Choosing the right Brush  

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        Let's talk about the "tools" before we tackle the "how and why". Brushes are tools and, as such, have proper use and care. While brushes, like all tools, come in varying grades of quality, unlike most tools, inferior brushes will only give mediocre results even in the hands of a master. Your purchases should be based solely on quality, not quantity. Buying brushes will take a little time. You could visit several Art stores ( Although I've found Tri Dee to be the best by far) before making a single purchase. You will be buying by the feel and spring of the "hair". 
   Here are some buying tips that may help:
1) Never bend the hairs of any dry brush! This will damage the "memory" of the hairs making them almost useless in keeping a fine line.
2) Never "wet" a brush in the store by putting it in your mouth! You have no idea how many other people have "licked" the same brush.
3) Carry a small water bottle during the quest of your brushes. Most shop and store owners will not mind your wetting of brushes in this manner ( Tri-Dee already has water & brush paper for you to test on) as long as they see you are not bending the tips on the container sides, or jamming them into the bottom of the bottle.
4) Have a small, blank, unlined tablet to gently run a water line with the subject brush to observe the "flow and holding" characteristics and "pallet" flare of the hair.
5) Always carefully return the plastic sleeve to its proper place on the ferrule, before placing an unwanted brush back in the rack. This will also make points with the management ( Sharon's vacation fund thanks you ).
6) Check the spring of the wet brush tip against the paper in your tablet or on the plastic ferrule cover, NOT ON YOUR OILY SKIN.
 AGAIN: buy good quality brushes. Brushes made of bristle, nylon, rayon, or other plastic fibers are to be avoided. If properly cared for, good quality brushes will last many years. 
  Knowing the characteristics of a brush makes choosing the right brush easy. Although any brush can be used with any type of paint, choosing the right brush according to paint type, viscosity, medium, solvents used and surface to be painted will provide the best results.

                   Brushes are sold by "hair type", shape, size, and intended use. 

Types & Sizes: Rounds, Quills, Sables, fans, Filberts( Oval Flats), Detail, liners, Scripts, Rigger,  Flats, Brights, Chisel point (deer foot), Angles, One Stroke (Flats), Wash, Mop, Hake and Shaders  are sold in sizes 0000000000 (10 zeros) to #28. & 1/16" to 6". (For More Detail on Shapes and Hair types Click Here)

                                              Three categories of Fibres
             Which differ in shape, diameter and flag (finest extremity of a hair as opposed to the root):
 Hairs : Hydrophilic and lipophilic. Conical and single flag. They also have a "belly": it begins at the center of the hair length and then becomes gradually tighter. For fine and soft techniques. There are two categories of hair: Extra-Fine (red sable - Kolinsky or Weasel -, Squirrel - Blue, Kazan or Golden -) and Fine (imitation sable, ox hair, polecat, pony, goat, etc.)     Hog bristles : Hydrophilic and lipophilic. Straight or "curved", with multiple flags. For non-aggressive paste techniques (oil, gouache). There are three types of hog bristles: Semi-White, Fine-White, Extra Fine-White. Synthetic fibres : Hydrophobic. Up to 7 diameters are used. For 'aggressive' paints, such as acrylic. They can be straight or "curved".
Hair Types : Weasel, Finch, Sable, Red Sable, Kolinsky, Hog Bristle, Pony,  Badger,  Brown Camel, Brown Blue Grey & Golden Squirrel, Ox,  Badger, Goat,  Mongoose, Polecat, Racoon, Rabbit, Pahmi, water buffalo If its hair it can be used  (For More Detail on hairs Click Here)

Synthetic vs. Natural Hair

Natural Hair Brushes


Synthetic Brushes

  Natural hair brushes are known for their superior ability to hold paint. Most natural hairs taper to a fine point on one end, creating sharp edges. Natural Bristle aren't pointed at the tips: They're split into two or more flags which can be seen with the naked eye. The flags allow paint to be spread evenly.    Natural hairs vary from soft to coarse. Soft hairs include sable, goat, squirrel, badger, fitch and weasel. Coarse or stiffer hairs include horse, ox and hog bristle. Bristle brushes are naturally flagged, or split on the tips, which allows them to carry large amounts of color and heavy-bodies paints. Natural hair brushes very in price according to the availability of the material.


  Synthetic brushes are most often made from "BPT" nylon which is dyed to simulate the color of natural hair. The main advantage of a synthetic brush is its durability, resistance to abuse and ease of cleaning. Many synthetics have more body and can accommodate a wide range of paint viscosities. Synthetic brushes can provide a thin wash for a watercolor effect, or a thick, heavy bodies look like that of mural painting. Generally less expensive than natural hair brushes, synthetic brushes are great for Acrylic emulsion painting because they don't lose their spring after a long soaking in water. But they do have there deficiencies if used with watercolors. The hairs can be a bit too springy: they let loose of the paint a little to freely, they don't make as good a point, & they wear poorly with rough use.




Oil and Alkyd



Synthetic or Synthetic Blends are preferred.


Bristle and Natural Hair brushes are preferred.


Soft Natural Hair brushes are preferred.

Synthetic brushes provide smooth results, are long lasting and are easy to clean. Using a synthetic brush with a resin-based paint such as acrylics creates a natural working relationship. The smooth surface of a synthetic filament has no crevices in which paint can be trapped. The durability of the synthetic filament also performs well on a wide variety of surfaces, from smooth to rough. (For More Detail on hairs Click Here)

Synthetic and natural hair blend brushes combine the best of both synthetic and natural hair characteristics. They provide the durability of the synthetic filament with the absorbency of natural hair to hold more paint and water.

Bristle brushes, traditionally used for oil paint, are great for heavy bodied paints such as tube acrylics.



