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Brush Talk - Types, Sizes, Uses, Etc.

edited January 2013 in Studio & Supplies
I realize there's another discussion here on favorite brushes, but I wanted to take a step back for the uninitiated and start a discussion on brush types, sizes and uses.

I'm "struggling" a bit with when to use filberts, brights, flats, rounds.. And also like using synthetic fibers versus using hog bristle, etc.. I know there's no right or wrong, but I also want to jive with what we're doing here at drawmixpaint.

I will probably do some "stroke" exercises next time I sit down at the canvas... just to determine brush "look and payload" but also thought you kind folks might have some insight and want to share it.


  • I use filberts in sable and or hogs hair mainly.the occasional small round for detail work.
  • Sable... nice! I can't find quality hog hair that doesn't spread out and flail all over the place after a few paintings. I'd really like to count on their durability but I suppose I need to drop some serious cash on a couple and find a brand I like.

    So, when I use filberts, I just get a couple of paint strokes out of them and then have to reload. I might be expecting a loaded brush to last too long (coming from sketching and watercolor work).
  • Maybe for starters, refer to Mark's recommended brushes (from TCM), which I've listed in another thread entitled "Brushes" in response to Marcus' question.

    Mark may add some more later on re what brushes he used for every video he'd release.
  • sketchySteve

    Yes, I agree, bristle is great for thick paint and moving it it in a painterly way around a canvas, often in conjunction with a palette knife. Flagged bristle holds a large amount of paint.

    The DELQ'd paint as promoted my Mark (paint with any medium really) is better handled with the synthetics. For realistic detail the smaller filberts and flats do the business. Synthetics are also good with thinned color for drawing up a canvas withe the basic line shapes.

    Rounds seem to have the advantage in watercolor as they can hold large amounts of color. I don't find much use for rounds in oil painting, except for softening an edge or blending.

  • Thanks everyone. I'm really enjoying how helpful this community is.
  • edited December 2012
    Sorry, too, I did a search on brushes and didn't find this discussion. Didn't mean to duplicate topics.

    Thanks @Vangie for the link.
  • Maybe also refer to the maker's website, eg
    - About W&N oil colour brushes -
    - How to choose an Oil Colour Brush -

    Other brands would most likely have something similar.

    It's really a matter of experimenting different types, especially those recommended by other artists, to find out what works best for one's style of painting ... every artist would usually have their own favourites.
  • Yeah, that's how I've managed to accumulate cans-full of brushes, pens and pencils for the sketching stuff. Guess its time to begin anew with the oil painting version of my journey. :)

    Thanks for your input and for the links, @Vangie.
  • Sorry, too, I did a search on brushes and didn't find this discussion. Didn't mean to duplicate topics.

    It's not your fault, Steven, because if you searched for "brush" or "brushes", Marcus' thread on "Brushes" doesn't show up... not sure why not.
  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    Brushes for oil painting
  • I've gone full circle on brushes....used just a couple in the beginning to using way too many later on. For me, the learning process has resulted today in my using synthetic, long filberts from Rosemary's for almost everything. They hold more than enough paint for me...I don't load very heavy, normally just enough paint for two or three short strokes max and don't like to get paint beyond about a third of the way up the bristles. I like the spring of these brushes and feel I have really good control over the placement and amount of paint being laid down. If I'm using really stiff paint and want to maintain some brush stores and bristle marks, I use a hog hair brush. On the opposite extreme, if I want a super soft look and greatly reduce the odds of any brush marks showing up at all I use Mongoose. I also try to paint with the largest size brush possible for any given feature.
  • Mark_CarderMark_Carder admin
    edited December 2012
    I do not want to say my is the best way, but I can only tell you about my own experience. When it comes to painting realism, what I mean is if I am not primarily interested in brush effect, but rather in paint control - I see no reason to use anything but filberts made from bristles. Except maybe for a super detail brush which I rarely use.

    Can not imagine painting with a square brush, I really don't get it, unless you paint with the corners, otherwise every stroke has that squareness, parallelogram look. But some people like seeing all those square strokes, I never have.

    Round are like super thick filberts, too thick for my taste.

    My absolute favorite brush in the world, in the medium to large sizes, but not the smallest sizes, is the Raphael 3572. I love them! Just the right amount of softness and length. Expensive but if you always store your brush submerged in oil or medium, they will last for many years - unless you are a brush pusher, and then they are good for about a week :-)

    Hogs hair bristle is best because the paint flows out of it better than anything else. That means when you pick up x amount off paint and drag it across your canvas, the bristle will paint a longer line without any canvas showing through than say a synthetic brush. That is because under a microscope the individual hairs have multiple split ends. So one hair divides into twenty sort of. And for some reason that makes the paint keep coming. Maybe related to how trees work when they suck up water, but that is total guess on my part.

