All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Artist Brushes and Then Some — Part 1

paint brush shapesAn artist’s single most important tool in oil painting is the paintbrush. It is the main piece of equipment used to apply paint to canvas. Art brushes come in a wide variety of types, sizes and shapes. Knowing all you can about the different types of brushes available and how they are used, will allow you to choose the right one for each stage of your canvas painting.


Still Life with Fruit and Candle“Still Life with Fruit and Candle”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Paintbrush Anatomy

A paintbrush’s anatomy is made up of three basic parts. These are the head, the ferrule and the handle. It isn’t necessary to know this to create a beautiful painting, however, by knowing the different parts you will be familiar with various art terms when you hear them.

artist brush parts anatonomy

  • Head — The hairs or bristles of the brush. The hairs are made from either natural or synthetic fibers and is what an artist uses to apply and push paint around on the canvas. The head has three parts too. The very tip of the head is called the toe. The fattest part of the head is called the belly and the point where the head meets the ferrule is called the heel.
  • Ferrule — The metal cylinder that attaches the head on to the handle and helps hold the hairs in shape. High quality ferrules won’t rust or come loose.
  • Handle — The long stem of the brush that is held when in use. It’s generally made of wood or plastic. The length of the handle can vary. A quality brush will balance on your finger regardless of the size.

For additional information about the parts of a brush, see article titled Anatomy of The Artist Paint Brush.

Hair Types

Artist’s paintbrushes come in a variety of types. Knowing what those types are is beneficial in knowing which brush to use to achieve the effect you desire in your paintings. There are two main types of hairs in paintbrushes – bristle and sable. There is one other type – synthetic, however that one will be talked about last.

bristle hair brushBristle brushes are made from ox or hog’s hair and are usually light in color and have a lot of bounce. The ends of the bristle hairs don’t come to a point, but has two or three V-shaped splits called “flags.” This makes them capable of holding a good amount of paint which is beneficial since these brushes are mostly used when you are applying paint to the major areas of your canvas. After repeated use, the “flags” will become stained by darker pigments, however, this will not adversely effect the brush in any way. In addition, because the individual hairs of the bristle brush are hard or stiff to the touch, they will leave small grooves in the paint. These grooves will remain in the paint until they are smoothed out with a sable hair brush.

sable hair brushSable hair brushes are soft painting brushes made with hair that comes from animals such as sable, squirrel, marten or mongoose. They are springy and silky to the touch with each strand converging to a fine point. Sable brushes are great for blending, glazing and making soft, less-defined brushstrokes. When compared to a bristle brush, you will notice their hairs are softer and much more delicate. In addition, sable brushes will not leave tiny grooves in your paint. They are capable of smoothing out the brushstrokes left by other type brushes and will give your painting a smoother, softer look when you don’t want your brushstrokes to show. Artists prefer using them for more delicate applications of paint and finer detailed work. Sable brushes are the most expensive and will require more care than all of your art brushes.

Synthetic brushThe final type of art paintbrushes are called synthetic brushes. They are not made from animal hairs, but are products from man-made materials of either nylon or polyester filaments. Synthetic brushes range from soft to stiff hairs. They can be tapered, tipped, flagged, abraded or etched to increase their paint carrying ability. They are more affordable than natural brushes made from animal hair, however, they are not quite as good. The hairs of these type brushes tend to stick together when they get wet and synthetic brushes are also prone to wear out faster and are harder to work with. The individual strands often spread out in all directions and fall out and can become a permanent part of your oil painting. However, there are some advantages to synthetic brushes. They are less prone to being damaged by solvents, insects or caustic paints. They are also easier to clean than natural hair brushes because the filaments won’t trap paint like natural hairs will.

For additional information about the different types of brush see article titled Types of Bristles for Oil Painting Brushes.

Continued in Part 2.

Additional Reading

All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Artist Brushes and Then Some — Part 2

All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Artist Brushes and Then Some — Part 3

The Many Types of Oil Painting Surfaces

Oil paintings can be painted on a variety of surfaces (also called supports). These can be canvas, panels, paper, wood, metal, plus many others. The reason they are sometimes called supports is because the surface “supports” the medium the image is painted with.

