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Round Brushes

Use on point or apply pressure to make thick-to-thin strokes. Detail work or filling large areas depending upon the size of the brush and pressure applied. Watercolor wash effects.

Round Variations:
Round Stroke –Shaping of the round stroke with the point coming from the center; most hairs makes it ideally suited to decorative stroke work.

“Grande” Round – Large sized rounds for those who work large or prefer a round for washes.

Liner Brushes

Enhance your painting with detail lines, outlining or fancy borders. Liner brushes with their long length hair and fine points are the ideal tool. Paint should be thinned to an inky consistency so that it flows easily from the brush.

Use for continuous curved or straight lines, varying thickness with pressure changes as in: highlighting, monogramming, outlining, stroke work, or texture lines.

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Liner Variations:
Mid-length Liner (Jackie’s Liner) – With an even longer length out, the mid-length liner will hold a bit more paint than a traditional liner.

Script Liner (Long Liner) – Length of hair holds more paint than a regular liner, but requires more control. Well suited for long scrolls, straight lines, or stroke work.

Ultra Round – Use as a liner on point in oil or acrylic. The full belly of the brush provides a reservoir for paint, allowing continuous line work without reloading. Slight pressure can be applied to vary line thickness, but too much pressure will cause belly hairs to flare out. Popular watercolor brush, used as a traditional round.

Spotter Brushes

For fine detailing. Examples: tiny stroke work, eyes, eyelashes, miniatures. These brushes are shaped like a round, but have a shorter length hair and are made only in small sizes.

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Various Brushes

Shader (Flat) – Use flat or up on the chisel edge. Sharp, square shape creates crisp edges and offers precision control. Blocking in color, shading, blending, highlighting, small washes and stroke work. Can be double-loaded, side-loaded to float or walk color.

Angular Shader (Angle Flat) – Tight shading, curved strokes and stroke work. Like a shader, it can be easily double-loaded and side-loaded. Angled shape is suited to painting or blending in small areas and corners. Popular rose petal brush.

Chisel Blender (Bright) – Short, flat strokes and blending, especially with heavy mediums.

Wash (Wash/Glaze) – Washes, basecoating, applying glazes and finishes. Large broad sweeping strokes.

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Filbert (Oval) – Rounded shape creates strokes with soft edges. Many artists prefer the filbert for filling circular areas, floating color and blending. Natural shape for flower petals, leaves, duck and bird feathers.

One Stroke (Stroke) – Long, flat brush traditionally used for lettering and borders. Use on chisel edge to produce fine lines or flat to create long, wide strokes for letter- ing, stripes and plaid.

Deerfoot Stippler – Texturing brush for fur, foliage, soft back- grounds, etc. Use a dry brush, loading just the tips. Pounce on your palette to evenly distribute paint and remove excess before moving to your surface. Dry wipe brush between color changes or dry thoroughly to remove excess moisture. Turn the brush as you work to fit the area and to create a more random pattern.

Stippling – This oval shaped brush creates an open, airy pattern allowing previous colors to show through as you build up layers.

Fan – Use dry or with tips loaded to create texture, smooth other brush strokes, or soften edges. Grasses, water, trees, etc.

Angular Bristle – Create natural textures of wildflowers, foliage, snow, ocean foam, etc. Sturdy bristle can be used dry or filled with water for stippling, dry brushing, and scrubbing techniques.

Dome Round – Soft, rounded brush head for touch blending and gentle dry brushing and scumbling.

Dagger Striper – An adaptation of the sign painter’s pinstriping brush. Pull along the long chisel edge for long, fine lines. Vary pressure for a thick-to- thin ribbon effect. Brush is easily double- loaded. Other uses: Faux finish techniques. Veining when creating faux marble.

Mop – Blending and softening. Some mops are also suitable for washes and varnishing. Traditionally, mops are available with round or flat ferrules.

Stencil – Use a dry brush with very little paint and circular or stippling technique.

FAB (Round) – Flats and tapered rounds. Ideal for painting heavy (sweatshirts) and textured (nubby canvas) fabrics, these brushes are sturdy enough to withstand a scrubbing or stenciling technique on fabric and other surfaces.


