Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review

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Ghost Brushes Review Featured

Ghost Brushes’ pristine white hobby offerings are as striking and stunning to look at as freshly-fallen snow. But are they an exercise in style over substance?

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The Best Brushes for Miniatures & Models

This article is part of our series looking at the Best Brushes for Miniatures & Wargames Models.

Best Brushes for Painting Miniatures

If you want to check out what the best brushes are for your projects, please check out our Best Brushes for Miniatures article by clicking the image above.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Summary

Whilst they may be gorgeous to look at, Ghost brushes’ range is a bit of a mixed bag. Although its #00 is a fantastic bit of kit, the range is too expensive and specialised to appeal to the beginner painters they are aimed at, and are overall not of high enough quality to entice the more experienced painter.

These brushes are like buying a 49CC scooter for a kid who has only just figured out how to use a pedal bike with training wheels, or offering the same ride to an adult who already owns a Ducati.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Introduction

You might not have heard of RedBeardBoss or Sleepwalkair_brush, and if so, that’s a shame. The respective YouTube and Instagram handle of Jeff Beyer, a magnificently bearded gentleman from Phoenix, Arizona, these social media platforms are proof that Beyer is a talented miniature painter currently trying to find his own little spot in the Miniature Painter Hall of Fame. And, looking at some of his work, it won’t be long before he finds a spot to hang his portrait on the wall.

The titular Ghost Brushes are his brianchild. Funded to over 7,000% by over 1,300 backers via Kickstarter, which, given that the initial goal was only $1,000 (approx. £774/€855), isn’t quite the accolade it could be, Ghost’s range are a visually striking and unforgettable collection of brushes.

An early gem of the Kickstarter are Beyer’s comments, written in the Kickstarter description. Honestly, if you’re a new, inexperienced, or unsure miniature painter, you may want to have a read of what Beyer has written in his Kickstarter description as there are a few nuggets of extremely well-written and conscientious wisdom about miniature painting and brush care to be found there.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Design

The moment I set my eyes on these brushes, nestled in amongst various other hobby equipment sent to me in a big brown box via Nurgling Courier (aka Yodel), all the way from Casa del Fauxhammer in Nottingham, I had an issue with them.

These brushes are white.

Ghost Brushes Review All

White.

Yes, they are striking to look at: as pristine as fresh-fallen snow, as sheer as a mountainside glacier, as striking amidst your other brushes as an iceberg in a dark blue sea.

But white? White?!

Making white paintbrushes is like dressing your four-year-old in a white suit for a family wedding. Of course, he’s going to get filthy falling over on the lawn, chasing his cousins around. Of course, he’s going to get ketchup and mayonnaise all down the front of it. Of course, there’s going to be a little yellow patch of urine down the leg from when he didn’t shake properly after going for a piss. You’re asking for trouble, and you deserve every bit of humiliation and embarrassment you suffer in the disgusted looks you, as his guardian, endure for the rest of the night. You can feel it even now: that disapproving glare from your in-laws as you’re dragging him to the car, knees brown, shirt-jacket covered in condiments, golden streak of shame down his right trouser leg.

It’d be exactly the same with these brushes. A smudge of Mephiston Red on the handle? A splash of Dryad Bark on the belly of the brush? A harrowing dash of Yriel Yellow snaking up the ferrule? The neckbeard in the hobby store you go to on a Saturday (remember those?) to paint your figures is shaking his head at you right now. “For shame,” he mouths, unwashed ponytail dancing around the shoulders of his (probably also unwashed) Mountain Warehouse fleece.

Your every disgrace, every failure, every smudge of imperfection as a hobbyist will be laid bare upon the body of this brush.

No matter how hard you wash them, no matter how clean you try and keep them, slowly but surely, the Ghost brushes are going to turn grey, then brown, and then eventually black with use. The white bristles? Give it a few months, they’ll be the sum-total colour of all the painting you’ve done, of all the stained dregs you couldn’t quite get off the bristles, of all those residual bits of shade that got a little bit too worked in. They won’t keep their pristine, poodle-fresh-out-of-the-groomers look for long. Much like the hypothetical canine, these things are going to roll in filth and nasty themselves up no matter how much you plead with them not to.

The worst bit will be the sweaty grey-brown smear your filthy hand will leave on the brush’s body, you disgusting animal.

Aside from their unwise colour choice, there are a few interesting bits to observe with these brushes. Foremost, there are a wide range of sizes available through the range that were chosen to ensure the painter has everything they need to paint everything from the largest bit of terrain to the tiniest bootlace, though for the purpose of this review we only have four of the eight sizes available. If you’re the sort of painter who likes to have a brush for everything, the Ghost range has you covered.

