Last year, I participated in the Games & Gears Kickstarter and began to use their Ichiban Studio Pro Line Brushes I got from it almost exclusively. You can read my initial thoughts about them HERE. Many readers have read that blog post and a couple indicated an interest on seeing an 'update' after extended use of the brushes. I thought it was a great idea but I also wanted to wait till I received some of my other goods from that Kickstarter and I didn't want to rush it either.
Admittedly, it took a bit longer than I thought to revisit that topic but, here we are, about 9 months later. Overall, I still like using the brushes but, it hasn't been without some frustrations.
I had two sets of brushes from Games & Gears as opposed to one and got them earlier than most since I benefited from one of the Early Bird Pledges. The brushes are great to handle and generally pleasant to paint with, until you run into issues with them. The more I used them, the more I ran into little issues with the brushes and I was at a loss to account for some of the things I was noticing. I have a couple of theories though.
Here is a picture of one of the sets I have been using during these past 9 months:
Notice how the one on the far right 'curls' at the tip? Or how some of the bristles seem to shoot out away from the main body? These brushes are clean and I take care of all of my brushes. I use 'The Masters' Brush Cleaner & Preserver almost exclusively to clean my brushes at the end of every single session. Actually, one of the brushes used to be worse. The brush head had a tendency to 'split' despite being clean. It started doing that within weeks of owning the brush. I shampooed and conditioned the brushes and then used my Brush Cleaner to try and sort that out.
For comparison, these are my OTHER sable brushes after a couple of years of use:
Notice are the tips come to a sharp point? I can assure you that they keep their points a lot better then the ones from Games & Gears. The same care goes to these brushes as my newer ones. Of course since the belly of the Ichiban brushes are thicker and shorter than these trusty, older and reliable brushes, it did take some effort to not go back and use these three instead.
So why am I having the problems I'm having? Well, my Ichiban brushes were part of the initial batch sent out with the early birds so it's entirely possible that they hadn't gotten all the kinks out in production yet.
I have generally managed to correct the 'curling' that was happening with the use of the Ichiban brushes and I suspect it has to do with the main body of the bristles being so thick and shorter. Constantly painting and using the brush in the exact same manner brush stroke after brush stroke may have been the problem and I found that slowly rotating the handle as I painted eliminated the issue. Interestingly enough, I've never had to do this with any other brush.
The split ends though, I'm a bit at a loss. I thought that, maybe, some of the pigmentation of my heavier (base coat) paints might have just gotten lodged closer to the ferrule of the brush and, being very thick, it was just much harder to work out while cleanging. However, I largely paint with the tip of the brush -- especially when using smaller brushes since we're talking detail work, not just base-coating.
If could just very well be manufacturing issues. There have been issues in the past with some of their products (brushes) before these were done and, while I believe that it has greatly improved by the time they launched these brushes, it might still not be perfect. A lot of their stuff comes out of China so some people putting this stuff together to be shipped out may not be giving it their best. Case in point, while I recently received and reviewed the Katana brush, it didn't get to me in pristine condition. Of course, this most likely happened during shipping but it did ship direct from China.
Note that the slight 'bend' above is NOT an optical illusion.
I should point out that the bodies of these brushes are made of SOLID ALUMINUM. A bend and dent this pronounced would require quite a bit of pressure. I'm actually inclined to believe that this might have happened during production as opposed to post production.
In any event, it's irrelevant. Games & Games is apparently replacing this and the other brushes. I will say this of them, the customer service I have received has been top-notch so I'm more than willing to continue working with them and continue to give them my business. I have been using a synthetic brush they gave out at Gen Con last year and have had ZERO issue with it. It's been one of nicer synthetic brushes I've had the pleasure to paint with. I think that they genuinely want to put out a quality product and have been working towards producing a better one.
I still use the Ichiban brushes I have because they are actually decent brushes ... at least until the bristles start misbehaving. When I start off with them and get the brushes wet and load them with paint, they seem to want to keep their tips for a time -- they are sable brushes and seem naturally disposed to do so. However, I find that part way through, I will need to switch up my brushes... either by going to a different size or grab my 'spare set' to continue my painting. I have finished many models with just these brushes even though these (the brushes) still aren't perfect.
In the meantime, I'm still holding off getting those Windsor Newton series 7 brushes and I'm hoping the replacements will be a step closer to what I've been looking for. If the replacement don't seem much better, I know I'll still be able to use them in some capacity.