Here are some interesting bullet points about the more common types of oil painting surfaces:

stretch canvasStretched Canvas is:

  • the most common support for oils used by modern day artists
  • a tightly woven flexible material made from cotton, linen, or other synthetic material that is stretched across a wooden or metal stretcher bar frame
  • can be purchased already primed and stretched onto stretcher bars or it can be purchased in bulk rolls that the artist cuts up into smaller pieces and stretches onto the frame
  • comes in three varieties of textures—
    • Fine: extra smooth surface for fine detailed paintings, such as portraiture
    • Medium: bold texture surface for expressive paintings with broad brushstrokes, like the Impressionists
    • Rough: abrasive “toothy” surface to enhance adhesion for collage
      Note: The finer the canvas texture is, the less the texture of the canvas will show through in your finished painting.

river side painting“Along The ICW”
Marine art by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 9″
Oils on canvas panel board

>> More info


canvas panel boardCanvas Board/Panel is:

  • a rigid surface covered with primed canvas glued onto cardboard
  • are easier to frame than stretched canvases
  • easier to store and travel with since it  takes up less room than stretched canvases
  • also is more durable and less easily damaged than stretched canvases
  • preferred by many artists for their smaller paintings
  • an ideal option for painting on location because they are light weight and also  sunlight will not be able to shine through the back

canvas paperCanvas Paper is:

  • a flexible surface mostly used for small sketches, color notes, and other purposes
  • not a favorable surface to paint on because it is too fragile and will not last through the years
    Note: Works painted on canvas paper must undergo extreme restorative and conservative treatments, usually within a few decades.
  • available in various paper qualities—
    • 100% cotton: top of the quality scale, the paper is made entirely of cotton
    • Rag paper: some rag content is included in the paper, often mixed with linters or wood cellulose
    • Wood free or high alpha cellulose or wood sulfite: the highest grade of wood pulp paper

fine art wood panel boardWood Panel Canvas is:

  • a rigid surface for artists made from poplar, oak, linden, pine, cedar or various other hardwoods, like mahogany or walnut
    Note: Other types of woods theses panels are made from includes plywood, fiberboard, Masonite, and particleboard.
  • the best for painting when they are well seasoned, air-dried quarter-sawn hardwoods to avoid warping, shrinking, as this causes them to hold paint better
    Note: It is very important for wood panels to be well aged to prevent shrinking and warping that might occur from exposure to the water content present in some paints.

metal fine art panel boardsMetal Panel Canvas is:

  • a rigid surface that requires an oil primer to prepare it to support artist paints
    Note: This type of surface does not fair well with liquid (water base) primers.
  • comes in various types of fine art metals — aluminum, brass, and copper

Additional Reading

Types of Canvas Available for Painting

About Artist Stretcher Bar Frames

Common Paint Media Used By Artists

What Every Oil Painter Needs to Know About Artist Oils, Part 2

In part 1 of “What Every Oil Painter Needs to Know About Artist Oils” we looked at the ingredients that go into oil paint and the various lightfastness ratings. In this continuing article we’ll take closer look at the different grades of oil paint and what they mean.

Different Grades of Oil Paint

tube of oil paintOil paint comes in two grades: artist grade and student grade. The main difference between the two types is the potency or concentration of the pigment that is in the paint. What this means is, artist grade oil paint will stretch further than student grade will because it contains more pigment. Artist grade paints (sometimes called professional paints) are made from the purist ingredients and contain a higher ratio of pigment to oil base. That ratio can be as high as 75% pigment to 25% oil base for some colors. This usually makes them more expensive to purchase than student paints. However, it also means artist grade paints will be more economical in the long run as they can be stretched further than student grade. Also, artist paints have better mixability and truer color because there are no fillers like there are in student grade paints.


national park wall painting“Monument Valley”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 12″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Student grade colors are often called “hues” on the label. The word “hue” means imitation or fake. This means that the pigment is artificial and not a true pigment. For example: Cadmium Red Hue is an imitation version of the true pigment known as Cadmium Red. Student grade paints were created to reduce the cost or toxicity of true pigments.

