Which brush (es) to choose?
You just started painting and don’t know which brush to choose? You paint with acrylics, but are thinking more and more about changing mediums? You are admiring a painting, but wondering what brush the artist used to create it? Whatever your reason for wondering about brushes and their use, this article is for you.
Synthetic hair, natural hair, long, short, round, flat, the variety of brushes on offer today has increased dramatically in recent years. So how make you choice among the multitude of brushes, and what are their main usages? That’s what we’ll look at here.
A – First, the range of brushes.
Brushes are available at all prices. From a few cents to several hundred (yes, yes…), are all brushes the same?
If you have read my previous articles, you have already understood that if I ask the question, it is because the answer is no.
Of course, it all depends on what you want to use it for, but although the quality of your work depends largely on your equipment, I don’t recommend investing immediately in a whole range of expensive brushes. However, while price is a good indicator of quality, you should bear in mind that the most expensive brushes are also usually made from natural hair. This is why, this factor has an impact on the final price. There are some very good imitations available today, but I would still advise having at least one “petit gris” made from marten or squirrel hair, whatever medium you use.
The right formula is, in my opinion, to have brushes of all price ranges. Indeed, if you want to paint landscapes for example, you will need cheap brushes. Hog hair do the job. By the way, you will have no qualms about re-cutting yourself for your random brush mark needs.
On the other hand, I recommend that you NEVER give in to the siren call of low-cost shops, whose brushes will lose their bristles and ruin your attempts for sure!
B- Short handle or long handle? How to choose?
You may never have paid much attention to it, but there are different handle sizes for brushes. This may seem like a detail, but in the end, it is not!
– Short-handled brushes:
Traditionally, short-handled brushes are used for sitting or table work. They are more suitable for precise work and allow the wrist be closer to the surface. The short-handled brush is ideal for small or medium-sized works. This type of brush is often used for watercolour, ink, gouache or other fluid techniques.
– Long-handled brushes:
Long-handled brushes are more suitable for standing work and
Flat long :
Flat tip, square end, with medium or long bristles. Very handy and lively, this type of brush is particularly appreciated for creating hair. Its width allows good paint retention. In synthetic bristles, it will be most useful for acrylics and oils, but not recommended for watercolours, as the water will run off too quickly in watercolours. For watercolour painting, use long flat brushes made of natural squirrel or sable hair.
Flat short :
With a flat tip, equal width and length, this brush is ideal for making flat colour strokes. The brush’s liveliness will allow you to cover large areas in a single stroke, and on the edge, it will help you make straight, clean lines. Made of synthetic bristles, it is the ideal brush for acrylics and oils, or for making indents in watercolours. But beware, this type of brush is not suitable for this water-intensive medium, especially if you want to make large washes.
Beveled or angled:
Whether it is short or long haired, this brush is extremely efficient in its handling and will allow you to go into angles or to draw with precision and dynamism. Personally, I use it a lot by turning it on itself to make coherent strands of hair, or to make lettering in a single pass. Mostly available in synthetic version, it is not recommended for watercolours.
Cat’s tongue :
With the flat ferrule, the natural hair cat’s tongue brush is ideal for oil and acrylic painting. It has a nervous fibre with high capillarity, which allows you to make rounded strokes and flower petals efficiently.
Filber / Worn Curved:
Similar to the cat’s tongue brush, its bristles are generally shorter and worn. In Kevrin, it will be ideal for making your oil colour gradations very softly. To do this, simply place your colours side by side and tickle them with the curved edge of the brush. It will allow you to blur your angles and thus, to give more credit to your portraits for example. For acrylics, prefer synthetic.
The spalter is a large flat brush with short bristles. In synthetic bristles, it is used to spread oil or acrylic paint, gesso, or varnish on your canvas. In natural bristles, it is mainly used to make perfect watercolour washes. An advice: take it in several sizes, this brush is the must have of any watercolourist, so much its use is practical, that it is for the small as for the big surfaces, but also, to avoid a precision on your watercolours which would make them too frozen.
– round brushes
Round pointed brush.
The round brush is usually long, narrow and ends in a point. Used for precision work, I advise you to pay the price for this type of brush, which you will use often. Choose natural bristles for the wider ones, and synthetic bristles for the narrower ones, which will also be more nervous. This type of brush can be used for watercolour as well as for oil or acrylic. It will allow you to make your details, and to make fine lines. But beware: its use to cover large areas or flat areas is not recommended. Indeed, your numerous back and forth movements will make your painting difficult to read, and may even make it “muddy” (this term is used to describe a “dirty” work, meaning that the pigments seem to have been stirred up too much).
With its long ferrule that holds its long hairs, this brush with a sharp point will be useful for making branches, hairs, hair, or very fine details. Be careful not to overload it, if you want to keep its line. Do not hesitate to dilute your paint to avoid having to go over the same spot several times!
With its flat ferrule, this brush looks like the fan, for which it is named. Generally used to blur sharp corners, it is also used to create foliage, especially on fir trees. Beware, however, that its regular shape can quickly become redundant. Natural bristles are more suitable for a soft blend and synthetic bristles work well for textural effects.
Wash brush :
Watercolour brush par excellence, favour it in natural hair, and don’t compromise on its price. If you have to have only one for your watercolours, it is this one. So, if you can’t afford it, ask for it at Christmas or for your birthday, because taking it in synthetic hair means giving up beautiful watercolours, as it is so essential. You will recognise it thanks to its pear-shaped ferrule for maximum water retention. It allows you to make beautiful washes, by using its length, and pretty details, thanks to its point.
Once again, I don’t pretend to have covered all the uses of each brush, but that’s how I use them. You probably have your own habits too, but I hope I’ve suggested other possibilities, and opened your mind to the many possibilities offered by the multitude of variations of these tools. Please feel free to like, and comment if you have experimented with other techniques yourself, all comments are welcome. This site is meant to be shared, so go for it! And happy painting to all!