Walk into any craft store and wander over to the art supply department.
You probably won’t find a lone section of shelves displaying paintbrushes.
It’s more likely that you’ll come upon an entire aisle of brushes for every medium and purpose.
You’ll find Paint Brushes for children, crafters, students and professionals in sizes, styles, materials, colors and price points that would take an extended spreadsheet to analyze. Do yourself a favor and don’t go crazy over this seemingly endless array of appealing tools. You’ll never have the perfect brush, and there will always be something newer and more wonderful than what you already have. If you realize that from the start, you won’t end up as a starving artist because you’ve spent every available dollar on new and improved brushes.
Building Your Collection of Brushes
Whether it’s antiques, artwork, cookbooks or comics, every collector acquires his pieces slowly over a period of time. Except for the basic brushes you need to begin your new career, you should follow this principle.
You need to learn how far you can take your basic brushes. You’ll begin to develop your own style of painting and become comfortable with your first set of brushes. Learn how much you can do with those brushes. You may be surprised at the versatility a couple of rounds and flats can provide.
Once you’ve mastered these brushes and your skill level demands more, begin adding a few brushes. If you’ve started painting classic sailing ships, a rigger brush is very useful. When you learn to glaze and are intent on creating fine, translucent layers, consider buying a fan brush. Specialty brushes are like having gourmet utensils in the kitchen. You don’t need a fancy food processor and can certainly get along with a knife and cutting board, but a food processor is certainly more efficient.
Make thoughtful choices based on your painting style and skill level. Don’t run to the nearest craft shop simply because a fellow student comes in with a new brush or you’ve read a high-gloss advertisement that tempts you. If your budget is limited, choose multi-purpose brushes before buying specialty brushes. If you’re moving to larger supports, buy a larger brush to work more efficiently. Perhaps you’ve started adding fine detail work to your paintings. If your initial brush purchase didn’t include any detailing brushes, buy a small selection of diminutive brushes to add those tiny elements that takes your work to the next level.
Don’t use a false economy buying cheap brushes. You’re trying to learn how to paint, and using poor equipment hinders your ability to master your craft. If necessary, buy fewer brushes of good quality. You can always add brushes to Santa’s wish list, and let friends and family know that gift certificates to your favorite art supply store are always in good taste.
Buy Brushes that are suitable for use with the type of painting you are doing. This might seem like an unnecessary statement, but acrylic painters have greater latitude in their painting style. You may be painting with a fluid consistency like a watercolorist. You should choose soft bristle brushes that can absorb the paint and discharge it evenly on your support. If you are working with full body paint, you need stiff bristles similar to an oil painter’s brush. Wimpy, soft bristles aren’t rigid enough to hold the thick, heavy paint, and you’ll wind up with paint-splattered clothing, shoes and flooring.
One thing that’s important when painting with acrylics is cleanliness. You absolutely must keep your brushes clean, as acrylic paint is a polymer and dries hard like plastic. Once it dries, it is impossible to remove. Leaving a paint-filled brush to dry on your tabouret is a death sentence. Don’t send your brushes to an early grave because you had to answer a phone call or change the baby. It doesn’t take long for acrylics to dry, and replacing stiff, hardened brushes can become an expensive proposition.
Brush Fiber Choices For The Acrylic Artist
As an acrylic artist, you have the best of both worlds. You can create lush, textural work with thick layers of paint or delicate paintings with diaphanous, transparent colors that barely tint your support.
Because you have so many options from which to choose, you may find that you need two sets of brushes. One set will have bristles that are sturdy enough for using paint alla prima or mixed with a full body medium. A second set will be made up of brushes that are soft and pliant. This set allows you to paint with acrylic in a liquid state.
There’s a wide variety of brushes suitable for acrylic paints and both natural and synthetic fibers are available. Your instructor will give you a list of brushes that are appropriate for the class you are taking. Until you’ve mastered some of the basic skills, stick with those suggestions.
