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

paint brush shapesThis article is the final installment of a three part discussion on artist paint brushes. As a recap, in part one brush anatomy and bristle types were discussed. In part two we looked at brush shapes and sizes. In part three the various brush manufacturers and brush care will be covered.

An 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.


Irong Age Pottery Still Life“Still Life with Iron Age Pottery”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Brush Manufacturers

Oil painting brushes are made by a variety of manufacturers from around the world. A few of the more popular brands are da Vinci, Winsor & Newton, Silver Brush Limited, Raphael Paris Classic and the Robert Simmons line of brushes. These brands are the best known and most used high quality brand name of brushes. They will always be known for the quality of the brush as well as their longevity and ease of use. Some artists are faithful to just one or two particular brands and will not use anything else. Whereas, other artists like to have an assortment of different brands available depending on their needs at the time. The only way to know which brand you will like best is by using the brushes yourself. Some name brands will be more expensive than others, however, don’t let that be what you base your final purchasing decision on. With proper care the more expensive brushes will out last the lesser made and priced brands.

Caring for Your Paintbrushes

art brush careIt makes no sense to invest in quality art brushes if you are not going to take proper care of them. All art brushes require a thorough cleaning at the end of each painting session. Let me repeat, never store your brush until it is completely cleaned. Never leave your brush standing head down in a solvent for any length of time. This can cause the brush to lose its shape. After cleaning, a brush should be hung head-down or laid flat to dry. This allows moisture to drain out of the ferrule and hairs. If you allow your brush to dry standing up, the cleaner and paint residue can drain towards the ferrule, which can weaken the glue that holds the hairs to the handle. In addition it can also cause a buildup of paint residue in the ferrule. In time, this will also cause the brush to become misshaped. When a brush looses its shape, it is then worthless. As a final step in caring for your paintbrushes, you will need to remove the solvent from the head by using a mild “degreaser”, like dish soap, and warm water. This helps to keep the hairs soft and undamaged.

One final word – always keep in mind that your art brushes are expensive, if you take good care of them they will last a long, long time.

Additional Reading

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

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 2

paint brush shapesThis article is continued from part one where brush anatomy and bristle type was covered. In part two, brush shapes and sizes will be discussed.

An 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.


The Study still life oil painting“The Study”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Brush Shapes

Art brushes come in four standard shapes for oil painters and are called round, flat, filbert and bright. The names refer to the shape of the end of the hairs on the brushes and the different shapes determine the nature of the stroke that it will make. Therefore, it is important to select the proper brushes for specific needs. There are also a few other brush shapes that are used for specialized functions like blending which will be talked about afterward.

flat oil painting art brush
Flat Art Brush

A flat is a brush with hairs that are long and flat on the end, much like the head of a screwdriver. From the side it is narrow. Flat brushes have a lot of spring to them and can hold a lot of paint. You can use these brushes for broad sweeping broad strokes or you can turn the brush on its edge to create fine lines. With a little twist, you can even create a triangular stroke. The flat brush is also good for when you are blocking in large areas and for early stages of a painting. These brushes are perfect for quickly and evenly applying large amounts of paint to the canvas surface.

filbert oil painting brush
Filbert Art Brush

The filbert brush is an almond-shaped brush with a thick, flat ferrule and hairs that are medium to long in length. It is similar to the flat brush except the edge of the brush hairs come to a rounded shape. The strokes are somewhere between a flat and round brush. Filberts create a softer more rounded stroke because of their shape and are perfect for painting flower petals and leaves.

round oil painting brush
Round Art Brush

Round brushes are most often sable hair and get their name from their round ferrule. Their tip is shaped like a bullet which comes to a blunt point or sometimes it can be pointed. They are designed for more controlled brush strokes. Round brushes make a softer rounded stroke and are not suited for creating hard straight edges. They hold a nice amount of paint and are great for making thin or thick lines. Round brushes are also good for washes, fills, fine detail work and creating long lines.

bright oil painting art brush
Bright Art Brush

Bright brushes are similar in shape to flat brushes but the hairs are much shorter. They make short controlled strokes and tend to put paint on thickly. Brights are good for driving paint into the weave of a canvas, however if worked too hard, they will actually remove as much paint as they apply. Depending on how you manipulate the brush, brights can create broad and bold brush strokes, sharp edged thin lines or smooth sweeping layers of paint. A bright is the ideal brush for painting landscapes and flowers.

