Brush Information and Brush Care

Brush Shapes

You’ve been visualizing your next art project for a while and now you know what you want to paint. Before starting, learn how each brush translates to your project. Different brush shapes can serve different techniques and painting surfaces you want to use.

ShapeDescriptionUseImage

Flat Brush

Square tuft, medium to long fibers, in a flat ferrule, with sharp corners and straight top.

Use it to build color, paint large areas, create hard lines with bold or sweeping strokes.

Flat Brush

Round Brush

Round ferrule with tuft coming to a sharp single point.

It is a good painting assistant for details, washes, fills, and fine lines.

Round Brush

Filbert Brush

Flat and lat ferrule with medium or long hairs coming to an oval shape.

Its soft rounded edges can help you in blending colors and in making softer strokes.

Filbert Brush

Cat’s Tongue Brush or Oval Brush

A pointed filbert with a flat ferrule. It is a versatile brush for watercolors.

Its pointed tip allows for painting fine details, and the rest of the oval tuft - for broad washes.

 Cat's Tongue Brush

Bright Brush

Shorter hairs set in a flat ferrule, usually with a long handle.

It gives a stiffer feel, thus it is useful for short and controlled strokes, with thick or heavy color.

Bright Brush

Angular Brush

Short-length fibers, with longer hairs at one end, with a flat ferrule.

It is perfect for thick or heavy color, and for painting precise strokes or lines and curves.

Angular Brush

Fan Brush

Flat ferrule with hairs spread out thinly as a fan.

It works mainly as a blender, but it is also a great brush for textural and special effects.

Fan Brush

Fandango Brush

Very light oval-shaped fan brush, with a flat ferrule.

It works well as a light blender, and it is useful in painting grass, feathers, hair, fur, etc.

Fandango Brush

Quill Brush

Long hairs, with an elongated point, set in a quill or hand-tied with brass wires onto a natural wood handle.

Use it for large watercolor washes or calligraphy art projects.

Quill Brush

Liner Brush

Long thin pointed tuft set in a round ferrule.

It is useful for decorative painting, delicate lettering, outlining, and long continuous strokes.

Liner Brush

Rigger or Script Brush

Round ferrule with much longer tufts than liners.

Use it in fine art and decorative painting, as it works perfectly for long straight lines.

Rigger or Script Brush

Highliner Brush

Square-ended tuft, with extra long fibers in a round ferrule.

It works well for fine art painting, miniature painting, outlining, and delicate lettering.

Highliner Brush

One Stroke Brush

Medium to long fibers, square-ended, and set in a flat ferrule.

It is ideally for painting block letters, but also florals and greens in a single stroke.

Wave Brush

The top of the tuft is shaped into a tight wave formation, set in a flat ferrule.

Use it in decorative painting, as it is excellent to draw feathers, leaves, and hair.

Wave Brush

Butterfly Brush

Two sizes pieces of hairs, short next to long, in one ferrule.

It is excellent for decorative painting, especially in making leaves or flowers.

Butterfly Brush

Whale’s Tail Brush

Short tuft cut into a V-shape set in flat ferrule.

Use it in decorative painting for shaping leaves, flowers, trees, and borders.

Whale’s Tail Brush

Fountain Brush

Short hairs set in a round ferrule, ending in an open circle.

It is useful for stippling, but also for creating individual hairs or blades.

Fountain Brush

Mop Brush

Large, round wash tuft in a round ferrule.

It is perfect to cover large areas in watercolor, or to wet the surface and to absorb excess water or watercolor.

Mop Brush

Mottler and Spalter Brush

Large, flat brush with long or short bristles.

It can easily cover large areas, and it is recommended for faux finishing techniques, murals, and washes.

Sash Brush

Tapered bristles in a long handle.

It works well for detailed work on large paintings, but also decorative painting.

Brush Sizes

Depending on what you want to create, you will need brushes of different sizes. When shopping for brushes, always consider the size of the brush to ensure you have the right array of sizes for your projects.

Brush Fibers

Different brush fibers are used with watercolor, oil, or acrylic paints. They help you to obtain different painting effects or textures, but they also vary in terms of durability and cleaning ease.

