TL;DR: get the Citadel - Layer M OR the Army Painter - Wargamer: Regiment brush and get painting. Both are decent brushes that'll get you far.
You don't really need any other brushes to get started, although you will want to begin expanding your brush inventory after some projects. I recommend Army Painter and Citadel as they are of consistent quality, slightly overpriced but available almost everywhere, and you might not know much about brushes in the beginning to get great deals on cheaper craft store brushes.
The first thing after your initial brush might be to buy an Army Painter Monster brush for washes if you use those a lot. Or a drybrush/makeup brush of you do a lot of drybrushing. Or a small brush for painting eyes and other small details.
There is nothing magical about "miniature" brushes. Miniature brushes usually have a shorter handle, possibly shorter bristles and a bigger price tag, that's it. You have good and bad quality brushes, be it a miniature-branded one or not. I frequently snap my brush handles with cutters and file the end smooth.
The core brushes for a bit more advanced hobbyist:
- For basecoating, something like a size 5 or 6 synthetic brush from a craft store
- For glue and such, size 1 synthetic brush from a craft store
- For drybrushing, a medium size makeup brush from a cosmetics store
- For large details (highlights, glazes), size 1 or 2 Kolinsky sable premium brush
- For small details (eyes, scratches), size 00 (aka. 2/0) Kolinsky sable premium brush
Many painters prefer Kolinsky sable hair brushes with a big belly and a sharp tip. The belly is the fattest part of the bristle head. Sable bristles suck more paint than synthetic hairs and a fat belly makes it hold even more paint. Being able to load a lot of paint onto your brush reduces the amount you need to be picking up paint from your palette. When you get more comfortable with your painting, people tend to gravitate towards optimizing speed, like a single model taking 2 hours instead of 3. Thus brushes that hold more paint but allow a few fine details with a sharp tip are quite common. On the other hand, slim belly synthetic brushes allow more fine control and last longer. It's a personal preference.
The process of using your brush in a nutshell:
- Place a drop or two of paint from the paint bottle onto your palette.
- Moisten your brush by partially dipping it into a cup of tap water.
- Whirl your moist brush in the paint to thin it a bit.
- Clean your brush and rotate the brush against a surface to make it pointy.
- Some people alternatively do the ancient technique of lip pointing meaning they whirl the brush in their mouth and use their saliva and lips to make the point sharp.
- Let the brush load the paint, up to 50% of the hairs and never up to the metal part.
- Swipe lightly onto a paper towel or your palette. Twist to get a sharper point.
- Obviously, don't lick the brush when it's loaded with paint.
Citadel brushes to your average brush style and size:
# note that all sizes are of approximations as manufacturer standards vary
Citadel Base M = Flat, size 4
Citadel Base L = Flat, size 6 (angled)
Citadel Layer S = Round, size 0
Citadel Layer M = Round, size 1
Citadel Shade M = Round, size 4
Citadel Dry M = Flat, size 8 (bright, meaning equal length and width)
Replace your worn brushes. Once your brush won't make a good point, it's time to replace it.
Don't throw away your old paint brushes. Old brushes can be used for tough work such as applying glue, stirring paint, spreading texture paste or doing drybrushing.
Get some professional miniatures brushes after you feel you are ready for them:
- Expensive brushes won't make you a better painter. They are simply more reliable tools when you have high enough skill level.
- Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes are decent, around $10. But you can also get Rafael 8404 or Artis Opus Series S. Size 2 is a good detail brush.
Avoid using your good brushes to scoop paint from pots or for mixing paint. Use your cheap, old or damaged brushes. You will otherwise hit the ferrule with paint. These utility brushes should be clearly separate from your good brushes.
Avoid using inks, washes, contrast paints and other runny paints with sable brushes. Not as bad but these light but pigmented paints can seep to the ferrule really easily.
Avoid using metallic paints with your good brushes. The "metallic" bits such as mica dust can be hard to get off.
To clean a brush, simply whirl it rigorously in a cup of tap water. Don't hit the sides or bottom, it will wear the bristles.
Don't let paint touch the ferrule (the metal rim on the brush). It will dry in there and spread out the bristles. If this happens, wash the brush right away.
Don't store brushes in water. Especially if the bristles touch the bottom, it will wear down your brush in either case. While painting, store them vertically somewhere so no residue flows to the ferrule.
Keep the brush point sharp. Softly twist the bristles against a palette to sharpen them.
Clean all used brushes after each painting session. Use warm (not cold or hot) water from the tap and softly stroke your bristles with your fingers from root to tip. You may optionally use a bit of brush soap, but I'd say do that only for your expensive sable hair brushes.
You can revitalize synthetic brushes with heat. Boil a bit of water with a pan, drag and twist your brush through the boiling water.
You can revitalize most brushes with hand sanitizer. Spread the sanitizer on a surface, rotate-pull your brush through it and clean the brush after a while. Your milage may vary depending on the sanitizer.
- How to Paint Citadel Miniatures, David Cross and Rick Priestley