Brushes

If you are a painter, brushes are essential. Whether you use watercolor, oil, acrylic, or anything else, paintbrushes are the tools of the trade and can become like the tips of your fingers when manipulating paint. There are many brush types, including shape, size, and hair.

Brushes

Look carefully at the quality and craftsmanship before you purchase the brush. A dozen inexpensive brushes are sometimes more expensive than one good quality brush that will last for years.


Anatomy

Includes the following.


Attributes of a Paintbrush

Expensive brushes do not necessarily equal good quality; however, knowing some of the attributes of an artist's paintbrush and how brushes are manufactured will help you make better choices when purchasing a brush, as well as an understanding of how to care for them.

Brush Hair or Bristles - made from natural animal hair or man-made synthetic fiber. The type of hair used determines whether the brush is soft or firm.

Brush Shape or Tip - On top of the bristles, tips are cut into various brush shapes. The shape affects the stroke and how the paint is applied to the surface. 

Tuft or Belly - the part of the brush used to apply paint. The "tuft" of the brush touches the surface, and the Belly is opposite the "tuft." The Belly will hold extra water or medium. They come in all sizes, from small to large, and various lengths, from short to long.

Roots - bottom part of the bristles bound together inside the ferrule Adhesive - wax-based glue, epoxy, or substance used to keep the roots together

Ferrule - A metal component that wraps around the roots and handles. It keeps the bristles attached to the handle and protects the adhesive from damage.

Handle - used to hold the brush while painting, carved from wood or molded from plastic- comes in various lengths and sizes.

Crimp - where the metal of the ferrule is compressed into small folds or ridges, a triple crimp is the most reliable if you can find it.


Wax or Adhesives Hold Hairs in Place

Most brushes are still assembled by hand, so the brand is essential for quality. The bottom line is that if the company has reasonable quality control, the brushes will be made better and last longer.

When a brush is manufactured, the hair or bristles are bound together using a cord or nylon rope, and wax or an adhesive is used to keep the cord or rope bound. The adhesive is then put on the handle.

The bound bristles are then set into a metal tube, and the handle is then pushed into the back of the metal tube and held in place by a crimp created from a unique tool used to bend the metal.

The crimp grips the handle and holds it in place. The bristles are then trimmed or cut into various shapes (i.e., round or flat), lengths, and sizes.


Never leave brushes in liquid overnight or submerge past the ferrule

Good quality brushes can last for decades if you take care of them. Always wash them after every use so the paint doesn't dry in the hair or leave any residue.

NEVER leave brushes in water overnight or put them in the water past the metal ferrule. The contact point between the handle and the ferrule is not waterproof.

After washing, lay them flat on a paper towel to let them dry. This keeps the water from seeping back into the wooden handle.

Any moisture that collects within this area between the ferrule and wooden handle from indiscriminate washing will cause the handle to swell (when wet) and contract (when dry), resulting in a loose brush handle that lacks control when painting. You will definitely want to throw it away.

NEVER rinse your brushes in hot water! Hot water can melt the wax or adhesive, causing the hairs to unseat themselves & will also lose their valuable shape needed for details.


Characteristics

Includes the following.


Brush Hair Types

The material is used to form the tuft of a brush. Whether it is natural animal hair or synthetic (man-made hair), it picks up and spreads the paint, which is the most important to the performance and drives the price of the brush.

Hog Bristle — obtained from hogs in several parts of the world, the most sought-after coming from China. The bristles are unlike any other natural filler in that they form a V-shaped split or "flag" at the tip and tend to have a natural curve. The best grade has "interlocked" bristles, with the curves formed inward to the ferrule, has a natural resistance to fraying, and spreads any medium to thick paints smoothly and evenly. A selection of pure hog bristle brushes is recommended for oil and is a far less expensive alternative to good-quality softer hairs.

Fitch Hair — a traditional hair for oil painting similar to Mongoose and Sable. Fitch is super smooth and ideal for blending and portrait painting. Sourced in Europe, Fitch's hair is a more affordable substitute for Sable and great for detail.

Pony Hair — soft but firm from mature animals at least 2 years of age. It is primarily used for scholastic-grade brushes but often blended with other hairs for inexpensive watercolor and touch-up brushes. Pony hair lacks "snap" (or memory) and will not return to a point after a brushstroke.

