Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Since you asked: Brushes

Four days of out-of-town family; four days without painting. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Today, exhausted but back to usual, was able to squeeze in 4 hours of painting (plus 3 loads of laundry, an hour of design work, a business meeting, and a few errands). It felt so good! (Well, the painting at least.) But, nothing to show today. So in lieu of that...

I've had a couple bloggers ask what brushes I use for oils. I have to admit, I was always (and am) kind of a rebel when it came to brushes; always using some kind other than the 'right kind'. Here's a short list:

Rounds: An early job out of high school was at an art supply store where I had ample time to touch the brushes while stocking them; in an era where stiff hog bristle brights and flats were on every college art supply list, I gravitated towards the (then fairly new) round brushes in white nylon. These are still my mainstay and what 90% of my painting is done with. And yes, the white nylon will stain with strong colors in your palette; all brushes shown here are currently in use. For a good balance of price and quality, I prefer 'Pro Whites' available through Jerry's Artarama. Winsor Newton University is another brand. My favorite sizes are 2, 3, 4, & 6.

One Stroke: For backgrounds, or areas with square edges I use One Stroke brushes; these are a holdover from my days as a signpainter (when I used thick shiny sign enamel); sizes 1/4", 1/2", and 1". These are quite soft and lay paint down smoothly and not thickly. Technically these are lettering brushes, although I never knew another sign painter that used these besides me. Brands include Winsor Newton, Daler-Rowney, and Polar Flo.

Mop brushes: I'm pretty new to these but fell in love quickly. For the smoothy-smoother painters out there, these brushes knock down brush strokes and blend like nothing I've seen short of an airbush. They look, more than anything, like cosmetic blush brushes and work the same way; light repeated strokes (many ladies will know what I mean; men, ask your wife or girlfriend). These are about the only natural hair brushes I use and they do need extra care. Technically, these are watercolor brushes. Langnickel 1/2", 3/4", 1".

Detail brushes: Technically, some these are also watercolor brushes. I prefer the white nylon for cost and they keep a fairly tight point. Round water color brushes: Polar Flo, Winsor Newton, Princeton; in sizes 4 &2; and 1 (for signing paintings only).
For detail mops: Loew-Cornell natural hair 'mini-Mop' in 3/16" and 1/4".

And lastly, a brush I've carried around for 30 years and may have figured out how to use: The Super Cat's Tongue (and yes, I did buy it just for the name).

What's YOUR favorite brush??



  1. Great info R! I don't use oil paints but most of these brushes can be used for acrylics. I have a good selection of watercolor brushes but for the mixed media I use cheap nylon and even house painting brushes because I'm so hard on them.

  2. Thanks, Manon! If I still painted in acrylics, I would mostly use the same types of brushes.

  3. Hi, R. - great technical info. here. No wonder I haven't much success with smaller work--I'd better put the roller away...For watercolor I love my Robert Simmons Goliath, and the oval wash--both have big bellies and come to a sharp point and edge. For oils, I grab whatever's at hand, and end up scumbling with stubby worn-out brights, or softly applying with winsor newton soft one strokes. Had not thought of using my wc mops to blend, so great tip!

  4. Hi Liz,
    Here's a rule of thumb I learned many years ago: 'Always use the largest brush that's small enough to get the job done.'

    The mops are pretty fun to use; I keep a separate set of brushes for w/c.

  5. Hi R.,
    I've used everything from a basting brush
    (good for creating texture in watercolour) to
    a hair dye application brush -- good for creating cross hatching in acrylic because the clumps of bristles are separated. My favorite brushes now for acrylics are wide two inch flat soft nylon brushes, cheap brights and flats in nylon, house painting brushes like Manon, and small 99 cent nylon craft brushes for finer work. I've also used paper towels, and my washable fingers. It depends what's up.

    Love the blog.

    Take care,


  6. Hi Barbara,
    Wow, you really push the brush envelope! Good for you!

  7. Thanks for the informative brush post! I really like to hear what other artists are using because I'm always looking for good brushes. I think I'm transitioning again and don't have a clear cut favorite. I've been mostly using bristle rounds for the last few months but they wear out quickly for me. (I'm using mostly Robert Simmons Signet rounds.) I've also started using flats again for my last few paintings, and for those I'm mostly going with Isabey Isacryl brushes.


  8. Hi Kerri, Brushes are very personal, aren't they. We all have to try them out and see what types work best for us. I know of at least a couple artists who don't care for the nylon brushes because they don't stand up to scrubbing, but I really like them.

  9. Thats what I like about you R...R=Rebel! I also like the cat tongues!

  10. Yeah, Michelle, that's me all right... Rebel without a clue!

  11. Great post because you given the information about the brushes in your post.I love to now that what other artists are using because I'm always looking for good brushes.Keep up the good work.
    Web Design Quote


Thank you for your kind comments! They always make my day.