Brushes are like magic wands when in the hands of a painter. Whether you’re a watercolor artist or prefer oils, choosing the right brush can make all the difference when you need to create just the right effect. The art shop can be intimidating with so many different brushes to select from, but we’ve put together this basic introduction to brushes to help you get started.
Basic Brushes for Every Painter
If you’re just beginning your adventure as a painter and are looking for the least expensive way to try this art form, you don’t have to drop a bundle trying to arm yourself with the right brushes. In fact, most artists can start with just two brushes and achieve most of the effects they need in their compositions. These brushes are the basic Round and Flat types.
A Round brush, as the name implies, has a round, often pointed tip. It’s great for detail work, controlled washes, filling in small areas and creating lines with various widths. Consider this a multi-purpose small area tool – depending on how you use it, you can create many different types of line widths and details.
Flat brushes are the opposite of round brushes, with flat, long, square bristles. Typically, those bristles are about twice as long as the brush is wide, creating a brush that’s perfect for filling in big areas with paint, creating wide washes and blending. It’s another multi-purpose tool. If you can only choose one brush, this is the one to pick – the narrow side can be used much like a round brush in a pinch.
Advancing Your Brush Technique
You’ve been to the art shop; you know just how many different brushes there are to purchase. They’re each designed with a specific effect in mind and you certainly don’t need to rush out and get them all, but if you’d like to dial up the detail level of your work, give these brushes a try:
Pointed round. A much narrower version of the basic Round with a sharply pointed tip, the Pointed Round brush is perfect for painters seeking help with creating even more fine lines and details. The small tip makes this a great brush for delicate areas, as well as spotting and retouching.
Script, Liner or Detail. These brushes are extremely small round brushes, used to create fine lettering, animal whiskers and branches and are often chosen for artist signatures. Scripts have the longest bristles, Liners have medium length bristles and Details have the shortest bristles of this group.
Bright. On first glance, the Bright brush looks an awful lot like the Flat brush, but with two important differences: the bristles are roughly as long as the brush is wide and they tend to curve inward toward a flat tip. These are perfect for thick, heavy color on short controlled strokes, blending and overall coverage.
Filbert. Filberts are similar to Brights in that their bristles come together to create a rounded end, but this brush has a fully oval point instead of a straight one. The flat Filbert is good for creating soft, rounded edges like those found on flower petals. It can also be used as a multi-purpose brush because of the shared traits between both Rounds and Flats.
Angular flat. Another specialized Flat, the Angular Flat is exactly what you’d imagine: a flat brush with an angled tip. The tips can get into small areas then turned to create curved stroke; these brushes are also are used to cover lots of space at once.
Fan. The configuration of these brushes means they’re perfect for a variety of uses. The thin layer of fanned bristles are ideal for blending and feathering, but are also great for painting trees, clouds, grasses and details. Some artists use them for painting hair, since several flowing strands can be created with a single stroke.
Mop. Like the Fan, a Mop is a brush you’ll only use in particular situations – but when you need one, there’s nothing to replace it. These large, thick rounded brushes allow you to create large washes, as well as blending and shading work. If you need to apply a lot of paint at once, a Mop is the tool you’ll reach for every time.
Being an artist is a combination of creativity and knowing how to use the right tools. Once you understand how to use each brush available to you, there’s no knowing where your art can take you.