Games & Gears Studio Brush review

//Games & Gears Studio Brush review

Back in February I backed Games & Gears Kickstarter for their ‘Pro Studio’ brush set and true to their promise they delivered in April, a set of new double-ended brushes arriving in the post a few days back. Although I missed the ‘early bird’ special at £15, a set of nine natural sable-hair brushes for £25 is a great price in anyones book so even if they turned out to be “average”, it’s still a good deal. What Games & Gears described however is far from average. “High end, high quality, Kolinsky sable duel end brushes” (according to the description), featuring:-

  • A uniquely designed handle grip which enables high volume, fatigue free painting
  • Longer ferrule for more precision painting and control
  • Sable Kolinsky hair for the best quality results

As far as painting goes I’m no professional, just a half-competent amateur. But what I have learned over the years is a decent quality brush that can hold a good point really helps extract the best out of your painting, whatever your skill level. Bottom line, a high quality brush won’t turn you into a pro-painter, but a poor quality one will sure as heck hinder it. Manufacturers like Rafael and Windsor & Newton are popular for a reason.

So how do Games & Gears Pro-Studio brushes stack up in relation to the competition?

High volume, fatigue free paining

One of the most noticeable features about the majority of the brushes in the set is the extra length in comparison to other miniature hobby brushes. Possibly this may suit other painters more than me as I hold the brush roughly mid ferrule and find the additional length and all the extra weight that goes with it ungainly. With the centre of gravity being set further back rather than near the front  the balance is a bit disconcerting, which ironically for me means having to hold the brush tighter rather than lightly.

The other minor issue (for me) is other than the shorter PSS1 and PSS2 none of the brushes fit into my brush case. Being double ended brushes storing them horizontally in a case or stand is going to be essential as I really would not rely on the brush caps provided to protect your investment in the long term.

Longer ferrule for more precision and control.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really quite get this? The precision and control for delivering the paint is predominately through the quality and shaping of the hairs. What you are looking for is a generous belly the will hold enough moisture to allow the paint to flow, a well shaped point that delivers the paint precisely where you want it and a good snap which returns the hairs back into shape ready for subsequent strokes. It’s one of the reasons that the tail hair from a Kolinsky or Red Sable is a popular choices for natural bristle brushes. I’m not really convinced how much extra precision and control is delivered through the ferrule being longer and I certainly can’t believe it would overcome any deficiencies in the brush tip. Anything else is really down to how you hold the brush and that varies from painter to painter. I know some who hold the brush high on the handle, others, like me who prefer tighter to the brush end or somewhere more mid-ferrule.

On the upside, I found the ferrules on all of the brushes to be comfortable, well constructed and nice and tight.

Brush performance

Left to right: W&N Series 7 Size 2, Games Workshop Basecoat brush, Games & Gears Pro Studio Size 2

I’m going to get this out of the way now because if there was one thing I really would like Games & Gears to change on their brushes, it’s the end caps. For a company that purports to supply “High end, high quality” Professional Studio brushes, the choice of material and quality of the brush protectors provided is a really poor one. The flimsy and thin clear plastic tubing offers very little in the way of meaningful protection compared to the more robust translucent tubing you find on the likes of Games Workshop or W&N. With the Games & Gears brushes being double-ended, the need for decent end protectors is even more important. And I would strongly recommend ditching the ones provided for something more effective long term in order to protect your investment. Several of the caps I had simply fell off every time I picked up the brush as there just isn’t enough substance to them to keep them on the ferrule. If I could make one recommendation to Games & Gears it would be to rethink the quality of the tubing used for the brush protectors for subsequent batches.

Painting wise, I tried their Size 1 and Size 2 brushes alongside a fairly new Games Workshop Besecoat brush and a Windsor & Newton Series 7 size 2 which I have been using for just over a year. All three brushes were given a good wash to remove any residual shaper or brush soap and brought back to a point to give a baseline starting point.

Washed and un-pointed (dry) to check shaping when splayed.
Left to right: Games Workshop Master Series basecoat brush, W&N Series 7 Size 2, Games & Gears Pro Studio Size 2

 

Having spent a little time with each of the brushes I’m just going to jump right in and talk about the elephant in the room; how do Games & Gears brushes compare to the likes of W&N Series 7. Based on the quality of the brushes I received, the answer I am sorry to say is, they don’t. Games & Gears Pro Studio brushes, whilst decent enough for the cost are not producing for me the same degree of performance I regular get from my W&N. A close up look at the unshaped splayed out hairs shows where some of these problems probably originate. Wetted and re-shaped the Series 7 more reliably holds a single point, whereas what I found with several of the Games & Gears brushes is after a short period of painting the hairs start to stray. There was also a lack of consistency from brush to brush (or even end to end) in the shaping.