Glossary

  • Bristles – also known as hairs. can be natural, synthetic, or combination of both
  • Ferrule – the silvery bit that connects the bristles with the handle
  • Crimp – the part of the ferrule that secures it to the handle
  • Handle – usually made of wood or acrylic

 

Brush Quality

It is the handle, the bristle filament or mix there of, the crimps in the ferrule as well as the material used on the ferule and handle, which designate the quality. 

The quality of a brush is reflected in the price. A quality brush has more bristles, properly sized bristles and spaces between bristles, a rust resistant ferrule to secure the bristles and high quality hairs or filaments.

Cheap brushes will rust, loose bristles and will not retain shape.

Sable is hair taken from a mink or a marten, typically found in Northeast Asia. Their hair has been sought after for many generations by painters because of its absorbency and thickness.

Taklon is the common name for a synthetic fiber used in artist-quality paint, makeup and pin strip brushes. It is a smooth, soft, and somewhat fragile polyester or nylon, although proper brush care will extend the life of synthetic bristle. Taklon lacks the surface irregularities of a natural animal hair bristle, making it superior in many ways and easier to clean thoroughly.

White Taklon (or what we call White Nylon) is considered the most pure form and typically displays a more firm quality than dyed Taklon.

Golden Taklon has a mix of dyed carbon fibers as well as polyester fibers with multi diameter filaments increasing spring and snap back. Golden Taklon feel very similar to the sables, and are a little softer than the white nylon. Sables and the synthetic sables or “Golden Taklon” was developed to preform like the sables while surpassing the natural sable in durability.

 

Handle types

Handles can be wood plastic or lacquered wood. Shapes are the beaver tail where the handle bulges in the middle (soft comfort) or the more traditional artist brush type the rat-tail, with a long straight taper making them easier to hold for detailed work.


If someone sends you flowers, and they come with their stems inserted in those nifty water tubes, here is a great tip for those times when you forget to clean your brushes:

Pour an inch or so of Murphy’s Oil Soap into the tubes. Thread the brush handle through the hole in the tub lids then suspend the hard-as-a-rock bristles in the soap. Don’t let the bristles touch the bottom of the tubes and make sure the top of the metal ferrule is above the soap. The tops of the tubes will grip the brush handles tightly. Prop the tubes up in a container and let the brushes soak overnight.

Next day, clean as you normally would, and voilà, the brushes are as good as new.


Choosing a brush is largely a matter of personal preference, but each type of hair or bristle has its own unique characteristics. Some of the more popular types of hair used in artist brushes include:

Natural Soft Hair

– Kolinsky – Finest red sable. Finely pointed hair with superb spring, strength, and absorbency. Ideal for watercolor.
– Red Sable – Any red hair from the weasel family. Many different grades are available on the market. Ideally they hold a fine point with good spring and absorbency. Well suited to watercolor and blending in oils.
– Ox – Lacks the fine tip of red sable, but is a strong, silken hair often used in moderately-priced brushes.
– Goat – A relatively inexpensive hair. Possesses good absorbency with a soft, wiry feel.
– Camel – An all-encompassing term for brushes made from a variety of hairs, none of which are camel. They may include ox, goat, squirrel, or pony hair.

Natural Bristle

– Coarse, strong hair that ideally has a natural curve and flagged tips. Well suited to work with heavier mediums like oil, acrylics and tempera. White bristle comes in many grades. Black bristle is a stiffer, economically-priced fiber.

Synthetic Hair

– Manufactured polyester filaments of various thicknesses, each tapering to a fine point. They are available white or dyed (Taklon). Although all made of polyester filaments, as with natural hair the performance characteristics of synthetic brushes can vary widely depending upon the processing of the filament, mixtures of filament thicknesses and general shaping of the brush. In general, they are suitable for all media and ideal for acrylics.

Synthetic Bristle

– Stiff, coarse, tapered fibers lacking the flags and curve of natural bristle, but they are durable and suitable for work on rough surfaces. Commonly used for stencil and fabric painting brushes.

