In the previous article we covered hair type and which types are best suited to each painting medium. We learned that the finest, most expensive brushes are Kolinsky brushes. While you could use these for heavy duty tasks, such as the under-painting on an oil-painting, the brush would not last very long. Not to mention that it is very difficult to maneuver thick oil paint using such a soft brush.
For this task, it would be much better to use a cheaper hog bristle brush. By the same token, if you try to paint watercolor using the same hog bristle brush, you probably won’t have much success.
As artists we need to learn to match a paint brush to task. Part 1 discussed selecting the best hair – this article is going to focus on how to pick the best head type to achieve the painting effect you are looking for.
Flat brushes are probably the most common type of paint brush. Generally speaking, the length of the hairs will be twice as long as they are wide.
They are great for blocking in areas and laying down lots of color. They are usually used for acrylics and oils.
Bright brushes are a special kind of flat brush where the width of the brush is approximately equal to the length of the bristles. The bristles tend to curl inwards at the tip.
This gives better control compared to using a normal flat. They are used for covering large area as well as for blending. They are usually used for oil and acrylic painting.
Wash brushes can have variable shape but the length of the bristles is very short in relation to the width of the brush.
Wash brushes are useful for broad strokes and laying in lots of color. Generally they are used in watercolor painting.
As the name implies, the hair filaments are cut at an angle.
This is a versatile brush is useful for precision painting, lines, curves and floating – a technique commonly used with acrylics.
During this process different colors of paint are loaded onto the brush to create a gradation of color.
Filberts are awesome for oilsand acrylics. Depending on the way you hold the brush, you can turn them into a round or a flat – this makes them a great multi-functional brush.
The rounded top makes them very well suited to blending, but they can also be used to block in large areas as well as for detailed work during portrait painting.
Rounds are predominantly used for watercolor painting, because the fine point allows for precise work while the body of the brush can still hold plenty of water.
That means that you can paint precisely while still being able to cover large areas.
These brushes are usually narrow and have very long hairs, which allows them to hold a lot of paint.
They are used to paint fine lines with a constant width, which makes them perfect for lettering, animal whiskers, tree branches and signing your name.
Generally, they are very useful for watercolor painting.
The fan brush has a bristles spread in an arc by the ferrule.
Commonly this is used forblending, feathering andshading.
They are quite useful for painting detailed objects like trees, branches, grasses or animal hair.
Feathering shaders and comb brushes (sometimes called rakes) aretexturizing brushes which end with natural fingers.
Paint is loaded onto the body of the brush, which is slowly released by the fingers. They are great for cross hatching, water, fur, hair, grasses, wood graining, feathers etc.
While I do use all the shapes, the most common ones I use are Flats, Rounds and Filberts. If I had to pick one type for each media, I would pick Rounds for watercolors, Flats for acrylics and Filberts for oils.
You should try to experiment with different brush types and you may just be surprised with the results. Don’t limit your creativity!
Finding the perfect brush can be quite an effort, but is definitely worth the time and expense. Finding a brush that is right for you is a very rewarding experience and enhances the enjoyment you will get from your painting.
Fortunately the MyArtscape brush set covers almost all of these brush types and is constantly under development. I can confidently say that this is one of the most comprehensive synthetic brush sets out there.
Stay tuned for Part 3, 4 and 5 of this series for further tips to become a better painter.
Happy Painting :-)
The sheer array of paint brushes available can seem quite overwhelming for the beginner or even the experienced artist. This article will help you pick which type of brush to use for each medium as well as choose which head shape is most suitable for you. Part 1 will cover the hair type and Part 2 will cover the shape styles.
Art paint brushes are usually either made from animal hair or synthetic hair. Most brushes are made from animal hair and the quality of the brush will depend on the grade of hair being used. Typically, the quality of an art paint brush is related to its spring (ability to bounce back into shape), feel and the evenness of the brush stroke.