They have different mixability and opacity characteristics than do true pigments and they tend to get muddy and dull when mixed together. Student grade of paint is cheaper because of the ingredients – they contain less pigment and more filler. Filler costs much less than the purer, concentrated ingredients in artist grade paints. However just because the paint is priced cheaper, does not mean it is more economical. When mixing color with student grade paint you will need much more paint to get the final color you are trying to mix because the strength of the pigment is weaker (less potent) in student grade paint and will actually take more paint to mix the color you desire than if you used the stronger (more potent) artist grade. In addition, student grade oil paints come in fewer colors than artist grade oil paints.

Whenever possible, it’s best to purchase artist quality paint rather than student because you get more pigment in a tube and the results from color mixing are more intense and brighter. In addition, if you mix student grade with artist grade, you risk reducing the quality of the better grade paint, rather than improving the quality of the lesser grade. If you need to save money, consider painting on smaller canvases or using the lesser grade paints as the under-painting saving the finer quality paints for the upper layers.

Knowing which oil paint is best suited for your particular needs will save you time and money in the long run. Do a little research on your own, compare labels and prices. Look at some consumer reports and reviews written by other artists. You should be able to find the type that suits you best.

I hope this article takes some of the mystery out of which oil paints to use for your paintings. Being more familiar with the materials you work with will make you a better artist.

For more information on the subject of artist grade vs. student grade oil paint see article titled “Artist Grade or Student Grade Oil Paint, Making a Choice“.

What Every Oil Painter Needs to Know About Artist Oils, Part 1

art brush careThere is such a wide selection of oil paint brands available it’s hard to know where to begin. Hopefully when you finish reading this article you will have a little better idea of what oil paint is and which one to use.

The Ingredients in Oil Paint

Oil paints are made up of pigment that has been ground into an oil base, called the vehicle or binder. The most commonly used vehicle is cold-pressed linseed oil, however, it can be made with walnut oil, poppy seed oil, safflower oil or other less popular oils.

Linseed oil comes from the flax seed and gives oil paints a longer drying time. This allows the paint to be worked with for longer periods of time, sometimes even up to several months. The advantage of a longer drying time means the artist can develop a painting by making changes and corrections at the artists leisure. A disadvantage of longer drying times, is the painting might take months or years to completely dry depending upon how thick the paint was applied to canvas. This might be an issue if you have a customer anxiously waiting for the painting to dry so he/she can take possession it.

oil paint pigment
Pigments

The pigment is where paint gets its color. A paint color gets its name from the pigment that is used. We first got our pigments from the earth in the form of rocks or powder, but now it is also manufactured from synthetic materials. Some of the oldest pigments known to man are made from colored earth like Yellow Ochre, Sienna and Umber. Other pigments are derived from mineral salts such as White Oxide.


TX Hay bales Oil on canvas“Life in Texas — Round Hay Bales”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
16″ x 20″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Pigment can be divided into two categories, these are:

  • Natural pigments – A pigment derived from naturally occurring compounds, either inorganic, such as rocks, minerals and metals; or from organic ones, such as plants and animals. Examples include Mars Brown which comes from iron oxide or Ivory Black which comes from charred animal bones. Natural pigments have been around for centuries and were used by the Old Masters who would make their own paints just prior to starting a painting session. A lot of the natural pigments in use today are manufactured from inorganic substances.
  • Synthetic pigments – An artificial pigment made by chemists from carbon based molecules derived from petroleum substances, acids and other chemical compounds. Most of the oil paints we use today are made from synthetic pigments, such as quinacridone, pthalocyanine and dioxazine. Fortunately these paints have maintained their natural pigment names for historical and cultural reasons.

Lightfastness

There is very little difference between the modern day natural and synthetic pigments in regards to their potency of color and ability to mix well with other oil paints. However an important factor to consider in any paint is its lightfastness. Lightfastness is a paints ability to resist fading when exposed to ultra violet light. This is important because it determines the length of time a pigment will retain its original color. In other words, it determines the life expectancy of the work of art. A pigment must have lightfastness and they must not break down chemically or physically if the work is going to last through the ages like the Old Master’s.