Smooth Synthetic Bristle

– A relatively new fiber with a smooth finish, it is designed to be an alternative to natural bristle with superior snap & shape retention & durability in water.

Brush Selection

When selecting the best brush (hair and shapes to be used) for a project, you will want to consider:
– the properties of your paint/media (viscosity, composition)
– the properties of your surface (texture, absorbency, firmness)
– your technique and style and the desired final effect.

Long or Short Handle?

Short handle brushes are the choice for most craft and hobby applications when working at a table or other flat surface. A short handle is also the preferred length for watercolors. Long-handle brushes are designed for easel work so painters can distance themselves from their work. The end of a nicely rounded handle can also be dipped in paint & used to make dots & other decorative marks.

Traditionally, handles are made of varnished or enamel coated wood. Today, acrylic and plastic handles are also available and may be preferred for their weight and durability in water. ‘Comfort’ handles, which generally feature a thicker, contoured grip area, are another recent development.


Brush tubs are wonderful painting tools and brush cleaning devices. Used properly, they will help you clean your brushes quickly and thoroughly, keeping them in top working condition. Loew-Cornell®’s Brush Tub® II is a newer model of the original Brush Tub® and features a longer cleaning area helpful for large size brushes.

Tips for using your Brush Tub

– Your brush tub has 3 chambers – fill each with about 2″ of water. During painting, keep one of the small sides completely clean with fresh water for dressing the brush, the other small section is for “swish rinsing” and the large section with the ribs is for thorough cleaning especially at the end of your painting session.
– Use the ribs by pulling the brush one direction only (low to high) up the ribs. Then turn the brush over and do the same on the other side. The brush should make contact with the ribs on or as close to the ferrule as possible to help vibrate paint out of this area. Going back and forth across the ribs will ruin the brush and cause the hair to flare. With smaller brushes do not be over zealous on the ribs – a couple of gentle pulls will do the trick. The ribs are especially useful for cleaning large-sized brushes.
– In between the 2 small sections are brush rests to keep brushes suspended in water without crushing the bristles and the holes around the outside edge are for standing brushes.
– After cleaning, blot your brushes on a white paper towel. The water imprint should be clear. If any color shows, your brushes are still not clean. (Note: Some filaments, particulary white nylon, may stain from certain pigments.)
– Dry the handles of your brushes completely after cleaning. This small step can help prevent the build-up of moisture around the ferrule/handle attachment, which can cause the paint to crack and ferrule to loosen.


Chisel edge: Ideal for fine line striping, ribbons, borders, and leaves.

  • The long chisel edge is used for striping. Use thinned paint and fully load your brush, pulling each flat side through the side of your paint puddle. Hold the brush like a pencil, so the chisel edge makes maximum contact with the surface, and pull with steady, even pressure. (ex. 1)
  • S-strokes, ribbon, and leaves are achieved by using the flat sides and tip of the chisel edge. Basic Movement (as you pull towards you through your stroke): Start on the tip of the chisel edge; lay and apply pressure to one flat side; return back to the tip of your chisel edge. (ex. 4)

Variations:

  1. Differences in pressure will create different stroke widths (ex. 2).
  2. Leaves are easiest made tip-to-leaf base.For broader leaves, overlap two strokes made in the same or opposite directions. Line work can be added to the leaves using your chisel edge. color, to add color variations. (ex. 9 done with Miracle-Wedge®)
    Miracle-Wedge® – Series 7900, Sizes: 6, 8
    Can be triple-loaded. Use for ribbon, leaves, borders, flower buds.
  3. Vary how long you stay up on the tip of your chisel edge, and rotate which side of the brush you put pressure on, to create turned effects. (ex. 4)
  4. Sweep the tip of the brush through a different value, or second color, to add color variations. (ex. 3)
    chisel edge
  • It is often helpful to practice S-strokes, ribbon, and leaves with a flat or dagger striper before moving on to the Miracle-Wedge.
  • 3-sided brush — 2 long, 1 short. The two long sides come together to form a short, rounded chisel edge. To load: pull each long side through the edge of your paint, and gently dip the short side in your paint puddle. Use 1, 2, or 3 colors of paint. To start, use contrasting colors and observe where they appear on your painting.
  • Basic Movement (pulling towards you through your stroke): Hold the brush like a pencil, short side down. Start on the tip of your chisel edge, lay and apply alternative movement pressure to either long, flat side, release pressure and return to the tip of your chisel edge.
    Do not try to use the short side of your brush. It will take care of itself. See “Variations #1-3” under Dagger Striper. (ex. 5)
  • Flower or leaf buds can be made quickly by simply pressing down on the short side of the brush and lifting directly up. This is not a
    stroke; just a press-down-and-lift motion. (ex. 8)
    Ultra Round – Series 7020, Sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14
    This liner has a full belly, which acts as a reservoir for paint, allowing the painter to work without frequent reloading. Use for long, continuous line work. (ex. 6 & 7)
  • Load all the way to the ferrule with paint of ink-like consistency.
  • When painting, stay up on the tip. Keep the handle of the brush as close to 90° from your surface as possible. Applying too much pressure will cause hairs to flare out incorrectly.
  • Go slow enough to allow the paint to flow down the tip.

