Completing any task without the proper tool can be discouraging and frustrating. I know personally that trying to open a can of soup without a can opener can be ridiculously difficult—and a waste of time! This can be implicated to any type of project you are trying to do. Without the right tool, you’re not going to get anywhere.
Being an artist myself, the same goes for picking the right tools for your project. Without the right brush, you could end up with a completely different vision than what you pictured. However, if you’re a new painter, all of the different types of brushes may seem a bit intimidating. How do you know which brush is right for the type of project you want to complete? And why are there different prices for the same brush? Luckily for you, I have suggestions and tips for your future painting, and to get the exact style and vision of what you want.
When picking out a brush, you want to have an idea of what you’re painting, the surface that you’re painting on, and the technique you’ll be using for your painting. After you’ve decided what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you can decide which brush is right for you.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the different parts of the brush, and what is most comfortable to you for your idea. You’ll want to look at the “hair” of the brush, the “belly” (or thickness) of the hair, and the shape.
Hair and Belly
Red Sable is one of the best brushes you can use for oil or watercolor painting from natural hair. The red sable is a member of the weasel family with red hair, and can be found in Russia and China. The hair on this brush is the most absorbent and strong—helping hold the color longer to transfer on the paper. The belly is one of the thickest of all the brushes, making it easy to paint on any surface. This type of brush is good for smooth and solid lines as a technique that you want to portray.
Instead of using a natural haired brush, you can also buy synthetic brushes—a cheaper substitute. Synthetic brushes were first used as “outside” paint, but now are widely used for fine art. Synthetic brushes advantages include an easier clean up, less prone to breakage, and can be used for watercolor, oil and acrylics.
A square shaped brush is used mainly to cover as much space as you can. This brush is mostly used for backgrounds and blending.
Filbert shaped brushes have a round outer edge and come in multiple sizes. This brush is used mainly for special attention to detail, and making your painting more “fine”.
A pointed round shaped brush is used for the final touch ups of your painting. This brush is particularly good for water coloring.
Fan shaped brushes are used for shading colors together. It helps paint multiple flowing strands in one stroke.
There are two different categories of “surfaces” that can be used for painting. There are either flexible (canvas, poster, paper) or rigid (wood, metal, glass). Once you’ve decided which category your surface belongs to, it can be easier to choose the brush you need.
When painting on a canvas, think of glossy and smooth. Canvases are usually smaller, so think in that perspective. Canvases come on multiple mediums—cotton, linen, etc. Remember, with fabric like that, your painting can shrink! So plan accordingly.
If you’re deciding to paint on paper (or poster), try and stay away from oil paints. This will cause the paper to become weaker, resulting in a damaged painting; which is something you definitely do not want. Sketches and quick drawings are better for paper.
Painting on a wooden surface can be tricky. The wood soaks up as much as the paint as it can, requiring you to pay extra attention to your coating. Oil based paint (as well as primer) will work better with this; it takes longer to dry, equaling out the brush marks and making it look smoother.
Metal surfaces are best used with oil paintings. Keep in mind that metal will expand, depending on temperature.
Glass surfaces can be fun, but require a few extra steps. To paint on glass, you need to give it some texture so that paint has something to “grab” onto. Try using spray paint on the glass structure, and letting it dry. Use acrylic paint afterwards to give it the final touch.
Choosing the right brush for your painting can seem intimidating, but when you take note on the subject of your painting, the surface it’s on, and the techniques you wish to use, you can easily pick out which brush is perfect for your project. Picking the right tools for the corresponding projects is important to do—and now you can easily create your masterpiece.