Several months ago, I was contacted by one of the developers of Wild Plein travel brushes, Ryan Mahoney, who asked if I was interested in taking one of their sets for a test drive. I was unfamiliar with this company but I'm always on the hunt for a good watercolor travel brush, especially if it's a pocket brush, so I happily replied 'yes.'
Using these brushes has been a fun albeit interesting experience. I've had a few quality issues with the brushes, but so far, I've been very impressed with the company's dedication and resolve.
Below, I'll share more information about the Wild Plein set of travel brushes along with the results of the watercolor tests that I've performed with these brushes. I hope this helps you decide if these are the right travel pocket brushes for you!
About Wild Plein
Wild Plein is a fairly new company that produces a single set of 6 travel brushes beautifully packaged and wrapped in a "faux leather" brush roll. The brushes are a blend of sable and hog's hair, and the set includes all rounds, one of each size 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12.
Currently, the set retails for less than $85 on Amazon and at Wild Plein's website, but if you sign into Wild Plein's website with your email, you can spin their wheel for a possible discount of up to 40-percent off.
Though the company is still trying to work out some quality control issues with their brushes (more on this below), it's Wild Plein's commitment to their company, customers, and product that convinced me to write this review.
Every time I have emailed Ryan, he responded promptly and thoroughly. Wild Plein also offers a generous refund policy which states, "If Wild Plein brushes do not to live up to your expectations, for any reason, just contact us about receiving 100% of your money back."
Indeed. When I encountered a few issues with the brushes and reached out to Ryan, he immediately offered to send an additional set. Since I didn't pay for the initial set and the issues so far have been minor and repairable, I declined the additional set because I didn't want to take advantage of this generous company.
Review of Wild Plein Travel Brushes
Because I have such mixed opinions about various elements of these brushes, I thought it would be fair to review each element of the brush separately, and I've given each element of the brush a grade. Just like in school, A is for excellent, B is good, C is fair, D is for barely making it across the border (in other words, needs serious improvement), and F is failure.
As always, brushes are highly personal and vary in every hand. Below are simply my personal opinions of the Wild Plein travel brushes, but you may have a different experience than me.
Packaging & Case: B
Unboxing these brushes is like opening a gift. Though irrelevant unless actually given as a gift, the packaging is lovely. The brush roll... not so much. It's cute but the faux leather description is rather generous. The roll looks and feels nothing like leather and is obviously made from some sort of vinyl.
Though the brush roll's material is nothing special, the stitching seems fairly durable and the case holds the brushes securely. I already have another pouch that I use to carry my travel brushes, so I considered the case immaterial. If you need a carrying case, Wild Plein's brush roll probably won't last forever but it should work fine in the meantime.
Weight & Feel: A
The brushes themselves are extremely lightweight. At first, I was a bit concerned and wondered if the lack of weight was indicative of a lack of quality because the wood feels very lightweight and soft and the metal housing is fairly thin.
Once I started painting with the Wild Plein set, I greatly enjoyed the weight (or lack thereof) and the balance of these brushes. I own some fairly bulky travel brushes, so I also really like that each Wild Plein brush handle and cap is perfectly sized to fit its bristle size. My hand never tired while painting with these brushes and that's a huge plus!
A few pocket brush weight comparisons:
- Wild Plein size 12 - .5 oz / 14 g
- Joe's Pseudo Sable size 12 - .8 oz / 22 g
- Wild Plein size 10 - .5 oz / 13 g
- Joe's Kolinsky size 8 - .7 oz / 20 g
- Wild Plein size 6 - .3 oz / 8 g
- Isabey size 6 - .3 oz / 8 g
Brush Bristles: B
I'm a bit bothered that these brushes are consistently marketed as "kolinsky sable travel series brushes." I'm very much into transparent honesty and full disclosure, and I couldn't find the actual bristle ingredients—a blend of sable and hog hair—listed anywhere in Wild Plein's Amazon description. As far as I could tell, there's only one tiny reference at Wild Plein's website buried within the set's description. Wild Plein's eBay description makes a small mention of the "kolinsky sable blend" but otherwise refers to these brushes as "our kolinsky tufts," "kolinsky hair brush tufts," and "handmade natural sable brush."
Eyeroll please. Let me put this out there one more time, just in case you missed it:
These brushes are NOT 100-percent kolinsky sable. They're not even 100-percent sable.
But so what? I think Wild Plein should come to terms with their bristle content, because these bristles DO perform like a very good version of what they are which is some sort of sable blend. Wild Plein brushes handle much better than some kolinsky sables that I've tried. (Just check out my opinion of Rosemary's pocket brushes.)
Wild Plein's bristles have medium softness with moderate snap and slight spring. They won't hold a razor sharp point but their bristles do not splay. The large bellies hold a lot of pigment, but some of the brushes struggle with too quick of a release. I give these bristles, whatever they are, a solid B.
