When it comes to the tools that help us paint, the brush is the one or if not the most crucial piece of equipment to get right - after all, it is the medium between your design concept and bringing it to life! Your paintbrush can be likened to your magic wand when you paint which helps to bring your creative vision to your canvas. If you are just starting out or wondering how to choose the right paint brush, this informative blog will guide you through all the key considerations and help you pick the right paint brushes for your needs so that you can start creating your next masterpiece in no time.
The Anatomy of An Artist Paintbrush
Commonly known as the hairs. These can be made of a single or a mixture of different fibres that are either natural (animal hair) or synthetic.
The silver/gold part towards the top of the brush that connects up the bristles with the brush handle.
This is the small part of the ferrule that keeps it secure and binding to the brush handle.
Brush handles are typically made of wood or acrylic. Different brushes can come with different handle lengths.
Which brush shapes are right for me?
No matter what type of painting you do, make sure a round brush is in your kit, as these brushes are super versatile for any painter or designer and illustrator alike. Round brushes have the ability to create different line weights from thin to thick - for thinner strokes focus on just the tip, or for wider strokes apply more pressure on the brush. For painting where extra attention to detail is required, a pointed round brush is best for catering to more precise brush strokes.
Round brushes work well to use when first outlining, sketching shapes out or filling in small areas. For first-time painters looking to add a round tip brush to their essential kit, we recommend the Da Vinci College Round Series 8730 which is designed for both oil and acrylic painters for students and amateur artists. This brush is made from elastic and synthetic fibres, allowing the brush more flexibility and its pointed tip helps to nail that detailing!
Flat brushes are characterised by a square, blunt end with medium to long hairs. Again, this is another brush shape which may be handy to have in your kit regardless of your painting style due to its versatility.
However, the size of the flat brush you need will be dependent on what painting style you are doing. Typically, large flat brushes are ideal for washes. Because larger flat brushes are often thicker, they are perfect for acrylic or watercolour painting styles as their thickness helps to pick up a larger amount of pigment. They can be wetted before picking up the paint so that the thinner layers can be applied in a speedy manner. Because of its ability to carry more paint, this brush allows greater flexibility for more flourished marks.
When it comes to smaller flat brushes, we would recommend this for anyone looking to lay flat patches of colour smoothly, particularly if you want to achieve a square edge finish. They are also brilliant for producing smoother, long strokes which makes them a strong choice for artists conveying a sense of motion or movement within their artwork.
If you are looking to create solid lines, the flat brush would also be a good choice as they can be used on their side to create a smooth line, straight edge or stripes. Just be sure to assess the weight of the flat brush first as the weight will affect how thick the line is.
Long-haired flat brushes are also the perfect tool for varnishing which makes them every artist's best friend.
Here at Bird & Davis, a filbert brush is among one of our favourite brushes due to how effortlessly versatile this brush is - think of it as a middle ground between the round and flat brush. This brush is popular with most oil and acrylic painters, and it is typical for more established artists to own a number of different filberts.
If you are looking to create soft brushwork or blending, the filbert is ideal due to its more rounded edge (what sets it apart from the flat brush). This is a popular choice for figurative painters as the filbert has the ability to allow the painter to create brushes based on how they use their hand movement to manipulate the brush. When turned on the side, it can either produce a thin line, or if swivelled in mid-stroke can produce a more tapered line effect.
A brush that is highly flexible in terms of its uses, the filbert can produce a variety of different marks and effects, but this is dependent on both the thickness of pigment and the angle at which the brush is held.
Bright is essentially the flat brush's little sister, as it is very similar to the flat brush except it has much shorter bristles. Because of their shorter bristle lengths, brights generate more resistance making them a brilliant choice for any artist looking to paint in shorter, controlled strokes or strong/bold strokes of colour. It is important to note that although the stiffness of the bristles depends on the specific brush, this brush type will typically be one harder than the other brushes in the kit, so reach for them whenever you are looking to create a harder-edged effect to your artwork with heavier, bold pigment. Check out the Da Vinci Series bright brushes, made of high-quality hog, these will be ideal to slot into your kit.
A liner brush (or sometimes referred to as a rigger brush) is a thin, narrow brush with extremely long bristles. These often come to a sharper point, making them exceptional for fine detail painting such as thin linework or even more delicate lines such as whiskers! The longer hair means this brush can carry more pigment, creating flowing, longer lines. They can be used across a multitude of mediums such as oil, acrylic, ink or watercolour and can help add an extra layer of dimension to your artwork. Plus, if you want to sign your name or create delicate text work, these brushes are perfect for this due to their ability to create such smooth, concise lines. Even if you aren't looking to paint in high levels of detail, we strongly recommend popping one of these beauties into your kit, such as the Da Vinci Nova Synthetic Oil Brush Series 1670.
Which bristle type is right for me?
You will find painting brushes bristles usually come in three different lengths, short, medium and long. A general rule of thumb is that medium and long bristles work well with fluid paints and, depending on the shape, are great for finer coverage or detail. Short bristles are ideal for technique work such as stippling, or whenever you desire more control over your brushstrokes.
Bristles for artists come in two main forms - synthetic brushes and animal brushes. Of course, animal brushes are more expensive but have a reputation for providing a more elevated painting experience than synthetic brushes. However, it is important to note that there are now many high-quality synthetic brushes available and in recent years synthetic brushes have improved greatly to offer a far more superior painting experience, and in our opinion when made by a high-quality brand and are just as effective! Also, they are a must-have option for vegan artists and painters.
Bristles can be split into two main categories - natural and synthetic bristles.
Synthetic brushes are versatile across all painting mediums and are a far more economical option making them a great choice for beginner, amateur and student artists. Typically made of nylon and polyester, these brushes are also often easier to clean. The cons of synthetic are that they soak up slightly less pigment than natural, and are a little less soft.
Hog brushes are known for both their stiffness and durability, while still keeping their 'springy' quality. We recommend them for general oil painting, but they aren't best for artwork that requires finer or more delicate details.
Sable & Soft Brushes
Contrary to their name, these brushes aren't made from sable hair, but are typically made of mink tail. These softer brushes are extremely fine and have the ability to hold large amounts of water, meaning they are an excellent choice for fine oil/acrylic or watercolour painting. Other types of soft brush fibre, which are typically more cost-effective are ‘camel brushes’. These bristles aren't actually made from camel, and are often made from pony, goat, ox, mongoose or badger.
If you would like to learn how to clean your artist brushes and keep them in tip-top condition, be sure to check out our Essential Guide To Cleaning Artist Brushes for a step-by-step guide on cleaning different brush types!
If you are still puzzled as to which brush is best for you, feel free to drop into our friendly store or give us a call on 0208 368 8580 and one of the team would be happy to talk it through with you.