The last paintbrushes that fall under this category are called blending brushes. While these type art brushes are not essential like the first four types listed above, they are good to have on hand for smoothing out brushstrokes and for spreading and blending colors smoothly. Blending brushes are very soft and are not used for applying paint. They are made to gently stroke the wet paint that you have already applied to canvas to take out brushstrokes and for blending paint. These art brushes are usually the most expensive art brushes in your paintbox so you will want to take good care of them to make them last a long time.

For more information about different brush shapes see article titled Types of Artist Brushes for Oil Painting.

Brush Sizes

Artist’s paintbrushes come in a large assortment of sizes. They range from very large brushes to medium sized to extra-small brushes. The size of the brush is usually indicated by a single digit number on the side of the brush handle up near the ferrule. Most brush sizes range from 0 up to 30, however, really small brushes are numbered by multiples of the number zero (like this: 00, 000, 0000 or 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, etc.). The more zeroes there are, the smaller the brush. The most standard brush sizes are 3/0, 2/0, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, and 20. However, keep in mind there is no exact standard for their sizes and brushes manufactured by different companies are not universal in size. You will need different sized brushes for all stages of a typical painting. Large brushes for the beginning stages and smaller brushes for the detail work. Which brush you would want to use depends on two things:

  1. The size of your canvas. The larger your canvas, the larger your brush will need to be and the smaller your canvas, the smaller your brushes.
  2. The particular area of the painting you are working in. For example, you would use a large brush to apply paint to larger areas of your painting such as the background (like the sky) and smaller brushes for the detail work (like individual leaves on a tree).

Auvers, France church painting“Van Gogh’s Church at Auvers, France”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 24″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Handle Length

After you have considered your brush size, the next thing to think about is the handle length. Art brushes are either “long-handled” or “short-handled.” There is no universal standard for handle length. Long-handled brushes usually tend to be around 9 inches or longer and short-handled brushes are generally 6 inches or shorter in length. The handle length was developed ages ago and depended upon the brush use. Oil painters usually stand away from the canvas which requires a longer handle on their brushes, whereas, a water colorist sits and paints much closer to their canvases and do not need the longer handle. Your larger brushes will most likely have the longer handles since they are used are for larger areas of the canvas and smaller brushes will have slightly shorter handles since these are used most for detail work where the artist would need to move in closer to the canvas.

Continued in Part 3.

Additional Reading

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

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

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

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.

Is It Really Okay For Artists To Use Reference Photos? Part 1

What are reference photos?

Reference photos are simply a collection of images used by visual artists for inspiration and as raw material to create their compositions from. They are handy tools and a great resource for artists to work from. When used as resource material, reference images can be of any living or inanimate object, a place or location, an animal, plant life, or an individual. They come in handy when it isn’t feasible for the artist to be there in person and observe the element or subject matter they want to paint or draw.


Irong Age Pottery Still Life“Still Life with Iron Age Pottery”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


There are several reasons why an artist would want to use reference images:

1. A good reference photograph can take an artist to any location in the world without having to leave home. Sometimes artists simply do not have the means to travel to faraway or exotic places when they want to paint a particular place or location. And for others, it might not be possible to go out on location day after day with a canvas, easel, and paint box in tow. Reference photos make it easier for the painter to go anywhere without having to travel there. They are also a convenient way to avoid having to brave the elements in some cases.

2. Resource images allow the artist to capture and preserve the moment. I know of an artist who was commissioned by an upscale seafood restaurant to do a painting for their main entrance. He set up a still life using real fish and other types of seafood in the setting. He then took a photograph of his composition to paint from. I can only imagine what that fish would have looked and smelled like after a few days of painting! The resource photo he took allowed him to work on his painting without having to worry about his props smelling fishy. Another artist I know loves painting flowers, however, fresh flowers will start to fade after a few days. She takes a picture of them that she can refer to over and over again while painting her flowers. The image makes it possible for her to finish the painting with bright fresh looking flowers instead ones that had faded and wilted.

3. Reference pictures come in handy for the sheer convenience of them. If an artist is painting from a live model, taking a photo of the pose will mean he or she can paint during the times when it is inconvenient for the model to be in the studio. Many portrait artists often work this way.

As you can clearly see resource images are great tools for busy artists. However, there are some artists who frown at the notion that a fellow artist would ever use reference photographs to compose from. They believe the appropriate way to do it is to make on-the-spot sketches when they go out on location. While this may be the ideal way of working, the reality is many artists don’t always have the time to make the necessary detailed drawings that would be required for studio work.