    Filberts are great because you can paint thin lines or thick lines depending on pressure. That is less true with rounds and squares.
  • Mark, what do you use for a small brush? What's the issue with the small Raphael?
  • Thanks @mark_carder for the reply. I've had awful luck with hog hair bristles... but I'm also coming to this from lots of location sketching and watercolor work.

    I'll invest in a decent hog bristle filbert and see how it works out.

  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    @Mark, where do you get your Raphael 3572? Thanks for this tip!
    Is it worth buying all the sizes?
    I'd love to get some!

    I've got a lot of W&N hog filberts (Artists and Winton), but have never used them, as I've been using the faux mongoose. Just wondering what they're like compared with Raphael 3572?
  • Vangie

    Raphael Brushes:

    PO Box 64, Fitzroy,
    Victoria, Australia 3065
    Ph: 61-39419-5559 Fax: 61-39419-4232

  • @Denis, as usual, you're very resourceful, and generous in sharing info/knowledge! Thank you!
    Are they cheaper at Heidelberg, compared with, say, Jerry's Artarama (no GST)? I'll check it out.
  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    @Denis, Heidelberg do not seem to have the Raphael 3572 hog filberts.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited December 2012

    With the exchange rates in your favour by 5c in the dollar you could get them from the US - priced from $9 to $38 each. Can't see any 3572s though.

    Here is one link

  • Gary said:

    Mark, what do you use for a small brush? What's the issue with the small Raphael?

    The bristles do not come to enough of a point. WN makes a descent small filbert,

  • Thanks Mark, I'm going to get a few of the Raphael brushes to compare to what I'm using now.
  • Thank you so much for all the links to Mark's brushes. I have tried the softer brushes and I agree 100% with Mark on his observations.

    Of course I didn't listen to him and had to 'do my own thing' by painting several pictures with soft sable brushes in very small sizes. Mistake!

    It made my work look very 'overworked' and actually lost the beautiful color/values I had pre-mixed.

    When will I learn to follow the advice of a pro! :-t
  • tjs said:

    When will I learn to follow the advice of a pro! :-t

    About 5 minutes before I do!! :P :)
  • Mark_CarderMark_Carder admin
    edited December 2012
    Gary said:
    Thanks Gary, awesome, think I might order a fresh set.

    That pic on asw's site does not look like the brush shape, they come wrapped in a protective clear wrap which pinches the ends.

  • dencaldencal -
    edited December 2012
    Hey Vangie

    Look what I found. Site is under construction - no price lists. They also carry VT.

    B3572 #3572 Paris Brosse Filbert
    B3572.1 No. 1
    B3572.2 No. 2
    B3572.4 No. 4
    B3572.6 No. 6
    B3572.8 No. 8
    B3572.10 No. 10
    B3572.12 No. 12
    B3572.14 No. 14
    B3572.16 No. 16
    B3572.18 No. 18
    B3572.20 No. 20

    Neil's Art Store
    44-46 Greeves St , Fitzroy, Vic. 3065
    (Behind the Black Cat Cafe on BrunswickSt)

    Ph: 61 3 9419 5949 Fax: 61 3 9419 4232
    email: [email protected]

  • Great Dencal! An Australian place to purchase is great, I will keep my eye on that :)
  • edited December 2012
    Hi Mark, If the Raphael is not ideal for detail, from what size up would you recommend buying them?

    Update: Hang on, just saw your comment 'medium to large' I can work it out I think!

    Does anyone have any experience with WN artisan brushes? They are designed for WMO's (that is they are synthetic and don't swell up with water) I have both good and bad experiences with them so far. I try not to be a brush 'pusher' but they are starting to splay after 4 paintings... Wonder if it is me or the brushes? Super easy to clean though.
  • Mark_CarderMark_Carder admin
    edited December 2012
    JodieU said:

    Hi Mark, If the Raphael is not ideal for detail, from what size up would you recommend buying them?

    Good question, I like the number 4s and higher. I only use one size smaller than the four, and that brush I get from WN and a couple of others that all seem comparable to me. Oh, I do use a detail brush, but very rarely.

  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    @Denis dencal
    Many thanks for the tip re Neil's Art Store. I'll check them out.