Natural And Synthetic Fibers
We’ve discussed the various fibers used to create brushes in earlier chapters on oil paintbrushes and watercolor paintbrushes. Even though the information is the same, you may find that you will use a wider variety of brushes than a watercolorist or an oil painter.
Because acrylic paint is so versatile, you may develop a wide range of techniques. Therefore, your tabouret may have extra space devoted to storing the many brushes you acquire. A well-versed acrylic painter is similar to the utility player on a baseball team. Painting a watercolor or a highly textured canvas requires different types of brushes, which may be a combination of natural and synthetic fibers.
Coarse, natural bristle brushes stand up to a lot of abuse and are well suited for scrubbing on canvas, as well as being scrubbed to remove bits of dried acrylic paint. Boar bristle brushes are hard enough to leave visible scarring, so a few flecks of old acrylic paint are no match for those hoary hairs.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of soft, natural bristle brushes. If you intend for them to have a long and productive life, these brushes must be cared for and pampered like a Teacup Poodle. Dried acrylic paint is the bane of a paintbrush’s existence and is particularly dangerous to soft, natural bristles. Until scrupulously clean brushes are a natural part of your artistic life, stick with synthetic fibers for your soft bristle brushes.
As well as being a 20th century marvel, synthetic bristle brushes are just plain smart money. Unless you become bedazzled by fancy marketing gimmicks or overly impressed with a brand name that has paid an artist to put his name on a line of brushes, synthetic fibers are a good value.
As you develop your own taste and techniques, you will undoubtedly be drawn to a particular type of brush. Until you’ve reached that point, synthetic bristles are readily available and are an inexpensive alternative. Many professional artists find synthetics preferable to natural bristles and use them exclusively.
Brush Shapes And Sizes
When you first begin painting, you’ll probably use flat and round brushes. These basic brush shapes are used universally. Since your initial paintings will be fairly small, you won’t need extremely large or small brushes. The small assortment of brushes your instructor recommends will give you enough versatility for your introductory painting class.
As you progress in mastering brush strokes and techniques, a variety of different brushes probably sounds appealing. If you want to include other brush shapes in your arsenal and it’s within your budget, go ahead and add a new shape or two. However, don’t expect great changes to emerge from using a different brush. It’s true that a filbert is great for painting curved edges, and a fan is perfect for laying in a wispy translucent layer, but these techniques can be completed with a flat or a round. It’s more a question of technique and practice than it is the use of a specialty tool.
There’s lots of great specialty brush shapes that are fun to add to your tabouret, but mastering the use of your tools is a far greater asset than a drawer full of brushes. That’s not to say that you should forego different brush shapes. Just don’t be too eager to add so many that you don’t have the opportunity to learn how to appreciate fully what you can do with them.
However, it appears that size does matter. Using the proper size brush for the task makes your job much easier. If you have some discretionary money to spend on painting supplies, consider adding a few extra large and extra small brushes for those murals and miniatures you are secretly planning.
Paintbrushes are the tools of your trade, and you owe it to yourself to become skilled and knowledgeable in their use. A musician who only knows four chords limits himself in the music he can play. The same can be said of an artist. Don’t limit yourself to one particular brush or brush stroke. Take full advantage of the tools you have and see how far you can push the limits.
Adding additional Brushes will help you expand your repertoire. Give yourself time to practice with your new tools. You’ll develop a wide range of techniques to prevent your work from looking like cookie cutter images that are repetitious and stagnant.
FREE Online Art Paint Course
There are 27 Chapters in this Free Online Painting Course:
Let Us Begin…
Watercolor – Where to Start
Watercolor Paint Brands
Watercolor Paint Brushes
Watercolor Basic Painting Techniques
Advanced Watercolor Painting Techniques
Watercolor Painting Accessories
Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks
Acrylics – Where to Start
Acrylic Paint Brands
Acrylic Painting Support
Acrylic Paint Brushes (This Article)
Acrylic Painting Techniques
Acrylic Painting Accessories
Acrylic Painting Tips and Tricks
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