Next is the brush head itself: made from white nylon, the head is designed to hold a nice point better than most synthetic brushes, whilst simultaneously being soft enough to achieve “smooth blends” across your figures. The heads are also reasonably long, which will help you ensure you keep your ferrule away from your paints and prevent any build up there. The synthetic nylon bristles are also sold as being perfect for miniature painting, as they are better-suited to oils and oil-based paints.

Finally, the birchwood handle of the brush is designed to, and I quote the Kickstarter here, give you “the feel of being an artist right in your hand.”

I’m holding the brush. I’m waiting for the feeling. Instead, I’m worried how these brushes might look by the time I’m done testing them. What’s going to happen if I have to retake any of the pre-testing photos of them once they’ve been used and their heads are all stained with paint? Perhaps I’ll take a few backup shots just to be on the safe side before these brushes start turning grey.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Testing

In the name of giving these brushes their due diligence, for the testing part of this review I decided to sacrifice my Primaris Lieutenant from the Indomitus box. I couldn’t quite bear to risk one of my Primaris Captains, my Bladeguards, or my Chaplain.

Warhammer 40,000 Indomitus Review 40K - Primaris Lieutenant
Picture nicked from Fauxhammer’s Indomitus review, which if you haven’t already checked out, you definitely should.

I’ve been painting my Space Marines up as dark Angels because a) there are enough Smurf Marines in the world and b) that Lion El’Jonson figure. So, after prepating my Ghost brushes and subjecting my Space Marine to a blast of Chaos Black primer, he was ready to go.

The #6

As the largest of the Ghost brushes at my disposal, I used the #6 to get on my first layers of Caliban Green and a good wash of Nuln Oil.

Ghost  Brushes Review #6

That point is something else.

For the sake of the review, I was pretty firm with this brush initially, being reasonably haphazard with getting green onto my figure. What I noticed, though, was that only after some serious use did the tip at the end of the brush begin to dull. The #6 has a really sharp point on it, and it wants you to know it does.

But its soft brush head is also what lets it down. The bristles are too soft, so much so that controlling the brush over the curves on the miniature becomes quite difficult.

Ghost Brushes Review #6 Close

On realising how keen the #6 was to hold its point, I decided to be a little more careful with my first coat of paint and keep it out of the black joins on the Primaris Lieutenant’s armour, which I would usually go back and paint on later. But trying to do so exposed just how little control I had over the brush. The head skids around on the figure as if its on ice, and trying to be accurate with it becomes very difficult.

Ghost Brushed Review Primaris Lieutenant Based 1

After a liberal shading of Nuln Oil, just to make sure those edges were nice and shadowy (and, it has to be said, the #6 did handle the Citadel Shader extremely well), I set the #6 aside for the time being to get some drybrushing with the 2D done.

The brush is very much a game of two halves. What it does well, it does very well: the point it holds is great, and because it’s a larger brush it’s good in the hand. But the nylon head is too long and too soft, which makes it a pain to control. Whilst I found this helped with shading, at the same time I found trying to control the brush when handling acrylics quite difficult.

The 2D

The 2D has a slightly different origin story to the other brushes in this review. Launched earlier this year with another $1,000 goal, and also funded via another Kickstarter, the Ghost Drybrush range consists of two brushes: the 1D and the 2D. For this, we have the 2D.

Funded to an impressive $176,000 (17,600% of the original goal) by over 3,000 backers, I must admit I had reasonably high hopes for this brush, having not yet found a drybrush I reliably prefer over Citadel’s hard-bristled range and the cheap make-up brush I use.

Ghost Brushes Review 2D

The 2D is made from the same materials as the other Ghost brushes, and thus as an extremely soft, but very large, brush head. I used this brush to add two different drybrushed colours to my figure: a very subtle layer of Waaagh! Flesh and a selective edge drybrush of Warpstone Glow.

Ghost Brushes Review 2D Close

I kinda like the brush.

It’s a bit too big for figures – for bases, it’d be smashing. If you’re tempted by Ghost’s drybrushes, and plan on using them on figures, get the 1D, not the 2D.

Ghost Brushed Review Primaris Lieutenant DB

The brush gave my Lieutenant a good dusting of colour in more or less all the places I wanted. The issue I had, though, was how the nylon brush fibres held moisture. When washing the brush in between uses, the nylon bristles became very saturated with water very easily, and retained the wetness because its thick brush head. This then meant the bristles did not dry so well, which made painting subsequent drybrushed layers difficult, as the moisture in the bristles kept moistening any paint added to the brush.

