edge detail and highlight like the pro's do. Then one day I'm at Secret Weapon Miniatures and I see the Rafael 8404s (Raf4). Those are the only brushes they carry, so they must be good. Of goes the order to Secret Weapon, "just to try", I say to myself.
The Raf4s arrive and I am struck by how different they are, even though they have the same size (0, 00 and 1). The Raf4s are fuller and "bushier" as you can see in the image. I am given to understand that this means they can actually hold more paint. This is a double-edged sword however, as more paint can dry on the bristles as well, meaning you have to clean them more. The WNS7 brushes seem to me, to have a bit 'stiffer' bristles. By that I mean that they don't bend as much under a given pressure. That leads to smoother application, for me, at least. There are times when the Raf4 brush will bend a little more than I think and I end up getting a paint splotch where I didn't want it.
As for quality, I have to say both brushes are amazing. The WNS7 came with little plastic sleeves to protect the bristles, and also came in a big long tube to protect the whole brush. The RAF4s only had the little tube to protect the bristles. They are both very comfortable in the hand, with the WNS7 being slightly thinner overall. The points of the bristles are, as you can see in the image, both are very fine, but the Raf4s have more 'bushiness' to them, holding more paint, as I said before. Since I started painting with the sides of the brush, I have to give the edge to the WNS7 there, they may need to be re-loaded more often, but the super control is great. Until the bristles start to get unruly and splay out like witches hair. That is something I have not seen the RAF4 brushes do yet. They hold a point very well and do not seem to splay much at all. It might be because of the aforementioned bushiness. And before you ask about that, I do not dip my brushes in to the paint up to the ferules (The metal band that holds the brushes.) Even I know that is a super no-no in the world of mini painting. I try not to go over half, ever. If I do over dip, it's an immediate clean cycle (Water dip, brush soap to a good lather, rinse, repeat.)
Overall, I really like them all. I'm not here trying to decide between them, rather just pointing out how they work in the hands of an average painter. The WNS7 are a bit stiffer, have shorter bristles and are great for the super detail areas. The Raf4s have bushier bristles that are softer and seem to paint smoother on areas, but then the nice points a great for details too. The WNS7 'seem' to me to get unruly and the bristles splay out at times, but that is quickly corrected with a clean cycle. The Raf4s can get out of control at times because of their softness and 'bendiness?'.
To be sure, having quality brushes has made a tremendous improvement overall, and I swear by these brushes. They may cost more, but if you take care of them, they will last forever, I am told. These are just musings in case you are thinking about which to choose.