How to choose the right paintbrush for oil painting

​Choosing the right paintbrush is an important part of learning how to paint.

As any beginner artist knows, choosing the right oil paintbrush can be tricky. With hundreds of styles and sizes, finding the right brush for your painting can be confusing and even frustrating.

But utilizing the right size and style tool for the area where you are painting is an important choice. While good tools don’t make good paintings, the right tools can help you to do better work.

Fortunately, there are a few easy things to learn about paintbrushes and their styles that can help you to make an informed choice before you begin to paint. Keep reading to learn more about your brushes and find out how you can choose the right oil paintbrush!

A few different types of brushes and their styles. (Courtesy of Buzzle.com)

Parts of an Oil Paintbrush

Each paintbrush has the same anatomy, and it is made up of three parts. These three sections of the paintbrush are the bristles, the ferrule, and the handle. The bristles of the paintbrush are simply the hair that carries the paint. They can be stiff or pliable, each one leaving a unique mark. Stiffer brushes are often made of hogs hair or a synthetic bristle that can be used for scrubbing paint onto the canvas or leaving behind texture. A softer bristle, often made up of  soft hair, will yield a smoother result and more control. 

Bristles can be made of natural animal hair or synthetic hair. Natural hair brushes are often the most sought after, as they tend to be very soft and fine. However, synthetic brushes are a fantastic choice and can come in a range of very soft to very firm. Here at Evolve, our students use a range of synthetic brushes for their paintings.

The ferrule is the metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle. It holds them in place and keeps them together. It is important never to allow the paint to reach up to the ferrule. If this happens, the paint can dry close to the metal and become hard to clean. Once it dries near the ferrule, the bristles often spread, making it difficult to gain control with the brush. 

The handle of the paintbrush can be long or short  and made up of wood or plastic. If you choose a longer handled paintbrush, you can get some distance from your painting, but a shorter brush can enable you to render details with greater control. 

Difference in sizes between brush styles. (Courtesy of Artist Network)

Different Types of Paintbrushes

There are several different styles of paintbrushes to choose from. Time and practice will help you to discover which one you prefer, but the size of the are in which you are working and your painting style can also help to inform your brush choice. 

Here are a few different oil paintbrush shapes:

  • Round: Round shape with a pointed tip, that is often used for fine details with a smaller brush or signatures. The stroke of a round brush doesn’t vary, so it is ideal for control in small areas. 

  • Flat: Flat bristles with squared ends that can be used for filling large spaces or blending paint. Because they can carry more paint, they can cover larger areas and create smooth edges and encourage a sweeping stroke. 

  • Filbert: A flat brush with rounded ends that can be used to apply paint or to create softer edges. Evolve students start with mostly filbert brushes, as these brushes are ideal for blending gradients. 

  • Fan: These brushes are flat and shaped like a fan. They are excellent for blending paint or softening edges, or a well-used brush can create patterns and interesting marks. Each brush comes in a variance of sizes, ranging from very fine to larger than an inch. Keep in mind that different styles and brands of paintbrushes may vary in sizes, so always check before you buy. 

Different brush marks made by Filberts. (Courtesy Bill Martin)

Which Brush Should I Use?

Finding the paintbrush that works best for your particular situation may take some time and trials. Start with a simple filbert, maybe in a 2, 6, and 12, and see where that gets you. You may want to explore a wider brush, or perhaps a round. 

Evolve students start their painting journey with mostly filberts, and as they grow in their techniques are able to experiment with different styles and sizes. 

Consider investing in a few, quality, medium to large stiff brushes, and a few smaller soft brushes. Explore which ones fit you best in your painting style. Don’t give up on a brush if it feels uncomfortable at first, instead, hold on to it as it may come in handy later. 

Evolve Paintbrushes are, at first, mostly filberts ranging from a size 2 to a size 12.

Conclusion

Finding the brushes that suit you best takes time. Just remember that in order to find out what you like, you must paint and practice! 

Take your time and experiment with different brush styles until you find what works best for your painting technique. 

Remember to take good care of your brushes

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