Often when I teach an art class, the question about what brushes to use for which type of painting or technique comes up.
So here is a run down on the brushes I prefer and have used
If you are a Watercolourist you will find that Sable brushes will work best for you, these natural hair brushes hold the water and 'bellies' out whilst having a good snap & spring. If you like to 'draw' with your watercolour, these types of brushes will taper to a fine point- they are very popular for expressive watercolourists as well as botanical painters. You can also use a sable/nylon mix where you get the benefit of both worlds in that the Sable will retain the liquid and flow onto the paper when pressure is applied and the nylon will give real control, indeed the snap of nylon is sometimes preferred to the more gentle snap from sable. It is also a cheaper option to pure sable.
You can also use Sable for oil painting depending on what effect you require, if you wish to see the brush strokes then a bristle brush whether synthetic or hog hair will have the right firmness for that. Nylon or synthetic type brushes go somewhere in between, giving that smoother finish but also flexibility and strength to move the paint around easier, especially if you use an impasto technique.
The main factor for the long life of oil brushes is maintenance & cleaning out the pigment which tends to collect in the belly of the brush (more in questions and answers section).
These days I paint mainly in acrylic and have a favourite range of nylon brushes I prefer to use. The nylon brushes are really firm, they keep a good shape and they clean out really well. They don’t leave brush marks like a bristle brush does, which is what I prefer for my art.
TYPES OF BRUSHES
LOOKING AFTER YOUR BRUSHES.
Proper use, together with correct care and cleaning will ensure your brushes have a longer life span.
Storing your brushes - always keep your brushes aired so they don’t go mouldy. And whenever possible, in an upright position, never on their tips unless you want them to look like and paint like a fan.
Its best to try and keep handles dry, to prevent them from loosening and cracking. When you dip the head into water, try to keep the water level below the crimping and only wet the ferrule. What is a ferrule you ask? Well it is the metal part of a paintbrush that holds the bristles to the handle.
Always clean a good quality brush thoroughly after each painting session. If working in watercolour, rinse in cold water. Remove as much moisture as possible with kitchen roll and reshape before storing. If you need to transport your brushes around try using a bamboo brush roll. This not only keeps brushes secure and prevents damage to brush heads, but also allows for air ventilation.
Oil and acrylic paint is less easy to remove from the belly of the brush head. There are some excellent cleansers available for both types of paint! I prefer using the brush soaps that are available, like Da Vinci brand. It also works well for removing dried paint and for those marks you left on the tablecloth or clothing. As an alternative, washing up liquid or a cream cleanser (found in the bathroom) are good or a good quality hand degreasing agent - usually used by mechanics for washing their hands is excellent. To store good quality oil brushes, it is recommended you reshape and apply Linseed Oil or Pure Almond Oil etc, but you will need to cleanse before next use.
• Always have a set of brushes for each medium you use. It is false economy to use the same brushes for all applications. 'Crossing over' from one medium to another can prove expensive and disastrous when contamination occurs.
• Never use your brushes for mixing paint, use a palette knife for that. Paint can work its way up into the ferrule where it’s hard to get out again and it will then ruin the brush.
Posted: Thursday 7 January 2010