Most of these issues are probably ones of manufacture as opposed to quality of materials and can certainly be addressed easily enough.

Amongst the range are also a few what could be termed specialist role brushes, such as the flat and wide bellied. These broadly do what you would expect them to, whether it is dry-brushing, softening filters or applying washes. Having these included in the set as part of the Kickstarter is generous and they certainly add to the range. The flat brush is one I am particularly fond of and the Games & Gears 3LX version certainly compares very favourably with others of its kind. The wash brush, if that is what the 4RX is designed to be has a decent full belly (don’t laugh, that’s exactly what you want in a wash brush) and a good length to the hairs. Overall it should perform nicely as a wash brush. Ironically my 4RX has been holding a tighter point than any of its smaller kin, go figure?

That leaves the two brushes which are being targeted specifically at ‘wet blenders’; the PSS1 and PSS2. Although not a regular wet blender myself, I really quite like these brushes. The shorter handle and double end is nicely balanced and I can see these being very popular. Again, their performance will depend on the quality of the brush shaping if they are aiming at professional or experienced painters. Out of all of the brushes in the set, it is these and the flat flush which for me stand out.

In conclusion

As new entrants to the brush market I think Games & Gears have gotten off to a decent start and clearly they offered a lot for a very cheap pledge level via Kickstarter to get them going. They also delivered to schedule, just as they promised. Considering what I received for the outlay I made I’m not at all dissatisfied; the brushes are a decent quality and I would compare them favourably with what I have used from Games Workshop after their last brush overhaul. The problem for me is that isn’t the competition Games & Gears are liking themselves to in their marketing blurb.  The brush they promise is a high end, high quality professional standard product and that places it firmly in comparison with sable-hair brushes from Rafael or W&N Series 7. For me, based on the brushes I received they are not comparable.

Does that make them bad brushes? No, far from it. But they are what they are and if they are competitively priced to reflect the standard they are at when they go to full retail I cannot see anyone being unhappy.

However, if you’re either a professional painter, or an experienced amateur (like me) I think you’re going to be a little disappointed because I really don’t feel they live up to their billing. And ultimately it’s the billing I think that’s the problem. In many ways I feel Games & Gears are a bit of a victim of their own Kickstarter success in that they created a lot of buzz about the product and perhaps set the bar of expectation unreasonably high. If they can sort out their quality control and consistency  issues and do something about those abysmally poor end protectors there are far worse sable-hair brushes on the market. Unfortunately, there are also better and for me at least the Pro Studio brushes aren’t in any danger of replacing my W&N series 7’s just yet.

Obviously this is only a short time using them, but as brushes dont tend to improve with age I’m not expecting them to change my opinion anytime soon. I will continue to put them to good use however, especially the shorter PSS1 (which does fit in my brush case … just) and report back in a few months after they have spent a little more time carrying pigment.

You can find out more about Games & Gears brush range including their forthcoming other products on their Facebook Page here

Until next time, have a great week.

CW

By |2017-09-13T13:11:16+00:00April 25th, 2013|Categories: News|Tags: |11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Simon Dixon April 25, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Great review. Really informative. A lot of your points confirm what I thought on seeing the original kickstarter. One thing has confused me from the start and no-one seems to be able to answer (including G&G) is why exactly they are double ended, instead of just giving you two brushes?!

    Any thoughts from your test drive?

  2. Carl Woodrow April 25, 2013 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Thanks Simon. My take on the double-ended design was they wanted to aim the brush at ‘wet-blenders’. So instead of needing to switch frequently between two brushes, you could simply reverse your brush. The theory is sound enough and I do think their shorter PSS1 and PSS2 brushes are actually ideal for this.

    Where they fall down a bit in my opinion is with the rest of the range because of the extra length to the handles. The size 2 for example is nearly 9.5″ (24cm) long tip to tip. Nice for water-colour artists, not so sure for miniature painting though.

    My personal view is they should have kept the short length PSS brushes as double-ended and simply made regularly sized quality single ended brushes for the rest of the range. I guess they are just trying to be innovative maybe?

