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The Mystery of Brushes Revealed

By: Jillybean Fitzhenry

Topics Covered:

>Anatomy of a Brush
>Brush Uses
>Synthetic & Natural Soft Hair Brushes
>Bristle Brushes
>Selecting the right brush

Anatomy of a Brush

Anatomy of a Brush Anatomy of a Brush Hair
No Belly
Types of Natural Hair with fine Points:
  • Kolinsky Sable tail Hair
  • Weasel tail (red sable hair)
  • Mongoose hair
  • Badger hair
Types of Hair with a Cylindrical shape
  • Ox ear hair
  • Pony
  • goat hair
  • Nylon (Synthetic)


Brush Uses

Angular brush
Use the brush to float and double load colours, or create ruffled petals and leaves. The long tip of the brush makes it easier to add colour into tight corners.

Filbert Brush
Use this brush to fill rounded areas and make rounded strokes, petals and leaves.

Glaze/ Wash Brush
Large flat brushes are usually called a glaze or wash brush. Small flats are called shaders. Use a wash brush to basecoat backgrounds. Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle when basecoating. Start in the center of the area to avoid ridges on the edge. The wash brush can make the same types of strokes as the shader except on a much larger scale.

Shader / Flat
Use a flat shader for stroke work and basecoating square objects.

Round Brush
Use a round brush to apply colours in medium to small areas. Create broad lines, stroke work and fill rounded areas.

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Synthetic and Natural Soft Hair Brushes

Synthetic (man made) brushes are mostly available in soft to medium hair stiffnesses and are used like natural soft hair brushes. Natural hair brushes include pure red sable, kolinsky sable, goat hair, camel hair, squirl hair, badger, mongoose and fitch. These types of brushes are used for delicate details and blending.

Liner brush
Use this brush to outline edges, add details, thin lines, eyelashes, etc.

Thin lines
For thin lines dilute the paint with 50% water. Pull the brush tip through the thinned paint while twirling the brush tip to a sharp point. Hold the brush at a 90 degree angle. Applying pressure will make thick lines and no pressure for extra thin lines. Use a liner for thin lines and a script liner for extra long thin lines.

Script brush
Use this brush when extra long thin lines are required. This is like a long liner brush. The longer bristles will hold more paint and make longer continuous lines. This brush is also used to paint script type lettering that is long and flowing.

Comb & Filbert Comb Brush
Use this brush to make multiple thin lines in one stroke. These brushes are used to paint Santa beards, angel wings, hair, animal fur and grass. It is also used to make texture lines in wood, barns, basket weave etc. The filbert Comb will make varied starting and stopping points while the regular comb is more even.

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Bristle Brushes

Bristle Brushes are stiff and used to push heavy viscosity paint around. These brushes are used to start a painting. Soft hair brushes, like sable, are used for the final delicate details and blending. Some synthetic brushes are also made with stiff hairs and are a great alternative for natural bristle brushes.

Bristle Round
Use this brush to draw the main lines or subject of the painting on the canvas. The width and shape of the lines can be varied by the amount of pressure applied. They are also used to blend small areas and add details.

Bristle Bright
The bristles in this brush are shorter and firmer than in a flat. The extra firmness makes it easy to apply or push around thick amount of paint. This brush will leave a square impression in the paint. Use the chisel edge fot he brush with very light pressure to pull thin lines. The paint may need to be thinned slightly for long thin lines.

Bristle Flat

The bristles in this brush are long which gives them more elasticity. This makes it easier to apply colours into a wet area without digging into the wet area. A wide range of strokes can be achieved by varying the amount of pressure used.

Bristle Filbert

The unique rounded edges of this type of flat brush will leave softer edges than a regular bristle flat. It creates a thin line when pulled sideways and becomes a thick stroke by turnign the brush slightly. The rounded tips can create cloud forms and other rounded shapes such as flower petals.

Bristle & Soft Hair Fan Brushes
These are used dry to gently blend wet colours. The stiff bristle fans can be dragged through heavy paint for textured effects or use the tips to stipple trees, foliage etc. The soft hair fans are used to blend colours delicately without digging into the wet paint.

Soft Hair Brushes
Hair Types
Soft Medium Medium/Stiff Stiff
Synthetic Majestic
Royal Garden
Royal Knight
White Taklon
Golden Taklon
White Taklon
Fabric Scrubbers
Natural Nocturna
Pure Red Sable
Natural Camel Hair
Royal Sable
Natural Bristle
Stencil Brushes
Large Area Brown hair (Pony)
Goat Hair


Selecting a Right Brush

Based on the surfaces
The basic rule is to use soft brushes on smooth surfaces and stiff brushes on porous surfaces.

Soft Medium Medium/Stiff Stiff
Watercolor paper/Greeting Cards
Thin Fabrics
Paper Mache
Candles (Wax)
Metal Wear
yes yes
Heavy Fabrics yes yes
Wood yes yes yes yes
Canvas Overpainting and details yes yes for underpainting
Clay Pots
yes yes yes
Stepping Stones yes yes
Rubber Stamping yes yes

Based on Paints and Medium
The basic rule is to use soft brushes with thin mediums and stiff brushes with thick mediums. There is always an exception to the rule when creating special effects.

Soft Medium Medium/Stiff Stiff
Bottle Acrylics + + +
Fabric Dyes silk light weight fabrics heavy fabrics for scrubbing heavy fabrics
Metal Paints + +
Tube Acrylics
over-painting and details + + underpainting
Stencil Paint +
+ +
Wood Sealer
Wood Stains
Crackle Mediums
+ +

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