It might seem odd that I've chosen to write a review of Javis paint brushes but there's a simple reason for it:
I used to run a model shop where we sold lots of things including wargaming figures from a certain large and well known manufacturer. We also stocked their paints and paintbrushes for the benefit of those model makers who would insist that the brushes they used had to bear the same brand name as the figures that they were painting and were prepared to pay for the privilege. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking that company's brushes but we also stocked Javis brushes which are substantially cheaper and on quiet days I would do a bit of painting between customers, and I used the Javis brushes. There were a number of occasions when I asked a customer if they'd tried them, pointed out that's what I was using, and persuaded the customer to give them a try. Invariably they switch to using the Javis brushes. In fact I can't remember having a single customer who tried them and didn't switch to using them from then on.
Depending on where you are in the world you may or may not have heard of them. They are a major UK manufacturer and wholesaler of model making products and if you're in the UK and your local model shop doesn't deal with them I'd be rather surprised. Your model shop might not stock their brushes, or even their range of scenic products and terrain pieces, but if you are paying through the nose for brushes with a 'fancy' name on the handle, maybe it's time you twisted their arm?
I use two types of brushes from Javis namely their "Sable" brushes and their "Hobby" brushes. The Sable brushes are made from sable (well duh) and have a fine point while the Hobby brushes (pony hair) have a rounded tip. The Sable brushes are more expensive and I use them for fine detailing while using the cheaper "Hobby" brushes for larger areas and 'general' use including the application of ink washes, PVA glue, etc.
Excuse me if I go off on a slight tangent but Javis brushes are not the only brushes that I use. However, by the time we're getting bigger than a No.2 Hobby brush we're into the realms where I use cheap artist's/kid's brushes and decorating brushes from discount stores.
Now the tangent I want to pursue is: why CHEAP? In my experience terrain makers often say that they use cheap brushes but hardly any of them ever explain why? Would we not get better results if we used more expensive brushes? Are we just a bunch of Scrooges? The answer is that most of the time we terrain makers are painting onto plaster, sand, and other nasty abrasive surfaces that are going to wreck an expensive brush just as quickly as a cheap one. Better therefore to wreck cheap brushes than expensive brushes that are intended for painting on friendlier surfaces.
Going back to the Javis brushes, don't make the mistake of thinking that they must be of poor quality if they are cheap. They ARE good quality brushes. The reason they are cheaper than Mega-Corp's brushes is because Mega-Corp isn't charging a premium to have their name on the handle.
Javis Sable brushes come in sizes from 5 (the biggest) down to 5/0 (the smallest). Note that 5/0 is sometimes written as 00000 and this effectively means that the range consists of ten brush sizes:
5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, 00, 000, 0000 and 00000
The Hobby brush range also has ten brushes and runs from 7 down to 3/0 but I'm sure you don't need me to explain that in full having just explained it for the sable brushes.
If that sounds like and awful lot of paintbrushes, don't panic: you don't need all of them. Nobody needs all of them. I use just four: Sable 00 and 5/0 and Hobby brushes 2 and 0.
The reason that there are so many in the range is that different people have different preferences and needs. For example some people find 5/0 too small and prefer a 4/0 or even a 3/0 as their smallest brush. Of course if your smallest paintbrush is a 3/0 a.k.a. 000 then you wouldn't also want an 00 and might instead choose a No.1 or No.2 brush as your next size up.
It also depends what you're painting. I use the sable brushes for figures and for fine detailing on terrain. Some of the images with this review show me using a 00 to paint details on some treasure chests that I made for one of the TerraGenesis competitions. You can also see me using the No.0 Hobby brush for applying an ink wash to the same piece. The No.2 Hobby brush is what I use when painting something like Hirst Arts buildings while the 5/0 sable is used for painting the eyes on figures, knobs on control panels, that sort of thing.
If you've read all of the above, rather than just skipping to the end, then you can probably guess what I'm going to say here: if your local shop stocks Javis paint brushes then give them a try and if they don't stock them, twist their arm to get some. Bear in mind that you'll only need two or three sizes from each range and that you certainly wouldn't need consecutive sizes. I'll be very surprised if you try them and switch back to a more expensive brand.