To determine the lightfastness of your oil paints, look for the official American Society for Testing and Materials Standard (ASTM) rating information on the labels of each individual tube of paint. The ASTM is an independent organization that was established to create a worldwide standard for pigment permanence. The following pigment ratings were established in 1984.

Lightfastness ratings:

  • ASTM I – Excellent
  • ASTM II – Very Good
  • ASTM III – Not Sufficient enough to be used in artists’ paints

Obviously you would want your oil paints to have a lightfastness of a I or II.

This article is continued in “What Every Oil Painter Needs to Know About Artist Oils, Part 2” where we’ll take closer look at the different grades of oil paint and what they mean.

Types of Bristles for Oil Painting Brushes

Bristle is the term used for the hairs that make up the brushhead of a brush used for painting. The brushhead is the part that holds and delivers paint to the surface of an artist’s canvas. Bristles are made from two types of hair, these are natural hair and synthetic hair.

Natural Hair

There are two main types of hair used in natural brushes, these are bristle and sable. Because natural bristles are softer than synthetic bristles, professionals prefer them for oil paints.

  • Bristle brushes
    bristle hair brush
    Bristle brush

    are made from the hairs on the back of a pig and are stiff and springy. They have natural “split-ends” making them perfect for oil painting as they are durable enough to withstand use with heavy oil paint, textured canvas and harsh solvents like turpentine. They clean up nicely, and they make a strong mark on the canvas. Bristle brushes are best in sizes of a half inch wide or larger. They are best when used in large areas of a canvas, to begin a painting, or for very large paintings. Entire paintings can be painted using only bristle brushes, however, if you want finer detail in smaller areas, you would want to switch to sable brushes.

  • Sable brushes
    sable hair brush
    Sable brush

    do not come from sables. They are actually made from any member of the weasel family with “red” hair. Sable brushes are softer and more delicate than bristle or synthetic brushes. They can also be quiet expensive and require more care. Sables are great for blending, glazing, and making soft, less-defined marks. They make great detail brushes. The best sizes for this brush are those one half inch in width or smaller. Artists painting with oils often prefer their long handles which allows them work at a greater distance from their painting.

  • Some less common natural hairs used for painting brushes are badger, camel, goat, mongoose, ox, pony, and squirrel.

Synthetic Hair

synthetic hair brush
Synthetic brush

Synthetic brushes are man-made either of nylon or “Taklon”, a polyester filament. Synthetic bristles offer more versatility than natural because they can be used with acrylic and oil paints. These brushes are a good economical alternative to natural bristle brushes, however, make sure they are made for oil paints.

Some advantages of synthetic brushes are:

  • They are more resistant to damage from turpentine, insects or paints.
  • Cleanup is easier since they don’t tend to trap paint in the individual hairs.
  • The hairs last longer because they are less prone to break and are more durable on many different types of canvas surfaces.

bonnie and clyde car painting“Forgotten Roads of Bygone Days”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


One disadvantage is the less expensive synthetic brushes tend to lose their shape quickly due to heavy paint on textured canvas.

Taking The Mystery Out of Mahl Sticks

The word “mahl stick” comes to us from the Dutch word maalstok which means “painter’s stick”. It’s a handy little tool that has been around for centuries used by artists. Many of the Old Masters regularly used them as they were putting paint to canvas on many of their masterpieces. We often see paintings from the 16th- through 19th-centuries depicting artists in their studios, at their easels, etc and the mahl stick is often there, included as part of the painter’s equipment.

artist painter stickArtists use this painter’s stick to steady their hand when attempting to paint minute details on their canvas art. Most oil painting artists paint with their canvases resting upright on an easel and sometimes its hard to get your hand into just the right position without resting it on your canvas. This is a problem if the surface is delicate or the paint is wet. You can’t just plop your hand in the middle of your work. To do so, would mean smudging or smearing your artwork. That’s when a mahl stick comes in handy.

painters mahl stickA mahl stick is simply a long round stick that is approximately three feet in length with a ball or knob on one end. Usually the knob end has a ball or wad of cotton on it that is surrounded by soft leather or chamois. The chamois will keep it from slipping on the surface and can easily be removed for cleaning or replaced when it gets soiled. You use the painter’s stick by resting the ball-end on the edge of the canvas, easel or dry spot of the painting. Then hold the other end up with your non-painting hand and steady your hand holding the brush on the stick while you paint. If you’re right handed, you would hold the mahl stick with your left hand and if you are left handed, you’d hold it with your right. It should be light enough so your hand that holds the stick will not get tired.