Deerfoot Stippler
Series 410, Fitch, Sizes: 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 3⁄8”, 1⁄2”, 3⁄4” Series 412, Bristle, Sizes: 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 3⁄8”, 1⁄2” Series 7850, Taklon, Sizes: 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 1⁄2”
Use to create realistic fur and foliage, or soften an overall look.

  • Always work with a dry brush (no water in it). After loading, pounce out excess paint on your palette.
  • Use a pouncing/stippling technique (up and down). The amount of force used will affect your color value and overall look. (ex. 10, 13-15)
  • Do not try to reach your desired look with one layer of stippling — gradually build up color. You may use wet on wet (be careful not to over-blend) or wet on dry. Work from dark to light values. (ex. 10, 13) Do not clean your brush between color changes.

Stippling
Series DM, Sizes: 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 3⁄8”, 1⁄2”
This brush shape exclusive is used just as you would a deerfoot brush, but your stippling will have a much more open look. (ex.12)
Rake® – Series 7120, Sizes: 10/0, 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 1⁄2”, 3⁄4”, 1”
Filbert Rake® – Series 7520, Sizes: 1⁄8”, 1⁄4”, 1⁄2”
Texturizing brushes. Use for grass, animal fur, hair, wood graining, and general striae effects. (ex. 10-12, 15) These brushes produce the same texturizing effects, but the rounded corners of the Filbert Rake make it ideal for working in rounded areas, i.e., flower petals, animal paws, round areas of heads. (ex. 11)

  • Depending upon the desired effect, you may or may not wish to thin your paint.
  • Do not overload. Pull paint onto the brush from the outside edge of your puddle. The bristles will automatically separate. • Use light pressure to achieve delicate texture. Strokes may be pulled toward you or pushed (flicked) away from you.
  • With acrylics, avoid over-blending by allowing each layer of color to dry a bit before applying the next.

Line work has never been easier! The Loew-Cornell® Fine Line Painting Pen is an all-metal tool featuring an adjustable head that allows you to position it in the way you feel most comfortable. After filling the reservoir with thinned paint or ink, simply write or draw as you would with any pen. Your line work will be a consistent .5mm width. After use, rinse out the pen with water or brush cleaner and clear the tip with the cleaning tool included with your pen.

Tips for using the Fine Line Painting Pen

  • Use a liner brush to pick up thinned paint and fill the reservoir of the pen by brushing it against the edge of the cup.
  • Hold the pen so that the tip is in full contact with the surface.
  • Go slowly enough so that the paint has time to flow through the tip. Moving too fast will result in skips in your work.
  • A ruler or other straight edge can be used to make straight lines.
  • Lettering Hint: Creative lettering is easy using computer printouts as a pattern. Lettering can then be filled or outlined using the fine line painting pen.
  • When changing colors, work on a practice surface to purge any color or cleaner that may remain in the pen.
  • To start paint flow, clear the tip with the cleaning tool or blot on a damp paper towel.
  • During your paint session, keep loaded pen tip covered with damp paper towel to prevent drying.