Animal hair has some unique characteristics which make it a good choice for art paint brushes. Each hair has small micro-scales on the hair filament. These scales coupled with varying hair filament diameter, enable animal hair to efficiently store paint and deliver it more consistently over longer brush strokes. However, synthetic hair technology is fast catching up to animal hair fiber and offers a good alternative to expensive animal hairs.
Kolinsky hair is obtained from the tail-hair of a weasel (Mustela sibirica) and is used to make the finest quality art brushes. They are much sought after for their longevity, its ability to hold a fine point and excellent snap. Since the hair is now fairly rare, they command a premium price.
Given their great water holding capacity, they make ideal watercolor brushes, although they can be used for fine detailing with oils. Usually these are sold as short handle brushes, since they are predominantly used for watercolor painting, which is generally painted flat. A long handle can get in the way and be a hazard to your eyes!
Note than there is currently an import ban on Kolinsky hair into the US because of a recent inclusion on the CITES list. While it is not illegal to import to the US, there is now much more stringent documentation required.
Sable hair is from the mink(Martes zibellina), a special kind of marten that inhabits forest environments. A pure sable hair brush makes a fine brush. They will hold a full body paint, maintain a fine tip, have good snap and will be much cheaper than pure Kolinsky hair.
Sable brushes are usually used for watercolors, but they can also be used for fine finishing with oils (especially the courser grades).
Confusingly some manufacturers label brushes as “Kolinsky-sable” or “Kolinsky red sable”. This is not strictly speaking correct, as a Kolinsky and a sable are two different animals, although blends of the two hairs are possible.
The situation is further complicated by the term, ‘red sable’. Some manufacturers use this to denote sable blended with an inferior quality animal hair, while others use it as a term for pure sable hair. Either way, look for a pure sable or pure red sable brush for the highest quality paint brush.
Again these are generally sold in short handle form, although long handle variations are available if you look around.
Commonly called bristle brushes, the hair in these paint brushes comes from pigs. The hair is stiff and holds little moisture, making them a poor choice for watercolor or gouache. They have great strength and resilience, making them excellent for oils and acrylics.
Be quite careful of cheap bristle brushes – they are weak and splay very easily, shed hair quite badly and leave stroke marks on your canvas. The best bristle brushes use Chungking bristle sourced from hogs raised in the Chungking region of Central China.
Chungking or Chonqing bristle has the longest flags. Flags are like split ends on the end of bristles. They are extremely important to the quality of the bristle. In theory, longer flags allow the brush to hold more paint and apply it more evenly.
Generally speaking, bristle brushes are used to shove thicker oils and acrylics around the canvas. Since much of the painting is done in a standing position, these are traditionally sold as long-handle brushes.
The quality of synthetic hair in art paint brushes has improved greatly in the last two decades or so. There are synthetics which can mimic sable hair, mongoose hair and a variety of other high quality animal hairs. They can now rival the performance of expensive animal hairs for a fraction of the price.
Synthetics are extremely versatile and can be cheaper than high quality animal hair. Soft synthetics can have an excellent point and can carry water well, making them a good choice for watercolor and gouache. Stiffer brushes can work very well with acrylics and oils. They can also be blended with hairs like sable, to make cheaper, but high quality, brushes.
Since they are so versatile, you will be able to pick long or short handle varieties depending on which medium you want to work in.
Well this depends somewhat on the medium I am painting in. When I paint in watercolors I rely on synthetics to cover large areas and usually more expensive sable or Kolinsky brushes to work on more detailed areas.
I also use sable or Kolinsky to work on the fine detailing when I am oil painting, although the bulk of the oil painting I tend to do in hog or synthetic brushes. Since I tend to use oils quite thinly, synthetic brushes work great for me, but you might want to test that out for your own style.
When I paint in acrylics, I would say 90% of time I am using synthetics. They are cheap, don’t shed and don’t leave trailing brush strokes like some bristle brushes. To block in large areas of color, I might use bristle brushes and for the fine details areas I sometimes rely on my fine-tipped sable brushes.
In Part 2 I will go over which brush heads to use to achieve different results. Make sure you catch that article!
Happy Painting :-)