African art Camelthorn Trees“Camelthorn Trees of Africa”
Landscape painting by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 24″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


A mahl stick is something you can purchase online or from a local art supply store, or you can simply make one yourself. They can be made from any round piece of wood that you have on hand such as an old broom handle, half inch dowel or piece of bamboo. Whatever it is, it should be lightweight yet strong enough to resist bending under the weight of your hand. One end should be easy to grip. This can be achieved by wrapping it with some sports tape like the handle of a hockey stick or tennis racket. The other end of the painter’s stick needs to be bulky by adding a ball-shaped piece of wood or a rubber tip like what is used on the end of walking canes. You would then wrap it with a bit of cloth to prevent it from slipping or scratching the canvas. It can be tied on by using a piece of string.

I hope this article takes a little bit of the mystery out of mahl sticks and also provided a useful painting tip.

What to Know About an Artist’s Oil Painting Palette — Part 1

What is there to know about an artist’s oil painting palette? You’d be surprised.

kidney shaped artist palettePerhaps one of the most iconic symbols of the fine artist is the artist’s painting palette. They are often taken for granted, however, the palette is one of the most important tools an artist uses. There is much to consider about the palette and this article covers some interesting points.

Palette (noun):
(1) A thin board or slab (traditionally made of wood) on which an artist lays out and mixes colors.
(2) The range of colors used by an artist for a particular picture.

“Palette” is one of those words in the English language that actually has more than one meaning. It can either refer to the actual tool an artist uses to mix colors on or it can refer to a selection of colors used to make up a color scheme. For the purpose of this article, when palette is mentioned, I am talking about the surface an artist uses to mix paint on.

There are many types of palettes available on the market for oil painting artists. They are made of a variety of materials from wood to paper to plastic and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. It’s a matter of personal preference which type, shape and size you choose to use.


Holy Lands wall art“Sea of Galilee at Capernaum”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Types of Palettes

An oil painting palette is a stiff, level surface that an artist uses to arrange and mix paints on. Any flat surface can be used for one, however, those made from hard, inert, and non-porous material make the best palettes. These would include wood, plastic or waxy paper. Palettes can also vary in size and shape. The most commonly known type of painter’s palette is made of a thin piece of rectangular or classic kidney shaped wood that is specifically designed to be held in the hand and rest on the arm between the elbow and thumb.

wooden artist paletteWooden Artist Palette — This is the most traditional type of artist’s painting palette and was the type used by the Old Masters. Today’s manufactured wooden palettes are sealed with a varnish or lacquer. If you desire to do so you can make your own, however, it is very important that the palette is first properly seasoned before using it with oils. This can be done using plain shellac or linseed oil and rubbing it into the wood using a rag. If it is not properly seasoned, you will end up with a palette that will absorb all the oil from your mounds of paint and you will soon find yourself working with paint that seems much drier than when you first squeezed it from its tube.plastic kidney shape palette

Plastic Palette — Plastic is another popular material for an artist’s painting palette. Plastic palettes are durable enough to withstand solvents and work well with oil paint. Much like wood, they can be scraped clean but are a bit more adaptable to soap and water than a wooden palette. Usually these are made of a non-staining, white plastic.

tear off paletteDisposable Artist Palette — These are pads of waxy paper that come with or without a thumb-hole. The top sheet is torn off and used for a painting session. When the session is over, the sheet is disposed of. This makes for a quick and easy cleanup. Some artists find this type of palette convenient particularly for the classroom or “plein air” painting.

Palette Shape and Size

Artist’s oil painting palettes come in a rectangular or classic kidney-shape. The kidney-shaped variety has a thumb-hole at one end and is made to easily rest in the hand and against the forearm. Paint colors can be arranged around the edge of the kidney shaped palette and are easy to access. On the other hand, rectangular palettes appeal to other artists because they allow paint to be arranged in neat rows. Rectangular shaped palettes also fit well inside art boxes and field easels when taken out on location.

