Artist brushes are more than just tools; they're an extension of an artist's vision and technique. Crafting these brushes requires an intricate balance of precision, dedication, and expertise. Finding the right brush for the right job can be overwhelming. To simplify your journey, we've assembled a comprehensive artist brush guide to assist you in selecting just the right brush for the right job.
Download the Free PDF 5-Star Artist Brush Selection Guide.
Anatomy of an Artist Paint Brush
Many scholastic and mass-produced handles are made of unfinished, raw wood. These are the least expensive, become easily soiled, and the wood often swells in use.
Artist-type handles are made of seasoned hardwood, lathe-shaped and properly balanced to give you the most comfortable grip. The wood's pores are sealed, and several coats of lacquer are applied to provide the handle with a polished high gloss finish.
Tapered handles are made of seasoned hardwood dowels and tapered on both ends. They are either finely sanded plain wood or finished with several coats of varnish or enamel. Some brushes have moulded plastic handles instead of wood.
This is the tapered metal tube that holds the brush hair filaments. Ferrules are made of different materials: aluminium, nickel, copper and nickel-plated. Seamless nickel-plated ferrules will usually appear shinier, with a darker tone than aluminium.
Aluminium ferrules are seamless and polished.
Copper ferrules are seamless, polished and varnished to prevent tarnishing.
Nickel ferrules are seamless, polished, nickel-plated brass
Nickel-plated ferrules are made of nickel-plated steel and spot-welded (rust-proof).
The Brush Head:
Brush heads can be constructed in many shapes and various filaments. Artists have an almost limitless choice, but in principle, hair type is divided into three groups. Soft hair, hog bristle and synthetic.
Soft hair brushes are manufactured using sable, squirrel, ox hair, pony, goat and badger.
Hog brushes are manufactured from various qualities of hog bristle, either bleached or unbleached.
Synthetic brushes are made of special multi-diameter extruded nylon filament.
Types Of Brush Hair:
Sable Hair: The most valuable hair used in artist brushes is obtained from the tail of the Kolinsky. Red Sable (Kolinsky sable), pale red with darker tips, has unique qualities unmatched by any other hair – strength, slim body, extremely fine points, and greater resiliency. Not only will it come to a needle-fine point or knife-like edge, but it will retain its full elasticity, making it virtually irreplaceable for best brushes used in any watercolour medium.
Often known as sabeline, ox hair provides reasonably good flow control but lacks durability
and snap. It is economical and sometimes mixed with more expensive brush filaments.
Not taken from the camel, this is a generic term for much less expensive hair dyed to a pleasing colour. Camel hair could mean ox hair, goat or ring cat.
Bristles are far stiffer and stronger than soft hair filaments. Every bristle has a split end, and oil or acrylic colour sits between the divisions. Hog hair is plentiful and generally used to produce industrial brushes and brooms. It is available in lengths of up to 8 inches long.
It ranges in colour from light to dark brown, is straight and soft, but does not have the fine points of the Squirrel Hair Brush.
Offers excellent flow control with a good point, but not to the degree expected from the genuine Kolinsky or Red Sable.
In recent years, synthetic hair filaments have become accepted as an excellent alternative to natural hair. The best synthetic brushes are constructed using a mixture of filament diameters to achieve the flow of colour from the brush to the substrate. The spaces between the hair shafts hold the colour, which is displaced by the air when used. Taklon and Golden
Nylon is among the more popular choices of synthetic hair.
Educational Stubby Brush:
The Stubby brush is available in both round and flat shapes. This multi-purpose brush with hog hair bristles has a short, natural handle for easy grip and control. Making this brush the go-to brush for educational use.
The Brush Shape:
Round or Pointed:
Ideal for various tasks, including sketching, outlining, detailed work, controlled washes, and filling in small areas. It offers versatile line thickness, starting with thin lines at the tip and gradually widening as more pressure is applied, making it best suited for use with thinned paint rather than thick paint.
Pointed Round Brush:
With a sharply pointed tip and a narrower profile compared to a round paintbrush, this tool excels in handling fine details, delicate areas, and precise lines. Its capabilities make it a great choice for tasks such as spotting and retouching.
Flat with edges curved inward at the tip, with shortish hairs. This brush is perfect for executing short, controlled strokes with thick, heavy colour application. It is most effective when used up close to the canvas, providing precision and intensity in your artwork.
Square end, with medium to long hairs. This brush is excellent for creating bold strokes wide washes, filling large areas, and achieving an impasto effect. Its versatility extends to fine lines, straight edges, and stripes when using its edge, making it suitable for various artistic techniques. Additionally, long-haired flat brushes are particularly well-suited for varnishing applications.
Flat and oval-shaped end with medium to long hairs.
This brush excels in tasks like blending and creating soft, rounded edges resembling flower petals. It combines the versatility of round brushes for detail work with the broader coverage of flat brushes, making it a versatile tool for various painting techniques.
Flat, spread hairs. Natural hair brushes excel in tasks such as smoothing, blending, and feathering, providing a soft touch to your artwork. On the other hand, synthetic hair brushes are more suited for creating textural effects, like clouds or tree leaves.
Angular Flat Brush:
Flat with angled hairs at the end. This brush is ideal for executing curved strokes and filling corners with precision. Its tip allows for reaching small areas, while its versatility extends to covering larger spaces, akin to flat brushes, making it a versatile tool for various painting techniques.
Detail Round Brush:
Round hairs are shorter in length. Shorter handle. This brush excels at handling intricate details and short strokes in your artwork. It surprisingly holds a substantial amount of colour despite its small size, offering more versatility than expected.
5 Star Artist Brushes:
5 Star Product offers a range of artists and educational brushes.