Choosing the right brush out of thousands of artist paint brushes can be an overwhelming task. Below I hope to give you some direction in finding the right brush for the right job. Artist paint brushes - Their qualities and purpose. Your choice of any artist paint brush is going to be determined of course by what you are going to do with your brush. Are you going to paint fine lines or broad sweeping strokes. Are you going to be using a heavy paint such as oil or acrylics or very light thin paints such as watercolors. Therefore the two primary qualities or artist paint brushes are: 1 The shape of the brush and 2 The type of hair the brush is made of. There are many secondary qualities of brushes to consider also: like comfort while holding the brush, length of the handle, overall quality of the brushes construction and more but for now we will concentrate on the primary qualities.
The Shape of the brush Listed below are 15 of the most popular brush shapes and their uses.
Click near each brush to bring up a list of all of that type of brush we carry or use the handy Brush by Shape Selection Box to the right.
The Round paint brush is mostly used for painting details and working in small spaces. A good Sable Round Brush should come to a very fine tip and hold it's shape extremely well while painting. Good Bristle Round Brushes should have natural split ends at the tip for holding lots of paint and be very resilient at maintaining it's shape.
Bright brushes, Flat brushes (or Shader brushes), and Stroke Brushes. All flat paint brushes: just different lengths. Sable flat brushes should have a crisp sharp edge and sharp corners. Flat brushes are used for covering large areas, flat strokes as well as blending. Bright paint brushes, (also referred to as Chisel Blenders) the shortest flat brushes give you the most control. Flat paint brushes, (also referred to as Shaders) are the middle length flat brush are used for coverage as well as blending. Stroke paint brushes, the longest flat brush carries more paint therefore can create longer strokes.
The Filbert paint brush, sometimes referred to as a Cat's Tongue, has a round outer edge. The Filbert's shape can vary from a flatter brush with a rounded outer edge, to an almost oval shape, to more of the Cat's Tongue shape that comes to somewhat of a point for more control. Filbert brushes are sometimes considered a more advanced artist paint brush because it can take the place of Flats or Rounds depending on how the brush is held. You can blend broad strokes into fine strokes by turning the brush as you paint. This of course takes more control but has the advantage of not having to switch brushes as often.
The Angular paint brush is very similar to a flat brush with the outer edge at an angle. They are used in decorative painting such as flowers and other details requiring curved and blended strokes of varying widths. Additionally, holding the brush at an angle you can paint flat strokes therefore replacing your flat brush at times resulting in less brush changes.
Script brushes, Liner brushes, Detail Brushes, all similar brushes in three different lengths. All 3 brushes are used for painting fine lines, such as lettering, thin branches, whiskers on animals, etc., all types of thin lines straight or curved and flowing. The Detail paint brush is the shortest of the three brushes and offers the most control. The Liner paint brush is the in between length and can be used as a compromise between fine controlled details and longer flowing strokes. The Script paint brush sometimes called a Script Liner has the longest hairs therefore can hold the most paint and create longer flowing lines. It is often used for the artists signature.
The Comb paint brush (sometimes called a wave brush) is similar in shape to the flat paint brush. Instead of a sharp crisp outer edge, the outer edge has a fine wave shape to it resembling the teeth of a comb. They are used to paint grasses, hair, fur, fine evergreen branches, anywhere you want fine separated lines. They can be used for short strokes as on some animals fur or long flowing strokes for human hair. They can also be used with very short sharp strokes for a textured appearance.
Mop paint brushes are usually larger brushes that allow you to "Mop" on a lot of color. They are very popular with watercolor artists for painting large washes. The Mop paint brush is also used for oil and acrylics although less often, for blending large areas.
The Dagger paint brush is used for thin lines as well as teardrop shape lines, short and long such as flowers, petals and leaves. They lend best to flower shapes with teardrop details such as a crysanthemum and teardrop shape leaves.
