There is no need to buy expensive brushes for painting in oil or acrylic
Brushes you need for learning to paint
2 inch house painting brush.
3/4 inch house painting brush.
Large round hog bristle brush.
Large flat hog bristle brush.
Small fine hair brush.
Small fan brush.
Painting knife. (We will cover them last)
The 2 inch house painting brush
Does not need to be exactly 2 inches wide, 1 inch or 3 inch will do.
click for larger image
The bristles need to be soft hair or nylon, black, brown or white.
The thickness does not matter but later on you might find you prefer thick or thin brushes, I like both, the thick brush applies more paint quicker while the thinner brush gives better reflections, but the difference is minimum.
The best place to buy your brush is a handy man or hardware store – in the house paint section. Similar brushes are sold in art supplies stores but do not seem to be as strong as the house painting brushes and are often too soft and go mushy when loaded.
We use this 2 inch brush to paint in our sky, water, put reflections on our water, block in the trees and can be used to produce foliage on larger painting. (On large murals I use a 5 inch brush and sometimes a roller)
It is useful to have 2 of these brushes, keeping one for skies and the other for darker colors, this saves time cleaning brushes.
should be of similar quality as the 2 inch brush and need not be exactly 3/4 inch. It is used for painting the larger foliage in the foreground and also for blocking in on smaller paintings.
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The large round hog bristle brush
is for dabbing on the foliage. It may be used for many purposes but it is the easiest brush to use when painting foliage.
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Don’t buy the pointy type of brush.
I have always advised others to use a size 12 but things have changed and sizes now vary as does the quality.
So the description of a good brush is:- a big round hog bristle brush with a ferrule width of about 5/8 inch, they usually have white bristles, long pale wooden handle and are made in China, do not buy the pointy ones for a foliage brush.
This brush is very common in Australia but I could not buy one in Thailand – strange.
They are not an expensive brush and often can be found in hardware stores etc.
If you cannot find one then try using your 3/4 inch house painting brush to paint the foliage.
When using the round brush or the 3/4 inch brush for foliage it is important to load and unload the brush in the right way.
Firstly saturate the bristles with dark paint, and then clean the brush by squeezing it and pulling it through a clean rag. This will leave the bristles ‘putty like’ making it easy for you to squeeze them into a chisel point with which you pick up your dark and light colors on different sides of the brush and keep the colors separated. Repeat the squeezing and cleaning process every time you pick up more paint. This is a habit you should get into if you wish to paint crispy looking foliage. If you do not clean and re-shape the bristles before picking up paint, your colors will become muted and your foliage will look dull and be lacking depth.
The large flat hog bristle brush
is available everywhere. We use it for painting mountains, huts, tree trunks, soil and everything in between including blocking in the distant trees. Like the round brush it is usually white bristled with a long pale wooden handle. Again you need to clean the brush before re-loading and wipe it clean often when blending.
The small fine hair brush
is used for painting the twigs and small branches. Find a size with more than a few hairs which you could imagine to be the width of the middle sized branches in a painting as you will use only the very tip hairs for the finer branches. Let’s say the size could be between one and two match heads thick. The bristles are very soft and this brush must be cleaned well between painting sessions. They cost from about 50 cents and the more expensive brushes will give you a finer line if needed.
is used for painting grass as well as falling water, ferns and some other foliage.
The prices vary and an expensive brush will wear our just as quick as an inexpensive one. I like a small fan brush as it can do any job but might take more brush strokes than a larger one.
If you cannot find a fan brush you can make one by driving a clout down the middle of a round brush and the bristles will fan out.
The painting knife
is cranked, this is to make it easy to pick the paint up and place the paint down without the handle getting in the way. A flexible pointed painting knife with about a 2 or 3 inch blade is ideal.
You will become accustomed to using your own knife and you may find other shaped knives awkward to use, so choose a knife you will want to use for both mixing and sculpturing the paint
Another point I must make is that you will come to have a favorite brush or brushes and after a while they will wear out but you will still use them and find you cannot use a newer brush in the same way as the old favorite brush.
This is a bad habit and will restrict your painting skills therefore it is better to have several brushes of the same kind and try to use the newer one before your hand becomes reliant on the worn out or half worn brushes.
Some non-art brushes are too soft and become a sloppy mess when loaded with paint (e.g. make-up brushes or shaving brush) some are too firm (e.g. car engine cleaning brush). There are endless brands of ‘house painting brushes’ which are a pleasure to use with oil or acrylic artist paint. Very soft nylon house painting brushes are ok but do not use the cheap nylon brushes with what looks like a little knob on the tip of each bristle (Seen in Australia) and, be careful if working in oils and cleaning nylon brushes in turpentine, they might melt.
Complete training DVDs are available at PaintWithLen/shop
by Len Hend