Brushes are an invaluable tool in success as a painter; quality brushes that are right for the job make a large impact on the level of success! Making it more confusing: every artist has their own opinion of what makes one brush better than another because they are each unique individuals using their tools in different ways!
Brushes are made from stiff or soft hairs, either natural hairs or synthetic fibers. Modern synthetic brushes are excellent and have the advantage of being cheaper than natural hair. Many artists, including this one, will tell you that no synthetic fiber can beat a Kolinsky sable, the ultimate of soft hairs because of its flexibility and strength, which provide great control.
Testing a brush in a store: a brush usually has a protective coating of gum arabic that helps keep its shape when you first buy it. Find one without it (it won’t be stiff), or if the store has samples, run the brush over the back of your hand back and forth a few times to test the springiness of the hairs. They should return to their original shape after each stroke. Do not test brushes with your fingers and thumbs, as that leaves dirt and oils on the brush from your hands. Some stores have a buddha board for trying out brushes, so ask if they have one.
L to R: Mop, Casaneo 20, Kolinsky Sable 14 & 10, Needle 9, Silver 12 & 8, DaVinci flat:
I have a lot of brushes, and I use more of them in the studio than when crafting or when out doing plein air. (See a whole lesson about that later in class.) The ones I recommend for and use in my craft videos and classes are the Silver brushes.
Brushes from left to right, above:
Crafters: While I don’t like separating the artists who make craft projects from those creating paintings, (ALL are artists!), I do have different recommendations for each; we might agree that someone making cards doesn’t need a $300 brush. An expensive brush will certainly produce better results, but I’ve found Silver to be reasonably-priced recommendations. They hold a good amount of water/pigment and point well for those tiny stamps we work with. I use these almost exclusively in my YouTube tutorials and classes here on this site (though the advanced classes may entertain other brushes.) The sable brushes release pigment and water more readily than the Silver brushes, but on a small surface that’s not as crucial.
It is important to take care of your brushes to avoid ruining them; when I first started, I blamed a lot of my dissatisfaction on things that were my own fault – leaving brushes in the water, putting brushes away that still had pigment in them – and placing them back in their cup while wet!
Clean them well after using them by rinsing them – get a brush washer or make your own with a few cups of water, so you can rinse brushes as you go; when finished, rinse them thoroughly in clean water. Some people use a brush soap, but I don’t find that to be necessary. Let them dry completely FLAT. Don’t put them in a cup or away in a brush roll until 100% dry or the water will settle in the ferrule and seep into the wood, and you can end up with split handles and bristles falling out.
Brushes often come with little plastic “sleeves” on them; I used to try putting them back on to protect the brush, but it’s hard to get them back in without splaying a few hairs – the benefit of the sleeves is not greater than the risk of ruining bristles, so I do not recommend keeping them.
In the sketchbook page at the top of the lesson, a few other items are included….the brush washer is the 3 piece washing system; I use a lot of different water bottles, use what you have; I recommend white artist tape rather than blue or green tapes so you see accurate color in your work.
Join our creative community! Our Student Facebook Group is for all classes here …and while there are no finished projects in this class, you’re welcome to join the group and get an idea of what kind of beautiful works can be created from learnings in classes on this website!