Some palettes are large, while others are smaller. Many of the Old Masters preferred to use a small palette. This is because they worked their paintings in stages and fewer colors were used for each painting session. A smaller palette meant they had more control over their paint. Some of the larger palettes used by artists today are adapted to the modern method of having every color in your paint box on your palette at one time. That can be a lot of colors! If you have that many colors to squeeze out of their tubes, then you need a large palette to hold them all and to give you ample room for mixing.

Whether you use a rectangular or kidney shaped palette, a large or small one, it is a matter of personal choice as to which you choose to use.

To Be Continued…

This article is continued in Artist’s Oil Painting Palette, Part 2. In part 2 you will learn about how to set up your palette, plus other useful information.

What to Know About an Artist’s Oil Painting Palette — Part 2

What is there to know about an artist’s oil painting palette? You’d be surprised.

In Artist’s Oil Painting Palette, Part 1 we learned about the different types of artist’s palettes for oil painting. The word palette has two different meanings. The topic of this article deals with the type of palette an artist uses to mix color on.

Palette Color and Tone

kidney shaped artist paletteThe most important thing about the painting palette is its color. You will find that you will have a much easier time getting your colors right if you mix them on a palette that is the same color as your canvas.

Artists who want to see the true color of their paint will mix their paint on a palette that is same color as their canvas. If you mix your paint on a brown wooden palette and then apply that same paint to a white canvas the color will look different from what you mixed on your palette. For example, if you mix pink on your brown wooden palette you are seeing the pink color against the brown color of your palette. Then when you apply the pink paint to your white canvas, the color is going to look different because you are now seeing that same pink color against a stark white surface. Your pink will look dark on the white canvas, but on the palette it will look much lighter. The Old Masters often painted on brown or gray canvas and their palettes were that same tone. This meant the paint they mixed on their palette was the same color when they applied it to their canvases. There were no surprises or remixing of color to get it right. It was right the first time.

Positioning Your Palette

positioning a paletteThe artist palette can be used in two primary positions, either on the tabletop or hand-held. Some artists prefer to hold their palettes while they paint. This makes it possible to continue painting from different angles. Other artists would rather set their palette on a table and mix paints that way. Tabletop palettes are usually larger and this feature allows the artist more room for mixing colors. Whichever position you choose for your palette is a matter of preference.

Organizing Your Palette

Organizing your oil painting palette is a helpful skill to use. It may seem insignificant, but a well organized palette will make your painting sessions easier and more enjoyable. How you organize paint on your palette is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong way, however here is how some artists prefer to arrange their palettes. Some choose to arrange their palette from light to dark paints, while others place their colors from cool to warm. Another way is to group colors according to family, such as grouping all your yellow colors together, oranges, reds, violets, blues, greens and earth colors etc. Still other painters lay out their paint colors in a haphazard manner with no apparent rhyme or reason. Even tho there are no specific rules for arranging colors on your palette, the arrangement should make sense so that time is not wasted searching for your colors.


Texas Flag Barn canvas art“Texas Flag Barn”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


The following are some suggestions for organizing your palette.

  1. Place your colors along the outer edge of your palette leaving the center area open for mixing your paints.
  2. If you are a beginner, you might want to start with a small section of colors on your palette. As you become a more experienced painter, you can add more colors.
  3. Try to lay out your colors in the same order each time you paint. You will soon get to know where they are without having to look at your palette.

I hope this article has taken some of the mystery out of oil painting palettes. The type of palette you choose to use and how you lay out your paints on it are beneficial and the enjoyment you’ll receive from the painting experience. So take your time when it comes to selecting the palette you want. And don’t let the price decide whether you buy one over another. Get yourself a good palette because you will be using it for all your painting sessions.

Happy painting!

There Are Palette Knives and Then There Are Painting Knives

There are palette knives and then there are painting knives used by oil painters. So what’s the difference between the two? Each type of knife has a specific purpose in the world of oil painting and this article will explain the difference and what those functions are.