Bristle brushes are used mostly for oil painting techniques and thicker glazes. Hog Bristle from China are the best quality. Because they have the ability to carry large amounts of paint, The hairs can be white, black, brown, etc. but only boiled white bristles are used for professional artist brushes.  (For More Detail working in Oil Click Here)

Natural hair brushes such as sable are used in the final stages of painting. They are used to execute delicate strokes, glazes and details.

Synthetic and natural hair blend brushes combine natural hair's ability to carry large loads of paint while the synthetic filaments provide increased durability.



Soft natural hair brushes like sable, squirrel,, ox-hair, pony and goat hold large amounts of fluid paint, which is necessary in watercolor painting. Red sable is considered the best choice hair by watercolor artists. Red sable hair has a fine needle-like point, excellent spring and resilience. It also has a fine taper from the belly (which holds a reservoir of color) to the pointed hair tip. Other types of natural hair in the hands of a competent artist can also render satisfactory results. (For More Detail on hair Click Here)

Synthetic and natural hair blend brushes can also be used with watercolors. They combine the durability of synthetics with the natural hair's ability to hold more paint.






Caring for a  Brush  


                     Everyday Cleaning & Care:

    The longevity of your brushes will depend a great deal on how good they are and how they are treated and cared for. 
Step # 1:
Buy good quality Brushes. 
Step # 2: Always keep your brushes clean. After every use thoroughly clean each brush all the way into the ferrule. Red Sable and other watercolor brushes should never be used in any oil based medium unless they will never be used in watercolors or water based colors again. Keep in mind oil and water do not mix, The reasoning is pretty straight forward, once the hairs of a brush have absorbed any oil it is impossible to remove all the residue, the next application of water color will streak and smear, fish eye and do all sorts of nasty things. If you plan to use both oil and water base paints you will need brushes for each type. Mistakes with oil and water base materials can cause paint failure and may ruin a really good detail job.

Oil Brushes: Brushes used in oil based mediums should be cleaned with turpentine, mineral spirits or other brush cleaning thinners. Check the label to see the material can be used for cleaning, as some of the "fast dry" and Reducers will breakdown the fibers in the hairs, damaging or destroying the brush. First wipe as much paint as practical with one or two pulls between the thumb and fingers covered with a paint rag, trying not to hold the hairs so tightly that the hairs are broken or pulled out. Dip the brush in Artist quality thinner swirling the brush removing as much paint as possible and again pull between the thumb and fingers covered with a clean part of the rag. Repeat this process of dip and pull until all sign of paint has been removed and the rag shows only clear thinner. Moisten the hair with thinner and shape. For a healthier method use plain old vegetable oil to clean with and that includes your hands as well ( Never use solvent for your hands)

Soap: Now using lukewarm water and a mild hand soap (or brush soap) that contains no conditioners or perfumes. wet your brush and the cake of soap, and massage the brush on the soap until you see suds. Then lather the brush in the palm of your hand. Raise and repeat the process until the lather no longer shows traces of color. With natural brushes, try to use as little soap as necessary to avoid drying out the hairs too much, otherwise they will eventually lose their shape and spring. No mater what type of brush, be sure to get the paint out of the heel of the brush head where it meets the ferrule ( the metal sleeve that joins the hair to the handle).

Air Dry: Shake out the brush, shape the head with your fingers, let the brush air dry either laying on a tabletop or hanging head down in a brush holder. Store the brushes in a drawer or covered box to keep dust away. Don't dry them handle down, because moisture can seep into the wooden handle between the bristles and the ferrule. This can swell the handle, loosen the head and crack the handles protective lacquer.

Oiling: Dip the brush in clean new vegetable or walnut oil, ( The "OILING' of the brush helps to preserve the strength, memory and spring of the hairs extending the usable life of the brush. The oiled brushes should be neatly stacked laying flat in a covered tray or pan that is longer than the longest brush. Hairs must not be allowed to "set" bent" as this will impart a permanent arc in the tracking of the brush. Never store "oiled " brushes standing upright.

  Acrylics: Brushes used with acrylic emulsion paints must be keep wet while you are painting, if the paint dries in the brush you'll have a hard time removing it. The best way to keep them moist is to suspend them using a brush holder, so that the bristles or hairs are immersed in the water, but the handle is not. That way you'll prevent water damage to the handle and keep the head from being bent. Remember that natural bristle brushes will become waterlogged and lose their spring and responsiveness if you keep them in water too long.

Water color & Acrylic Brushes: Theses brushes are just the opposite. They should be washed in mild detergent and water to remove all traces of paint. No, rinsing under the water in the sink will not do it,  A small amount of dishwashing liquid will usually do the trick and be followed be plenty of clean warm water. Once clean of paint and bubbles, spin the handle back and forth a few times between the palms of the hands, this will air dry the individual hairs and fray them out for inspection. If satisfied moisten the thumb and forefinger with clean water to reshape to the proper profile.

Water base brushes should be stored DRY and standing upright or suspended upside down in an artists coil spring brush holder. If water color brushes must be stored laying flat, roll each brush in a paper sheath or towel to protect the dry brittle bristles. Again, Never bend or flex the dry hair or bristles of any brush.

Special Care for Water color Brushes: Brushes used for watercolor painting deserve extra care since they can be quite expensive. Store your valuable Kolinsky's in a covered box or drawer, along with a container of mothballs or Cedar flakes. 

Removing Dried Paint: If you find that you have let some paint dry in a brush, you can try a special cleaner made for such situations: Winsor & Newton Gel Brush Cleaner is one to try. You work the paste like product into the brush let it set, then wash it out with soap and water. Some times Rubbing Alcohol will do the trick to.


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