Thursday, May 27, 2021

REVIEW: Games Workshop STC Paint Brushes

I always love when new hobby products come out. Paints, paint brushes, whatever, it's all amazing to me. With a whole new paint brush line being launched by GW I knew I had to try them out. So, how do they compare to other brushes?

This week I went down to one of my local stores and picked up an assortment of the new brushes. I ended up buying a Small Layer, Medium Layer, Small Base, and Small Shade brush, so no Dry brushes or anything. At the moment it seems like the older line of brushes from GW are still available, so I don't know if these new ones are intended to replace them or not. These new brushes are fully synthetic, and though the GW website doesn't say this about the older ones, I have heard that the older ones are a synthetic/natural blend. 

Natural paint brushes are made from animal hair, with the highest quality ones for mini painting commonly coming from the kolinsky weasel. These STC brushes only use fully synthetic bristles, so no animals involved. That may already be a huge selling point for some people. The first thing you'll notice about the STC brushes is their appearance. They're entirely white, including the bristles. While this looks great on a shelf, there are a few drawbacks to this, which I'll get to shortly. GW seems to have made an STC equivalent for every brush in their normal range besides the Artificer brushes.

Currently I use a mix of brushes. My main brush is a Windsor and Newton Series 7, which is one you'll often hear talked about amongst mini painters. It's a pretty good quality brush, keeps an excellent point, but does cost a little bit more. I got mine, a size 1, for around $15 plus shipping. I also use some of the white handled Army Painter Brushes, and a few of the existing GW brushes, mostly the Shade and Dry brushes. None of these are full synthetic. I wanted to compare how the new STC brushes worked against these other ones, so I set my self a goal of painting a mini only using them.

Wanting to get working on my new Soulblight models I decided to paint up one of the Fell Bats (which GW kindly sent to me for review). I used the S Shade brush to basecoat the model (I prefer the brushes with the pointed tips, hence why I didn't get the M or L Base brush) in Abaddon Black, and then worked my way through the other brushes. I used the S Base to do a lot of the other base coating, and switched between the M and S Layer for the highlights, with the S doing most of the work. While I intended to do the model entirely with the STC brushes, I did end up cheating a bit near the end, and used my W&N to do the highlights on the face, as well as the eyes and such.

So, what are my thoughts on the STC brushes? They're comparable, if not a little better, than the existing GW ones in my opinion. I found it hard to get a super fine point on the S Layer for highlights, hence why I switched to the W&N for the face since the detail is so fine there. Having said that though, I did do all of the highlights on the rest of the body with the S Layer brush. I probably could've done the face using the S Layer, but I was more comfortable finishing it with my W&N. The bristles are definitely a bit stiffer, which is one of their selling points as they keep their shape easier. I think this would be really good for edge highlighting with the side of your brush, and also drybrushing, which makes me regret not getting one of those to test as well. One thing I noticed if I watered down my paints a lot is that sometimes the paint beaded near the tip a bit more, probably due to the synthetic nature of the bristles. It didn't happen all the time, and if I ran my brush across my palette I could get the paint to distribute more evenly throughout the bristles. I don't think the average painter waters their paint down as much as I do though. I like working with really thin paints for highlights so it flows super easily. I think theses are good base coating and layering brushes, and will be especially good for paints that can be harder on your brushes, like Contrast and Metallic paints. I destroyed a W&N brush painting up my Necrons over the summer, so I can definitely see myself using these for a lot of the work on my mostly Metallic and Contrast painted Necrons. I think the synthetic bristles will stand up better to those paints.

I'll probably use these going forward in place of my Army Painter brushes, which I used for a lot of broader highlights and base coating, and stick to my W&N for the finer highlights. I think these can do the entire job for a lot of people though. It all depends on what you're comfortable with. If you already use something like W&N you'll probably feel more comfortable sticking with that for finer highlights and details. I'd recommend picking one or two up and testing them yourself. The biggest test of these though will be how well they hold up over time, which unfortunately I can't attest to yet. My Army Painter ones usually last a few months before they splay on me. I'll try and come back and update this in a few months time with how my STC brushes are holding up.

The last thing to touch on is the white bristles. Like I said, these look great, until you paint with them. They're going to get stained pretty quickly, especially with stronger pigments, shades, and contrasts. On the plus side, you can really tell how effectively you're cleaning your brushes afterwards. I used brush soap on mine and it got a lot of the stain out. I definitely recommend brush soap in general anyway. Your brushes will last much longer if you properly clean them after every session.

So, what's the final verdict? The new STC brushes fill some pretty good roles. They'll be great for Metallics and Contrast, great for base coating, drybrushing, and a lot of highlight work, but they're not going to replace higher end brushes, which I don't think is their intention anyway. They're fully synthetic though, so if avoiding brushes made using animal hair is a priority to you then you'll like these a lot. They're priced pretty reasonably, coming in slightly cheaper than the older GW brushes and around the same cost as the white handled Army Painter ones. I think accessibility will be another huge plus for these as well. I have to order my W&N brushes from a specific website, so that tacks on shipping and time. Also, a lot of my local hobby stores near me that I go to don't carry a wide choice of other paint brush brands, but they do all carry GW brushes. I think a lot of other hobbyists who collect GW are probably in a similar boat. If you're on the fence about them I definitely recommend picking up one or two of these and testing them out for yourself. The STC brushes are another great tool in the painter's tool box, and hopefully will be a bit better at holding up to wear and tear over time.

UPDATE 1/24/22:

After some wear and tear, mine have curled at the tip a bit. I still use them for a lot of base coat work, as well as on "hardier" paints, like technical paints and such. I haven't had any issues with them splitting at all, but the small curl does make it a little trickier to do any detail work.

Garfy has had some luck with getting a point back on his STC brushes though!
Until next time,

Tyler M.

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