FibersDescriptionUseImage

Synthetic Brushes

Are usually made of either nylon or polyester filaments.

They can be used in any type of paint, being processed to withstand the caustic nature of paints and solvents. They are more durable and easier to clean than traditional brushes.

Synthetic Brushes

Badger Hair

Gives brushes a distinctive “bushy” appearance, being thickest at the point, and relatively thin at the root.

Badger brushes are traditionally used to blend oil paint on canvas.

Badger Hair

Hog Bristle

Obtained from hogs has this natural tendency for curves and it forms a V-shaped split or “flag” at the tip.

Pure hog bristle brushes are recommended for oil and acrylic painting.

Hog Bristle

Kolinsky Sable

Comes from the tail of a species of mink, not from sable.

It is considered as the finest fiber for professional watercolor or oil brushes, because of its strength, spring, and ability to retain its shape.

Kolinsky Sable

Red Sable

Is not from sable either, but it is obtained from any member of the weasel family with red hair.

It works for a variety of paints, and it is a good and less expensive alternative for the Kolinsky Sable.

Red Sable

Sabeline

Is light-colored ox hair, dyed to resemble red sable.

It is primarily used for lettering and watercolor brushes.

Sabeline

Ox Hair

Usually collected from the ears of cattle or oxen, has a very strong body and a silken texture.

It is perfect for medium-grade wash brushes or flat-shaped brushes.

Ox Hair

Pony Hair

Is soft and it comes from mature animals.

Usually, it is blended with other hairs for inexpensive watercolor brushes or it is used for scholastic brushes.

Pony Hair

Gray Squirrel - Talayoutky

The hair comes from Russia and it is short in supply.

It is in high demand for lettering and quill brushes.

Gray Squirrel - Talayoutky

Brown Squirrel - Kazan

The hair can be found much easier.

It is thin and points very well, being used mostly in scholastic watercolor brushes

Brown Squirrel - Kazan

Brush Cleaning Guide & Tips

Proper brush care will extend the life of your artist’s brushes. High-quality brushes last for years because of the exceptional materials used to produce the brush’s fibers, ferrule, and handle. However, you will be able to enjoy your favorite brushes for years only if you take good care of them.

How to Clean Your Brushes

Clean your brushes immediately after use. Never let the paint to dry on them!

    1. Scrape off excess paint.
    2. Rinse the brushes well in lukewarm or cool water (or the proper solvent).
    3. Dry the brushes with a paper towel to remove paint and solvent.
    4. Use a light cleanser, such as soap and lukewarm or cool water or a manufactured brush cleaner, to remove the rest of the paint. (Want a high-quality brush soap or cleaning product? We’ve got those too!)
    5. Rinse the brushes again.
    6. Reshape the bristles with your fingers to neaten them. (Need more reshaping help? You can use a reshaping product to tease misshapen bristles into shape, even if you can’t do it with your fingers.)
    7. Dry the brushes laying down flat or hanging upside-down.

General Brush Cleaning Tips

Do’s
  • Only use light cleansers, such as soap and water, dishwashing liquid or shampoo, or special brush cleaning products
  • From time to time, use a hair conditioner to keep the brushes supple and prevent paint from sticking to the bristles. Then rinse again.
  • Always use lint-free paper towels to dry the brushes.
  • Always remove excess water and completely dry ferrules and handles.
  • To reshape brush tufts, wrap some newspaper around the tuft. Use a rubber band to hold the newspaper in the shape you want the brush to hold. If the brush is stubborn, you may need to use a professional brush reshaper.
  • Only reshape the brush once you have thoroughly cleaned it.
Don’ts
  • Do not use hot water to clean your brush as it can expand the ferrule, causing the hairs to fall out.
  • Never rest a brush on its tip (usually when drying) for any length of time.
  • Don’t use lacquer thinner, shellac remover, or acetone to clean your brushes. These solvents dissolve the glues that hold the brush hairs in place.

Watercolor Brush Cleaning Tips

Do’s
  • Always wipe your watercolor brushes with a lint-free rag, then use a light cleanser.
  • Carefully remove all the pigment particles that tend to build-up at the base of the brush. This pushes hairs apart and stops the point from forming.
  • Clean the watercolor with mild soap and cool water, swirl the soapy brush in the palm of your hand, then rinse.
  • Be patient! Repeat the washing and rinsing until the water runs clear. Your brushes will thank you!