I had to work at my drybrushing pretty hard to get an effect I was happy with, as my progress was really hampered by how wet the brush head stayed, even after trying very hard to dry it off, so I won’t be replacing my go-tos with the 2D any time soon.

The #2

The #2 is actually a pretty solid brush.

Some of the issues the #6 had, vis-à-vis the difficulty to control due to the long nylon bristles, aren’t quite so prominent with the #2.

Ghost Brushes Review #2

Because the #2 has a shorter and smaller brush head, the bristles are much easier to keep under control on the figure, and that fantastic point that all these brushes are keen to hold is even more difficult to get rid of.

Still, the bristles remain a little too soft for my liking and whilst its easier to control than the #6, it’s still not quite there. It also has a thinner body, so it’s not as comfortable to keep hold of for a longer period of time.

Ghost Brushes Review #2 Close

I managed to do most of the remaining base colours and initial shading with the #2, starting with painting all skulls Corax White, before shading them with Nuln Oil. The tabard was based with Zandri Dust and washed with Seraphim Sepia, then a little Zandri Dust was applied over some of the raised areas again. Red areas were based with Khorne Red, and bits of parchment were also done with Zandri Dust – both were then shaded with Agrax Earthshade. Leather areas, such as the holster, were painted with Dryad Bark, and gold areas with Retributor Armour. Those metallic areas so synonymous with Space Marine weapons were, of course, based with Leadbelcher.

Ghost Brushed Review Primaris Lieutenant Based 2

With the all of the basing and shading done, as well as a little preliminary highlighting on some of the armour, I could move on to details with the #00.

I didn’t hate the #2. Of all the brushes in this review, it’s the best and most versatile. It also suffers from fewer of the hindrances than some of the others in the range do. It’s a perfectly reasonable, middle-of-the-road brush, but there’s nothing immediately special about it that sets it apart from the myriad of other brushes available on the market.

The #00

I love this brush.

Ghost Brushes Review #00

All those issues I had had with the #6 and the #2 disappear. The brush head is just the right size for the nylon bristles, and because the bristles are shorter, they are far easier to control than they are on the larger brushes. Whereas previously the soft bristles had been too long and difficult to control, the #00’s head is far shorter and, therefore, easier to keep a handle on.

Also, that point. That point.

Something all the brushes (aside from the 2D) have shared is their unrelenting points. Whilst this availed the #6 and the #2 little because the brushes were more difficult to control, with the #00 this is fabulous. The point does not fail you, not even on the most irksome of details.

Ghost Brushes Review #00 Close

Yeah, the brush handle might be a little on the narrow side, but I can forgive that for just how good this brush is to use.

Ghost Brushed Review Primaris Lieutenant Complete 1

I’ve never had the confidence to really have a go at freehanding before, but with the help of the #00 I was able to freehand the stripe lieutenant’s stripe of rank on his helmet with Corax White and Mephiston Red, and accurately section his badge in two with the same red – baby steps, but important ones for hobby development.

My thin edges of Moot Green on the armour, Doombull Brown and Tuskgor Fur on the leather areas, Liberator Gold and Auric Armour Gold on the golden ornaments, and Mephiston Red and Evil Sunz Scarlet on the red plating on the weapon went on easily, and I had no trouble controlling the brush thanks to the #00’s smaller head. Even some of the fiddliest bits, such as Eshin Grey and Dawnstone on the black armour joins, and small amounts of Ironbreaker and Stormhost Silver on the exposed metal, weren’t much of an issue due to the #00’s sharp point.

Ghost Brushed Review Primaris Lieutenant Complete 2

Screw the other brushes in the range. Get the #00. Hell, get ten of the #00.

(Also, shout outs to Garfy’s Get a Grips for the Ultra Painting Handle, Element Games for the Magma Rocks, and The Army Painter’s Scorched Tufts!)

Will Ghost Brushes Brush Set Improve my Hobby?

These brushes are a rollercoaster.

In terms of their quality and how they are to use, on the whole there is nothing special about the majority of the Ghost brushes, nothing that makes them stand out from the thousands of others available. Sure, they’re pretty, but as it is in all things, beauty is temporary – especially when exposed to a few brushfuls of acrylic paint and a pot of dirty water.

But that #00 is really quite special. The imperfections of the #6 and the #2 are hammered out by the time you reach the #00, and the #00 really just gets everything right.

Still, any hobbyist with a middling to reasonable amount of experience will likely own better brushes than the majority of these, whilst any total beginners will probably be better suited to sticking with their cheap tenner-a-set brushes from Amazon that they can crap up to their heart’s content without any real fear of financial consequence. Although these brushes are far better than that set of rubbishy brushes you got on Prime, and whilst the nylon bristles handle paint well, the Ghosts’ soft bristles aren’t durable enough to handle the knocks and strain a brand-new painter will put on them, and the fact the bristles are so soft means the newbie will struggle to keep control of the brush head.