Stencil paint brushes are used for dry brush stenciling. A good quality stencil paint brush is made from natural bristle with a good flat end but not chopped so as to retain the bristles natural flag end tips. The bristles are densely packed and retain their shape well when pounced. They come with different end shapes for different stenciling effects. A domed shape will give a softer outer edge where as a flat end shape will yield a crisp sharp outer edge.
A deerfoot paint brush also known as a Deerfoot Stippler can be used wet or for dry brush stippling and pouncing. It's shape is slightly flaired with an angled flat end resembling a deer's foot. Bristles range from soft to firm depending on desired texture.
The Wash brush is a wonderful watercolor brush used mainly for large washes. Where the Mop brush has a round ferrule, the Wash brush has a flattened ferrule resulting in a large Flat brush. There are also Oval Wash brushes which come with an oval shaped outer edge. These brushes are sometimes called Sky Wash brushes for painting just that, large watercolor sky washes. There are also Glaze wash brushes for glazing pottery covering large areas.
The Wisp paint brush is a Royal Paint Brush original. An innovative design. The brush hairs have a solid base to maintain the brushes shape and hold plenty of paint and a separated outer edge. An excellent brush for grasses, evergreen branches, hair, beards, anywhere you are looking for multiple fine lines, short or flowing. It's available in your favorite brush shape: flat, angular, filbert or fan and in multiple sizes.
The bamboo paint brush is used for watercolors, traditional oriental painting, caligraphy, ceramic glaze... They are made from a variety of hairs depending on firmness required. Sable hair, goat hair etc.
The Fan paint brush is a thin layer of bristles spread out in the shape of a fan. Fan brushes are generally used for blending and feathering colors but are also used for painting trees, branches, grasses and that sort of detail. It is popular for painting hair for it's ability to paint multiple flowing strands of hair in a single stroke.
The type of hair the brush is made of There are 2 types of hair artist paint brushes are made from: 1 Natural Hair and 2 Synthetic Hair
Natural Hair Artist Paint Brushes The 2 predominant types of natural brush hair are Sable and Bristle. Sable Brushes - A good quality Sable paint brush should hold it's shape extremely well and have good spring and snap in it's stroke. The brush hair tips should come to very fine points. Sable brushes are often the choice brush for watercolor artists with Kolinsky Sable being the finest quality and Pure Red Sable a close second. Sable brushes are also used in oil and acrylic painting. Artists painting with oils often prefer long handle brushes for working at a greater distance from their painting. Bristle Brushes - Bristle Paint Brushes made from Hog's Hair Bristle (or Boar's Hair Bristle) are the firmest of the natural hairs. They are more often used by oil and acrylic artists but sometimes find their way into the hands of watercolor artists. Thet have split ends at the tips called "flags" for holding lots of liquid and adding "texture". Good Bristle brushes are tough, long lasting and maintain their shape for a long time. There are many other less common natural hair brushes: Goat, Squirrel, Ox, etc. They vary from extremely soft to extremely stiff and their use is based on these qualities.
Synthetic Hair Artist Paint Brushes The main synthetic hair used in an artist paint brush is Taklon. It is used in all mediums of painting due to so many varitions possible in the manufacturing process. There are many variations that simulate very well the characteristics of good Sable and Bristle brushes. Although more often used in oil and acrylic painting many watercolorist find Taklon a very good substitute for quality Sable brushes. The choice between White Taklon (also referred to as White Nylon) and Gold Taklon is mostly a personal preference. Characteristics between the two colors are very similar.
Natural and Synthetic Hair Blend Artist Paint Brushes There are many good brushes on the market that include a blend of natural and synthetic hairs. They combine natural hairís ablity to carry large loads of paint while the synthetic filaments provide increased durability. Many of these brushes do a good job of maintaining the qualities of natural hair while making the price more affordable. Sometimes a mixture of natural and synthetic hairs will give you just the right balance between softness and spring with the ability to hold more paint.