Ever since the camera was first invented, many famous painters whom you will recognize, have used photographs to paint from. Such renown artists include Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name but a handful. If you use reference photos too, this puts you in very good company.

This article is continued in Reference Photos, Part 2.

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.

Types of Artist Brushes for Oil Painting

Artist brushes for oil painting come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Each type of brush is for a specific purpose. Here are some of the more common types used: bright, fan, filbert, flat, and round.

Bright

bright oil painting art brush
Bright Art Brush

A Bright is a brush with a flat ferrule with short-length hairs set in a long handle. The hairs curve inward at the tip and measure almost the same for width and length of the brush head. This brush works well for applying heavy color in short controlled strokes, however, when worked too hard a Bright will remove as much paint as they apply. Use this brush when you want the brush strokes to show. These type brush are better for working up close rather than holding the brush at a distance from the canvas.


painting with covered wagon“Covered Wagon on The Prairie”
Western landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Fan

fan art brush
Fan Art Brush

A Fan is a flat brush with a thin layer of hairs spread out in the shape of a fan. It also features a flat ferrule. This brush is great for smoothing, blending, and feathering. The synthetic hairs are especially good for painting highlights and flowing strands of hair, grasses, or leaves and thin branches on trees, creating textural effects, and blending the soft edges of clouds. A word of caution though, be careful not to make identical or repetitive marks that look unnatural.

Filbert

filbert oil painting brush
Filbert Art Brush

A Filbert is flat oval-shaped brush with medium to long chiseled rounded edge hairs. It has thick flat ferrule with a long handle. This brush is ideal for blending, soft rounded edges like flower petals. Filbert brushes look like a blend of Rounds and Flats. The curved tip makes it easier to control blending and softening edges. Used on its side, a filbert gives a thin line; used flat it produces a broad brush stroke; and by varying the pressure as you apply the brush to canvas, or flicking it across, you can get a tapering mark.

Flat

flat oil painting art brush
Flat Art Brush

The Flat brush has medium to long square-ended hairs within a flat ferrule. The hairs are arranged  in a rectangular shape that are longer than wide. Looking at from the side it is narrow. This brush is ideal for bold, sweeping strokes, washes, filling wide spaces, impasto. It can also be used for fine lines, straight edges and stripes. Used flat produces broad brushstrokes, turned on the narrow edge produces thin strokes. Flat brushes are primarily used for covering large areas, flat strokes as well as blending.

Round

round oil painting brush
Round Art Brush

The Round brush is a traditional brush shape with a round or pointed tip in a round ferrule. It is what most individuals picture when they think of an art brush. They make excellent brushes for sketching, outlining, detailed work, controlled washes, and filling in small areas. Use them to create thin to thick lines – thin at the tip, becoming wider the more its pressed down. The round brush is versatile in many ways. They have large bellies with long hairs that taper at the ends. They can hold a lot of paint for thick, large, bold strokes. Thin delicate marks are also possible with this brush if the pant loaded to the belly is thin. Rounds are most often used for small details and line work.

Additional Reading

Anatomy of the Artist Paint Brush

Types of Canvas Available for Painting

stretch canvasWhen an artist paints on canvas there are several different types of canvas available for painting. The term canvas is actually a generic term used by many artists for the various types of surfaces that can be used as a support for paint. These range from fabric to hardboard to paper to wood. However for the purpose of this article, we will only discuss the fabric which is the type that is most often used.

Canvas Types

Fabric for painting surfaces can be cotton duck, linen, or a synthetic fiber. When dealing with canvas for painting, there are three things to consider:

  1. Type of fabric — cotton duck, linen or synthetic
  2. Weight — the thickness of the fabric
  3. Weave — how tight the individual threads are woven

western sunset oil painting“Cowboy Sunset”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Cotton Duck Canvas
Canvases made with cotton duck fabric is the most common type of painting surface and the most economical. It comes in various weights and weaves.

Linen Canvas
Linen canvas is a more expensive type and is often regarded as superior to cotton canvas because the threads are finer and the weave tighter. In other words, it has a smoother finish than cotton and is more suitable for portraits. Belgian linen is considered the best of all linens.

Synthetic Fiber Canvas
Synthetic fiber canvas is not a traditional type of surface for painting and therefore is less commonly used. Some artists oppose the use of synthetic fiber canvas as they have not been around long enough for artists to really gauge their durability.