That is the big take away from this. If you’re using some truly terrible, ultra-cheap synthetic brushes from Amazon that you’ve completely outgrown, these will be a big improvement, but if you’re already flush with some reasonable brushes then these are not going to be an improvement. If, however, you’re in the market for a new detail brush, give the #00 some serious thought because it’s really, really good.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Price and Availability

In considering the value of these brushes, the core issue already touched on in this review is fully realised.

I’m not really sure who these brushes are for.

With the basic set of eight brushes and all stretch goals available for $35 (approx. £27/€30), these brushes work out at around $4.40 (approx. £3.40/€3.75) a piece, which, whilst is damn good value for a set of so many brushes, falls into a bit of a void.

They’re designed for painters. That’s it.

Painters. There are a lot of painters out there. There are brand-new painters who have no idea what end of a brush to paint with, and people with decades of experience under their belts. There are up-and-coming painting prodigies, backed by a wallet-full of their parents’ money, and even a few mediocre reviewers like yours truly.

They’re just for painters. For everyone.

But in trying to be for everyone, the Ghost range manages to miss the various requirements each tier of painter has for these brush.

Think about it. These brushes are too good for absolute beginners, and far too expensive to appeal to that person who’s just grabbed an Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000 starter painting box with three Stormcast Eternals or Space Marines in it and a Citadel starter brush.

By the time that same hobbyist has honed his skills a bit and is looking to spend $35/£27/€30 on a set of brushes, they’re going to be looking at getting one of two really good brushes, such as a Windor and Newton or two, maybe an Artis Oprus, or a couple of RedgrassGames brushes – but you’re going to be long past the majority of this range. You won’t be a beginner anymore, and you’ll have outgrown most of these.

As for when that painter starts racking up thousands of likes on Instagram and gets sent a C’tan Shard of the Void Dragon by Games Workshop to paint up for an issue of White Dwarf, Ghost Brushes won’t even be worth a backward glance.

Even the #00, which I love, isn’t going to be of much use to novice painters because beginner painters aren’t going to be looking to do edge or spot highlights on Space Marine chest aquilas or stripes on the heads of helmets.

It’s a tough one, and a little bit of a shame. The Ghost brushes are not cheap enough to appeal to beginners, and the majority of the range is not good enough to warrant use by anyone beginning to take their hobby seriously.

Ghost Brushes Brush Set Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
A good price for such a diverse range of so many brushes…
A wide range available for ease of usage and getting every part of your figures painted…
The #00 is excellent…
Look stunning…
…but ever so slightly too expensive to be appealing to most people.
…but not aimed at experienced painters or of good enough quality to warrant such a range.
…but the others are all a bit meh.
…but they’re white, for god’s sake.

This has been a real journey of ups and downs.

The #6 is a no-go and the 2D I won’t be rushing to use again any time soon. The #2 is a bit mediocre and doesn’t really do anything any better than just about any other brush I own, but the #00 is a real stand-out hero.

I think, whether by design or circumstance, they occupy a dark little recess somewhere between “absolute beginner” and “approaching intermediate” levels of painting. You need to have a basic working knowledge of painting to appreciate the intricacies in the design of these brushes and to be able to work with their quirks – the long brush head and the nylon tip, for example – which an out-and-out beginner will not have. However, you also need to be willing to fork out a little more cash than an absolute beginner will be willing to, but anyone who is beginning to take their painting seriously will want to look elsewhere for different, higher-quality brushes that you can really begin to make waves with.

Beyer clearly knows what he’s doing, though. His Kickstarter proves this. The guy knows everything there is to know about how to look after your brushes and ensuring you use them correctly. Perhaps if these shipped with a small beginner-friendly guide book with the tips he includes in his Kickstarter and more, the audience for these brushes would be all the clearer.

At the end of the day, as long as a brush paints, it’s a working brush – and these brushes do paint well enough. But I’m still not sure who they’re for, or where exactly they are meant to sit in the great spectrum of rank beginner to Slayer Sword-winning pro brushes.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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About VoltorRWH 21 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

1 Comment

  1. That’s too bad about the variable results. Given the ubiquity and general good-enough-ness of the Citadel range, a mini brush really needs to either make a compelling argument on value or performance (W&N, etc.), or offer something different and special (sub-#0 size Artificer alternatives, etc.), for it to make sense over sticking with one’s FLGS or favorite online discount shop.

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