Do you want to try your hand in oil painting and do not have any idea where to start from? Are you confused about what canvas, paint brushes, and paints to use? Do you also want to know which type of paint brushes are used for what purposes? Well, you have landed on the right platform. I will clear all your doubts about brushes as precisely as I can.
There is a vast assortment of brushes available to artists for oil painting and acrylic painting too. As a beginner, you might not even feel the need of having a variety of brushes, but as you advance your skills, you will require specialized brushes for more specific purposes.
Table of Contents
Parts of a Brush
A paintbrush has three parts namely bristles, ferrule and handle.
Bristles are the hair that is used to apply paint on the canvas. These can be divided into hard and soft bristles. Hard bristles are mostly made of hog hair and are tight and springy. Hog bristles are relatively inexpensive, so these are the go-to option for most painters. Soft, flexible bristles are made of a variety of animal hair, but for professional use mostly sable brushes are preferred. There are also various cheaper alternatives available for sable brushes made of synthetic fiber which are quite suitable for oil painting.
The ferrule is the metal area that connects the handle of the brush with the bristles. It clamps the bristles together and keeps them attached to the handle. You must not dip the ferrule in the paint else it will be tough to clean it.
The handle is the part of the brush through which we hold the brush. Wooden handles are tapered for balance and have sizes, series and style imprinted on them. Oil painting brushes have longer handles so that you can stand away from painting and get complete overview while painting. You can also use short handle brushes for close detailed and design work.
Brushes have various uses depending on the size and shape of the brush. To understand the applications we must first understand how the painting is divided into different parts.
Just like a photo, painting also has a background and a foreground.
- In a landscape, the background is usually lighter and blended. It covers a large area on the canvas.
- In a portrait, the background is usually kept plain or single-colored.
- We use flat brushes with long bristles for backgrounds, as these paint large areas in less time. Large brushes make big strokes and blend together that give the bokeh effect in the painting. The background is blurred, and the subject is highlighted.
- You can use brushes in bigger sizes mainly ranging from size 3 to paint the background.
- The subject is present in the foreground. It is darker and more detailed. It requires a lot of precision and patience to paint the subject.
- A smaller and pointed brush is more useful for painting the subject. These brushes have sharp edges that are appropriate to give minute details.
- You can use smaller sizes ranging from 0 to 2 for detailed work.
Different Types of Paint Brushes
Paint Brushes comes in different shapes. The common types of paint brushes used for oil painting are explained below.
Flat Brushes (For Background)
Flat Brushes are great and have long bristles, square end. It is manufactured in different sizes for different purposes. A large flat brush allows to make broad strokes and cover a large area quickly. It is perfect for backgrounds where fewer details are required, and a large area has to be filled in less time. The bristles flex that allows blending two areas together to create a smooth transition. You can use edges for thinner lines.
Round (For Calligraphy and Thin Elements)
It is round and has long bristles tapered to end. Round brushes are ideal and exclusively used for calligraphy or describing tree branches and thinner elements like fine details. The thickness of strokes also varies with the pressure applied.
Filbert (A combo of Flat and Round Brushes)
Filbert brush is flat with long bristles that are rounded at the end. It is a combination of both flat and round brushes and hence very versatile and multi-purpose brush. It makes a huge variety of fine lines.
- If you turn the brush on its wide side, you can make really nice, even and thick strokes. It is also suitable for blending, skin tones, and backgrounds. If you turn to its edge, you can make a very thin line, and change the with of line with pressure.
- You can use a bigger size brush for backgrounds and wide surfaces, and a smaller brush for making details on the face like shadows on the nose, longer jawline, between the eyebrow and the eye, etc. It creates softer blends due to there being no sharp corners at the end of the bristles.
Bright (For Short and Thick Strokes)
It is also flat but with shorter bristles and a square end. It helps to apply thick paint and allows to make short, thick strokes and hold the brush marks. Edges are for thin lines.
Fan (For Fine Blending and Parallel Stokes)
A fan is a flat brush with a wide arc of long bristles. Soft bristle versions are for fine blending and removing brush marks. Harder versions are more useful for creating groups of parallel marks in a single stroke for example grass, masses of twigs, etc.
Angular (For Special purposes)
You can use these for precise details and fill large areas. These come in different angles and hair length. Examples are Dagger, Sword, etc. You can also trim a regular brush to make it an angular one. Just cut the hair diagonally from one side of the brush giving it an angle as per your requirement.
Mob (For Blending the Background)
These are like makeup brushes with synthetic bristles, we use especially for blending purposes and you can also use it for removing brushstrokes, varnishing and glazing the canvas.
Is it worth to buy High-Quality Brushes?
The brush is an extension of your arm and fingers and should be able to make a mark when you paint. As a beginner, you might not feel the need for the best quality brushes for painting and the cheaper alternatives will do fine. But as you advance your skills, you will need better brushes with long handles and high-quality natural hair to get the exact effect of brush strokes when you paint.
The low-quality brushes do not hold their shape. The twisted and lose bristles limit you from making the desired strokes too.
Experts also prefer altering the shapes themselves by trimming and cutting some parts of the brush to create different shapes for various uses.
So, invest in good quality brushes so that lack of proper tools does hinder your progess. You will soon feel the difference that a fine brush makes to your ability to move the brush on the canvas.
How to Maintain and Clean the Paint Brushes?
Maintenance of brushes is as important as buying the right ones. Not taking appropriate care of the brushes will make them hard and useless.
- The most important step is to clean the brushes properly after using them.
- For this, you must use turpentine oil.
- First, clean the brush with a paper towel.
- Then dip it in the turpentine oil so that the color comes off too.
- Now clean it with paper towel again to remove excess paint.
- The paint should also not be left on the brush because that will make it hard and hence impractical to use.
- Also, while cleaning the brush, do not pull or rub harshly against the surface to save the bristles from damaging its shape.
The right brush doesn’t make you an expert painter, but a wrong brush definitely holds you back from polishing your skills. Professional painters use right tools that give them the desired results. So, you must also follow the above guidelines while choosing the right assortment of brushes and keep practicing to achieve excellence.
Tell us which type of brush are you most comfortable working with?