How to assess the quality of a Chinese / Japanese brush?

There are many ways you can tell if a brush you intend to purchase or you just purchased is of good quality. In the following chapter we are going to give you a brief overview and try to provide you with examples so you can assess yourself  in the future.


When you are an experienced painter and look at the brush, you will be able to quickly assess if the brush has been hand-made by an experienced brush maker who is normally an artisans taking a lot of pride in his century-old profession.

Brush with poorly inserted hair 1/2
Brush with poorly inserted hair 2/2
With his brushes, each brush is an artwork by itself – the opposite would be an industrially manufactured mass-product where price is more important than quality.

The easiest but very important criteria of assessing the level of workmanship on a brush is by analyzing how the hair is inserted in the shaft of the brush – is it too loose, it will fall out when you swing the brush. Another important thing is that the hair inserted into the brush is well chosen, straight and aligned so that for small brushes the hair forms a nice and clean tip. For bigger brushes, it is important that the hair is aligned and falls naturally when you hold it at the end of the handle top-down. If hair unnaturally stands out at the side, it has not been applied perfectly – see the pictures here of a brush which failed our quality control as a reference.

If you want to know more about this you can also refer to the following article in our knowledge base.

Materials Used

Good artisans love the brushes they craft – therefore they tend to only use high quality materials for their brushes – the most important being the hair of course – here you have different types and different quality levels but this is often something very difficult to assess just by looking at it – either you test the brush or you just purchase with the supplier of your trust.

Reputation of the Manufactory or Craftsman

The secrets of the craft of brush making have been handed down within old Chinese brush making dynasties through generations. Handing over this skill learned from their forefathers is something artisans take great pride in. Each brush they sell is a symbol of tradition and family pride. Often the name of the craftsman is printed or engraved on the brush handle and the artisan guarantees for the quality with his family name. With Chinese families being very proud of their family heritage this is something they do not take lightly. You have to beware however, some brushes sold from China who come with fancy names that sound Chinese to foreigners are merely tourist knicknack to be bought as a souvenir but not really serving its purpose – mostly you find those low-quality brushes in cheap calligraphy sets that come in an extravagant box.

NOTE: In our shop we do not use the original Chinese names for our brushes. The reason for this is that we want to make the shopping easy for our clients and we think that a name like “Cheeky Rat” – just to give an example – is easier to remember than a complicated Chinese name. And – we have to admit – we had a lot of fun finding English names for our brushes.