In the above left photo, I pushed down on the paper with the Wild Plein brush (left) and a pure kolinsky sable brush (right). The brushes splay similarly, but the kolinsky sable brush maintains its shape a bit better and its belly has more spring (doesn't flatten as much) on the page. After the pressure is released in the above right photo, the kolinsky sable brush immediately springs back to a point. The Wild Plein brush has a bit more difficulty.
If you purchase these brushes thinking you're getting kolinsky sable, I think you'll be highly disappointed. If you read the fine print and know what you're getting, I think you'll be satisfied with their performance. There's more on the bristle's quality in the video below, but I stand by my overall grade for a sable blend brush.
P.S. After this review went live, Wild Plein reached out to me and explained that all of the references to kolinsky sable are mainly to boost visibility with search engines. (Being a blogger, I understand.) Wild Plein is planning to make the bristle content more prominent in the future. Yay for companies who care!
Handles & Housing: D
Insofar as appearances, I love the color of the wood and ferrules but I'm not a cheetah lady. (Are those two words contradictory?) However, the handle pattern is very unobtrusive, and after about a day or so of use, I no longer even noticed the pattern. I also didn't allow this factor to affect the overall grade. After all, some may love cheetah. (You go, girl... or um, guy.)
What did affect the grade? The brush handles and housings are where I encountered problems. This might have resulted in a grade of F except for three reasons: 1) the quality issues were limited to only a couple of brushes; 2) Ryan assured me that they are working out these kinks in production; 3) Wild Plein's generous return/replacement policy if you encounter the same issues.
The photo above shows a rough ferrule edge, a loose handle, and in one case the handle attachment completely separated from the brush. I easily repaired the handle with Gorilla glue, but these problems are unacceptable in a brand new brush set.
UPDATE 4/14/18: To assure that there's no further issues with loose handles, Wild Plein has recalled their sets to have the handles checked and repaired, if necessary. All of their website orders will be fulfilled from these updated sets. Since it's difficult for a company to track every single set through their distributors, if you have an issue with your brush set, the company is committed to excellence so please reach out to them for a replacement or repair.
Cost is where Wild Plein travel brushes may truly entice. Honestly, I don't know how Wlld Plein can offer their brush set at this price point, and they even offer possible discounts at their site.
You may counter my perplexity with "China!" and you'd be correct. However, Wild Plein's website readily discloses this information and states that they took great care in selecting their manufacturer—a third generation, family run business. Also, other travel brushes are made in China, and Wild Plein is still beating their prices by a large margin.
Just to compare... a set of six Escoda Versatile travel brushes will currently set you back a whopping $172.41 on Amazon. Currently, the best price I could find for a set of six Escoda Reserva travel brushes is at Jackson's for $253.18. (Okay yes, last I heard Escoda is still made in Spain.)
One of my favorite budget pocket brushes is Cheap Joe's Pseudo Sable, but the available sizes are limited and a four brush set currently costs around $50 plus shipping. Joe's Kolinsky sable travel brushes cost even more, of course. There are more current prices in the chart above.
If you need a starter set of six pocket travel brushes at an extremely affordable price, Wild Plein may be your answer.
Video Review: Wild Plein Travel Brushes
I've put together a Wild Plein travel brush video review that showcases the set, shares how the brushes test and paint, and contains more information about this set including the problems that I encountered. You can learn more about how to test watercolor brushes here.
Wild Plein Travel Brush Set Overview
Regardless of my various opinions about each element of the Wild Plein brushes, what really matters is how well a brush performs in your hand. In my hand, Wild Plein travel brushes work just fine and I really enjoy painting with them.
Because of the problems I encountered with the handles, I have doubts that these brushes will last forever. Since I don't consider brushes a disposable product, I would be willing to pay a bit more for this set if I knew the quality was a notch better.
However, if you enjoy the performance of sable or sable blend brushes but need to keep an eye on your budget, Wild Plein travel brushes are a fine option, and so far I believe they are worth their price. You can compare Wild Plein brushes to more pocket travel brushes here.
Overview of the Wild Plein travel brush set:
- Brush roll isn't high quality but works.
- Brushes are lightweight & easily portable.
- Bristles are moderate quality & perform as expected.
- Price point is very budget friendly.
- Handles & ferrules may have quality issues or may not last.
Scratchmade Exclusive! Wild Plein Discount Code
If you're interested in trying out a Wild Plein brush set for yourself, Wild Plein has offered a generous discount exclusively for SJ readers!
To save 20-percent off of a brush set prior to shipping, head on over to Wild Plein's website and enter code SMJ20 at checkout. This discount can't be combined with any other offer.
Wild Plein is a small independent company so supplies are limited, and this exclusive discount code expires April 15, 2018.