The gist of my research indicates that sable pelts can no longer be imported to the US and there are some other comments there which would allude to the fact that items made from these pelts would also be banned from being imported. I was concerned for a moment. But Kolinsky Sable brushes are not made from sable, they are made from weasels and are part of the mink family and do not fall under the ban. I'm not sure why supplies seem to be drying up though. If you are thinking about getting new brushes I would do it!
Dick Blick is one of the best online sources for Kolinsky sable brushes for those in the US. They carry the three brands, Da Vinci, Raphael and Winsor & Newton, favored by many of the miniature painters that I know. I know some painters also swear by the Rosemary & Co Kolinsky brushes but I haven't tried them. I do know that there is a US distributor for these brushes now: Legacy Art Products.
I stick to three primary sizes for painting my miniatures: 0, 1 & 2. I also have a selection of nylon and older, past their prime, Kolinsky brushes that I use for base coating. My mantra is learn to paint the smallest detail with the largest brush you can. That's the advantage to using a good kolinsky brush they hold a good point while you are painting. As long as you have a good point on the brush you should be able to paint just about any detail you can see (although I do see a lot less these days). I like a nice round, fully bellied, brush. This will hold the point I need and plenty of paint which keeps you from having to refill your brush with paint as often. My personal favorite brushes are the Da Vinci brushes as they have these characteristics and I like the shape of the handles.
Let's take a look at some pictures and prices (current as of 5/17/2013 from Dick Blick online and Legacy Art Products for the Rosemary & Co).
|Da Vinci Full Belly Rounds|
Series 1505 (similar to the 35 series but with shorter bristles)
Restauro (shorter handle and shorter bristles)
|Raphaël 8404 Fine Pointed|
|Raphaël 8408 Extra Fine Pointed|
Series 8408 Extra Fine Pointed
Winsor & Newton
|Winsor & Newton Pointed Rounds|
Series 7 Miniature
Rosemary & Co
|Rosemary & Co Short Handled Red Sables|
I should mention the Games & Gears line of brushes as well. This is a UK company that is making "reasonably priced" Kolinsky sable brushes. Definitely aimed at the painting gaming community. I don't think their brushes are up for general sale yet as they are still shipping the rewards from their kickstarter. I can find them on facebook but I'm unable to locate a regular website for them. If anybody has it send me the URL and I'll add it.
I haven't had much chance to work with these brushes but I have been a bit frustrated with the PS1 brush that I have been using.