Acrylic Brush Cleaning Tips

Do’s
  • Use mild soap and cool water to clean your acrylic brushes.
  • Use brush cleaning products from time to time to remove built-up or dried acrylic paint.
  • Keep your brushes moist until you’re ready to clean them, especially if you have to delay cleaning. This ensures the acrylic doesn’t dry and remains water-soluble.
  • Even during the painting sessions, keep your acrylic brushes wet.
Don’ts
  • Don’t let your whole brush soak in water; this will ruin your brushes. Just keep the bristles moist!

Oil Brush Cleaning Tips

Do’s
  • Always use a rag as your first step to wipe away as much color as possible from the brushes.
  • Oil paints aren’t water soluble, so use a thinning solvent to clean your oil brushes, such as turpentine or mineral spirits.
  • If you are against solvents, remove the oil pigment with vegetable oil or a non-solvent professional cleaning product.
  • After removing the bulk of the paint with a solvent, you can switch to soap and water. Make sure you dry the brush to remove the solvent before moving on to the soap and water step.
  • Use brush conditioner 2-3 times per year after you’re done cleaning your brushes. Roll your brush in the conditioner, rinse it well, and reshape and dry your brush.

Synthetic Brush Cleaning Tips

Do’s
  • You can clean acrylic or watercolor paints off synthetic brushes with liquid soap and water. No solvents needed! (This includes Taklon, Risslon, and Interlon brushes.)
  • You can also use some solvents for cleanup, such as pure gum spirits of turpentine or an odorless turpentine substitute.
  • Make sure your solvent is compatible with synthetic brushes and is high quality before purchasing.
Don’ts
  • Avoid hardware store solvents (including turpentine!) when cleaning synthetic brushes. These strong solvents can damage the synthetic fibers and leave gummy residues. There are great solvent and non-solvent cleaners formulated specifically for artist brushes.
  • If you paint with linseed oil or Dammar varnish, never clean your synthetic fiber brushes with water! Use only solvents that are compatible with your panting medium.

Brush Storage & Other Brush Care Tips

Besides cleaning techniques, there are other methods that help increase the longevity of your brushes. Where and how you store your brushes makes a difference in the quality and strength of your brushes. Using different brushes for specified roles will yield some great results as well.

Brush Storage Tips

Do’s
  • Keep handles and ferrules dry to prevent cracking or loosening of the ferrule.
  • Make sure your brushes are completely dry before storing.
  • Always store brushes upright in a well-ventilated room, but not under direct sunlight. The brush hairs need to breathe, get enough air so that they do not let mold grow.
  • Store soft natural brushes with a moth deterrent, such as a moth ball.
  • If you use a brush case, this should be breathable and allow air to flow over the brush heads. Canvas and wood are two of the best storage casings. (Need a brush case? We’ve got plenty to choose from for any size collection.)
Don’ts
  • Never store brushes when they are wet.
  • Never store brushes on their tips. This will permanently alter the shape of the hairs or bristles, but also will cause the wooden handle to swell, crack and loosen the ferrule. Lay brushes flat or upside down.
  • Never store brushes in an airtight container, or any container where moisture can’t escape. Plastic is a poor brush storage choice. Fabric storage containers provide protection and breathability.
  • Never store brushes in direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can cause the bristles to weaken or fade, and thus destroy the brush fibers.

Other Brush Care Tips

Do’s
  • Assign different brushes for different colors. Use one or more brushes for white colors, other brushes for yellows, others for reds, and still others for blues, etc. This will keep any pigments you may not have cleaned off from contaminating the purity of your color.
  • While painting, lay your brushes horizontally on a paper towel to keep them moist, clean, and avoid damaging the brush.
Don’ts
  • Never let your brushes rest in water, solvent, or thinner while painting.
  • Avoid dipping a dry natural-hair brush directly into oil paint. First, dip the brush into the painting medium, to protect the hairs, but also to distribute the natural oil of the brush hairs and allow each hair to load properly with color.

Now that you’re a brush expert, your brushes will stay in great condition for years!