Camel Hair — does not come from camels at all. It is found in watercolor and lettering brushes and is usually made of squirrel, goat, ox, pony, or a blend of several hairs, depending on the desired softness and intended cost of the brush. Camel hair lacks "snap" (or memory) and will not return to a point after a brushstroke.

Ox Hair — the best quality comes from the ears of cattle or oxen. The hair has a solid body with a silken texture, is very resilient, and has good "snap," but lacks a fine tip. Therefore, it is most useful in medium-grade wash brushes or flat-shaped brushes. Frequently, ox hair is blended with other natural hair to increase the resiliency of a brush.


Brush Tuft Shapes

Brushes come in various shapes. The tuft picks up and spreads the paint creating a unique stroke depending on the shape. Brush shapes are as follows:

Flat - Great for bold brush strokes, this brush can make flat tones, lines, or edges when held perpendicular. It has a ferrule that has been crimped flat, so the tuft is square and with medium to long hairs. Note that flats will turn into filberts after a lot of use.

Filbert - Used for blending and figurative work. It is similar to a flat in that it has a flat and square crimped ferrule, but the tuft has rounded corners or radii, which makes it more suited for blending. 

Bright - Used for more controlled strokes. Like a flat, the ferrule has been crimped flat, and the tuft is square, but the tuft is much shorter than a flat.

Round - Has a round ferrule making the tuft of the hairs round. This brush can produce lines that are either thick or thin, depending on the pressure. Smaller pointed round brushes are used for fine details.
Rigger or Liner - Used for fine lines, details, or highlights. Round ferrule with long hairs and pointed tuft.

Fan - Used for smoothing and blending if the hairs are soft. If the hairs are coarse, use them for textural effects. It has a flat ferrule, but the strands are spread like a fan.  



Brush Sizes

Brushes come in various sizes. Various tuft shapes pick up and spread the paint creating unique strokes. The brush size directly correlates to what size canvas or surface you intend to use. If you are working small, you will need smaller brushes. If you are working large, you will need larger brushes.

Most brushes manufactured by major suppliers come in standard sizes. Brush sizes are measured by the width of the tuft, just above the ferrule. In the United States, brushes are standardized and rounded to 1/32".

Round Brush Size Chart

4/0(less than 1/64")
3/0(1/64")
2/0(less than 1/32")
0(1/32")
1(less than 2/32")
2(2/32")
4(3/32")
6(4/32")
8(5/32")
10(7/32")
12(9/32")
14(10/32")
16(12/32")
18(15/32")
20(9/16")
24(11/16")

Flat, Bright, Filbert, Egbert Size Chart

0(1/32")
2(3/32")
4(5/32")
6(6/32")
8(8/32")
10(10/32")
12(12/32")
14(15/32")
16(9/16")
18(11/16")
20(13/16")
24(31/32")


Medium Specific

Includes the following.


Are perfect for cleaning your paint brushes and ensuring their longevity.

You can use a regular cup for water on the go, but when in the studio, find something larger, preferably with a "washboard."

Brush Tub
This slim rectangular shaped tub has all the benefits of our classic round tub plus a new, longer, larger cleaning area, a paint-saver palette, a sectioned palette, and graduated brush rests.

Round Brush Tub
The multi-purpose container holds water or solvents, lift-off lid prevents evaporation. Openings of various sizes surround the rim for upright brushes. Ridges on the bottom aid in cleaning brushes. Made of unbreakable plastic.

Fresh Water Rinse Well
Keeps fresh water at hand without multiple containers or trips to the sink. A plastic water bottle fits the base to form a well for brush cleaning. A reservoir holds used water. Push button drain and refill operation.


You can also use metal or glass washers for watercolor or gouache; however, since odorless mineral spirits are used to clean oil paint from brushes after oil, oil painters only use glass or metal containers.

Silicone Brush Cleaning Tank
Stroke a brush across the surface of the aluminum coil to open and separate hairs for proper cleaning without damaging fragile flags (the delicate split ends of brush hairs). Heavy glass tank holds 12 oz of water or solvent.

Metal Brush Washers, Medium Size, is 3-3/4" x 3-3/4"
These brush-washing canisters are made from seamless, rust-proof, chrome-plated iron. Unlatch three clamps to reveal an airtight rubber seal and removable brush scrubber. They are absolutely leakproof and will withstand a lifetime of use. 



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