Mar 3, 2012

"Brush Smarts"

Let's get to know the Basic Brush Shapes!
Sharon Teal-Coray

The artists of today have thousands of brushes to choose from. However, there is really only a few that are basic shapes that have been used for centuries.

The American Indians used a brush made out of a Yucca plant to paint their pots; they may have used sticks to paint on the canyon walls. In Europe you can find examples of old brushes made with hair and feather quills.

Our modern brushes are made out of wonderful materials using age-old skills. The best and most expensive brushes are still made by hand. The brush maker will choose the hair and then gently manipulate them to create a perfect brush.
Then he will choose the perfect handle and dip it into a resinous substance.
The shaped bunch of hair is then attached around this tip and secured with a metal ferrule that covers up to two-thirds of the hair, leaving only the final third to paint with.
How can we distinguish between a high quality brush and one that is of low quality? The first clue is the price, if a brush is hand made by an excellent brush maker and well balanced is will cost more. If you see a brush at prices that are too good to be true…be aware that you are probably going to get a low quality brush.

You can actually test a brush to spot a low quality one. The manufacturer will dip the brush into a mild starch before it leaves the factory. So a bad brush will look as good as a high quality brush. To test it, push the bristles down as if you were painting with fair pressure. Notice if the bristles “spring” back into shape or do they remain bent. It is best to do this by wetting the brush to remove the stiffener.

If what you are holding is a quality brush it will spring right back when wet and retain its point and shape. On the other hand it looks like a formless ball of hair don’t buy it. It would be great if we could all afford tons of the best brushes on the market because they are the most important tool we use, however that is not the case so what should an artist choose.

For one thing it will depend on the medium you will be using and the type of painting you will be doing. If you are an easel painter that paints loosely then you may need long handles, but if you are a realistic painter you may fined short handles suit your needs better. The basic rules that I taught my students was to buy the very best they could afford, maybe they can only have a few but it is better to have a few very high quality brushes than a handful of cheap ones that will not last or do the job! 

One way to tell if the manufacturer is producing high quality brushes is to look at the handles; they should have a high gloss on them. The metal ferrules should be one piece, not joined at the seams. I have had brushes that I thought were high quality come apart while wiping the paint off of them, the hair has just come right out of the ferrule, the actual bristles were too short so I could see that they did not embed them down into the ferrule.

This is a way for them to save money but what a waste my time and money! ! Now I am very fussy as to what brand I purchase. Being in this industry for over 35 years and selling supplies in my art academy and having a son who owned an art store, gave me the opportunity to test just about every brush manufacturer on the market.

Unfortunately, there are many brush companies out there that produce quantity instead of quality. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the brush industry.

Here are some photos of the basic brushes and what they can do.

The first photo is Bristle Round Brushes for oils
This stiff medium length holds a lot of paint and is great for texturing. Hold it upright and pounce the surface and you will get dotted strokes you can use for pointillism. Hold it at an angle and the dot becomes an oval. Pull the brush and you will get long, tapered strokes

The Second photo is the Bristle Bright for oils.
I use these a lot because of the springiness of its bristles . It is one of the most popular brushes for oil painters. It is great for blocking in large areas, blending, making lines, and if you turn it on its side you can create very thin lines. It is also great for making short fat strokes.

The last photo above is the Filbert for oils
This is like having a cross between a round and a flat. It produces strokes with tapered ends. It makes smoothing your strokes easy. I Love this brush for portraits, I use it for modeling and shading. I use a short filbert for scumbling.


This first photo below is a Sable Round for watermedia.
It is a plump round that is a mainstay for water media work. By changing the angle and pressure on the brush you can create a variety of shapes. You can also use this for washes if you hold it at an angle close to the paper. Dry is a bit before you apply the paint and you will get a drybrush effect.

The Second photo below is a Sable Flat for Watermedia
This has a very crisp edge and is used by decorative painters for "One Stroke" Use it on it's edge for very narrow strokes. It is a very versatile brush!

The last photo above is Sable Rounds for any medium

The small sizes are used for details. These are used in miniature paintings. They often come with a short handle and for tight control you will hold them close to the ferrule.  

Taking care of your brushes
Because you have spent your hard earned money on them you need to take the time to clean them properly. I use my Shining Feather Soft Scrub Brush basin to clean them and have found it is the best way to get the job done.
Ref. Photos The Artists Magazine 1988

New Free Pattern Blog

New Free Pattern Blog
Sharon Teal Coray has a new blog offering free patterns! Updated often! Check it out!