  3. mephistonag April 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Mephiston's Wargame blog and commented:
    Interesting review of the G&G brushes from a very good painter,

  4. Iain April 26, 2013 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Very interesting. I had the same question as Simon. I saw these on KS several times, but it seemed that they were pushing the gimmick of double ended brushes, more than they were ‘quality brishes’ to me. This just left me feeling that it was a gimmick that didnt really amount to much, and in some cases would actually be a problem. (What is it like to paint with one end, while the brush on the other end is loaded?) While the initial KS prices were good for what you got, I wonder what the final retail prices will be, as pricing these far above GW seems that it may represent poor value and rely on the gimmick to sell them.

    • Carl Woodrow April 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      I haven’t actually tried using both ends simultaneously as per their design so far because I haven’t needed to yet. And to be honest if I did do some wet-blending, I would just use the shorter PSS1 or PSS2 which seem to be ideal for this. Probably just as well because the position I paint at (close to the mini) I keep catching myself with the other end of the Size 1 and size 2.

      I don’t know what the final retail will be, but by comparison they ‘can’ be superior to GW at least. I say ‘can’ because out of all the brushes I received, the Size 1 was actually very good and certainly on par with other quality red sable. This leads me to think it may be a quality issue in their manufacturing.

      I contacted G&G via Kickstarter and they have pledged to send replacements, so I will be sure to let you know how that turns out if/when they arrive. In fairness to G&G their response and customer service to date has been outstanding, so I certainly want to give them the best opportunity to remedy the issues.

  5. docbungle April 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Miniature Musings of a Bear and commented:
    Nice little review

  6. Darren Lysenko May 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    Great review! I was very disappointed in the quality of the brushes.

    I felt that using the words ‘Pro’ and ‘Studio’ in the product description was a bit misleading as to the quality we were getting. Mine used to lose their point after two or three brush strokes and now no longer even come to a point at all – whereas the Series 7 I’ve used every day for over a year still does!

  7. Fildrigar June 12, 2013 at 4:42 am - Reply

    Any updates yet? Have nearly two months with them changed your mind at all?

    • Carl Woodrow June 12, 2013 at 7:27 am - Reply

      I didn’t really want to post an update until I had given the brushes a fair crack at painting. For that I needed to evaluate any replacements Games & Gears sent, which they duly did two weeks ago and I have been using them alongside my regular brushes since. Out of the four replacements that I received, three were significantly better manufactured and were free from defects. Those were the PSS1 and PSS2 and the ‘000’.

      To answer your question though, no, it hasn’t changed my overall opinion as even with the replacements I found I was repeatedly having to switch the brushes out for one of my older regular brushes as they were more consistent under load at maintaining a well-shaped tip. My view is still the same in that these are decent and in the main well made natural sable hair brushes and for the price I paid are competitive. What they are still not, in my humble opinion is a set of brushes I would like to use day in day out at a professional level. I just don’t feel the same level of skill has gone into their manufacture that you would expect from a W&N Series 7 or a Rafael and that is reflected in their performance from my albeit brief experience with the set and replacements I was sent.

      Their attention to customer service is still excellent however and I really would call that out again. It is hard to fault any company that ultimately does make every effort to resolve complaints or dissatisfaction. I would certainly commend them on that.

      But the end result is I still rely on my current brushes not the G&G ones for the majority of my painting.

  8. C April 26, 2014 at 9:05 am - Reply

    fwiw, The double-headed brush is for “two brush” blending. The first brush deposits paint, the second a universal natural medium, spit. (: So instead of holding the second brush in your mouth, you use the second tip. Thanks for the review. Any intentions of backing their second KS?

    • Carl Woodrow April 26, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments ‘C’. Totally agree that was G&G’s intention for the double-ended brush design and in my original review I did point out the shorter handle PSS1 and PSS2 would be ideal for this. It is the longer handle double-ended that I find less practical for wet blending. I found the extra length meant I was constantly catching the other end of the brush on my clothes as I switched ends. I’m also not a painter who prefers spit as the blending medium (although I appreciate a lot do). I find clean water or a contrast colour more to my taste.

      Will I be backing their second brush Kickstarter? No. The primary problem I had with their initial brush series is the construction quality fell far short of acceptability. They have great customer service, but ultimately that cannot overcome what was from my experience a poor product. Maybe others will find their brush price/quality more to their tastes and I would encourage you to give their brushes a go if you think they will help you with your wet-blending. Like any ‘tool’ everyone has different requirements and one size does not fit all. Just because I didn’t like them doesn’t automatically mean you won’t either.

      If I had to try one over again for wet-blending it would be the PSS2 as it has a wider belly and a shorter handle making it (in my view) more practical and pleasing to handle. Hope that helps.

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