Palette Knife

palette knife for painting
Palette Knife

A palette knife is a blunt tool used by an artist. It has a long, straight blade and is primarily used for mixing paints and scraping a palette clean when a painting session is over. It is not the type of palette knife that is used for applying paint to canvas because of its straight blade and handle. The type of knife used for actual painting on canvas is called a painting knife and will be discussed in a minute. Most palette knives are a metal blade with a wooden handle, however, some are made from plastic.

A palette knife is something that every artist will need to have as part of their art supplies in their art box even if you never intend to do a painting using a palette knife. You will at the very least need one for mixing paint colors on your palette.

A palette knife is not be confused with a painting knife, although many artists use the term “palette knife” when referring to both types of knives and this is perfectly acceptable.

Painting Knife

palette knife image
Painting Knife

The painting knife serves a different function than a palette knife and comes in a variety of styles and sizes. It is also shaped differently than a palette knife. The most commonly used painting knife has a diamond-shaped head and a crooked handle and is primarily used to apply pigment to canvas. The bend in the handle is so you can hold the knife head flat against your canvas without touching the wet surface with your fingers or knuckles.


Calvary at Sunset oil painting“Calvary at Sunset”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


A painting knife can be used with any type of paint — acrylic, watercolor and oils. However, oil paint lends itself the best to this style of painting because of its thicker consistency. Some artists do entire paintings using a knife in lieu of a brush. Painting with a knife is a bit like putting butter on bread and is also a great way of creating texture on your canvas. The paint on these canvases is applied so thickly that the strokes, scrapes and streaks made by the painting knife are clearly visible to the viewer. This type of painting usually requires advanced skills. To see some examples of paintings done entirely with a painting knife, go to Google images and type in the key word “palette knife painting”. You will see some very nice examples of painting knife paintings.

When it comes to cleaning, you will find cleanup is much easier than a brush. Simply wipe the knife clean using a paper towel or cloth.

Lastly, a painting knife can also be used for mixing colors and for scraping your palette. There really is no need to have both a palette knife and a painting knife.

Anatomy of The Artist Paint Brush

A brush is an artist’s tool of the trade. In fact it is the most important tool the artist uses, therefor, it is good to know the various parts of your paintbrush. The anatomy of a paintbrush consists of three major parts. These are the: bristles, ferrule, and the handle. Other parts of the are brush’s: toe, belly, heel, and crimp. These are all explained below in this article.

parts of art brush

Bristles

Sometimes referred to as hairs or filaments, bristles make up the head of the brush called the brushhead. This is the part of the brush that holds the paint. They be made from natural hair, synthetic fibers, or combination of both. Natural bristles are made from some sort of animal hair, such as hog or badger. Synthetic bristles are often made from nylon, polyester, or a combination of both. (For more information on the types of fibers bristles are made from see “Brush Bristle (Hair) Types”.)

Bristles are formed into different shapes which dictate the type of brush it is; bright, fan, filbert, flat, and round, for example. (See “Types of Art Brushes for Oil Painting” for more information about this topic.) The quality of the bristles determines the cost of the brush. The very tip of the bristles is called the brush’s toe, while the heel is where the bristles go into the ferrule at the tip of the handle. The belly is the fattest part of the bristle head.


longhorn cow oil painting“Texas Longhorn in The Meadow”
Wildlife Art by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Ferrule

The ferrule of a brush is the metal band that connects the bristles to the handle and the crimp is the part of the ferrule that secures it to the handle. Ferrules can be made from tin, aluminum, brass or copper alloys that are nickel or chrome plated. Better quality brushes have a brass or copper alloy ferrule. These types have the best adhesion to the handle and a double or triple crimp. This is important because if the ferrule does not fit properly, the bristles will fall out or the ferrule could come off the handle.

Handle

Handles can be made of wood, acrylic, or bone. Most are made of hardwoods like beech. They can be either short or long, however, lengths do differ from manufacture to manufacture. Short handles fit into the palm allowing different paint application and movement. Oil painting brushes are made with longer handles which provides for better balance. Longer handle brushes are the ones used by most oil painters. The size of the brush is indicated by a number printed on the handle, usually starting from 000 (called “triple ought” and is the smallest size), then 0, 1, 2, up to #12 or larger.