    In the last couple of years or so, unless I want something in a hurry or I only want a few items, I've been buying most of my art supplies overseas online, mainly from dickblick, jerry's artarama, cheap joe's, and daniel smith ... usually when they're offering a special discount (eg 25%, 30%) which they advise via email (usually 10% or so more than what they advertise on their website). They've been so much cheaper even with the shipping costs... + no 10% Aust GST (I think some Aust taxes will apply if you spend A$1000+ from offshore online stores, but not sure of this amount. A few times, I've even bought Australian products from some of those offshore online stores, because they were much cheaper than buying them locally (eg Archival oil paints and medium from dickblick).

    Locally, I usually get 10% discount from most art supply stores (not online), eg Art Shed, Riot, Eckersleys, Dean's Art, Melbourne Artists' Supplies... and 15% from Hampton Art Supplies... But they're usually still all darn much more expensive than online overseas.

    By the way, dickblick sells Raphaël Paris Classic Brushes, and I've emailed them to inquire whether or not they're series 3572 ( Jerry's Artarama also sells Raphaël Paris Classic Brushes, but none appears to be 3572... the closest being 3577 (ël-oil-and-acrylic-brushes/raphaël-paris-classics-brushes.htm).
  • Vangie

    Yes I have similar tales of pricing -

    Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder 2mm - OZ $45 each US $4.99.

    Koi Sakura Watercolours 12 set - OZ $42 each US $20

    I generally find if I can bump up the order the better prices makes airfreight acceptable.
    Many stores have free shipping if your order exceeds a set amount (e.g. $80).

    Our two Artshed stores in Perth have just closed down. Probably due to the online purchasing we have been talking about, though it has been in stages of decline over the past five years.

  • I'm brush dependent I buy all I see I stopped to count after 100 ... best filbert... best now Robert Simmon Titanium and Da Vinci black sable they really hold property oil paint (bank crash is near ...)
  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    Re: Raphaël Paris Classic Brushes series 3572 - long handle
    I received an email response from dickblick (Nate B., Product Information Specialist):
    "The filbert shaped Raphaël Paris Classic Brushes are the 3572 Series ... "

    Price, less x% discount (& free shipping in the US) depending upon total orders.

  • Recently I had a brush manufacturer recommended to me by several well known artists I respect and it is a small company in England that makes some of the finest brushes of all kinds I have ever used and trust me I have used a lot of brushes. I primarily use hog bristle filberts usually made by Silver Brush Company or Trekell, but Rosemary's Brushes beat them all. I will be trying Marks recommendation also.[]=1088&action=notify
  • VangieVangie -
    edited December 2012
    Do you use Series 141 Hog Almond Filberts and/or Series 47 Hog Filberts?

    or Ivory Filberts, Ivory Longer Filberts, Ivory Egberts? ... Ivory = "probably the Holy Grail of brushes". Interesting to read the description on - by Rosemary: "I launched this range just two years ago for the oil artist who wants a brush to keep its shape and is good to clean. It now out sells my Chungking Bristle! Synthetic Bristle at its best. A cross between the feel of Nylon and Hog Bristle. Having a good spring and perhaps most importantly no ‘spray’. Will carry a good load of oil paint unlike Nylon, for realistic work they are perhaps as close to ideal as it gets. In the words of the artist who helped me with the trials on this range ‘You’ve probably got the Holy Grail of brushes - what a treat!’"
  • am using the Ivory longer filberts and love the feel and how they respond. They work well with a good load of paint or with very little.
  • Thanks, @AZPainter. I guess with the longer filberts, one can also less likely fill the ferule with paint.
    It would be interesting to find out from Mark what he thinks, if he were to try the Rosemary filberts.
    @Mark, just wondering if you are going to try them out? Would be good to get your expert opinion re Raphaël 3572 vs any of the Rosemary filberts, before we get any.
  • The ivory is less expensive even with shipping. Be nice to see a valid comp buy someone that has the expertise.
  • Vangie, have you looked at Jacksons in the UK?

    Raphael 3572 #6 at £4.65, which is about 7.50AUD .... I buy perhaps 90% of my supplies from them and find them to be very competitive and with good customer service. Not sure how much shipping is likely to be, but at 40% cheaper than your suggested US supplier, it's worth an email
  • @LindenH
    Thank you... I have now taken note of the prices from Jackson's website, and I find them really cheap.
    I wasn't actually suggesting to buy the Raphaels from dickblick... it's just another one of those options, mainly because I've been buying my supplies mostly from the US, and this is the 1st time I've heard of UK's Jacksons.

    One of the reasons I'm hesitating to buy Raphael's at this stage is that, a lot of DMP members seem to have a preference for Rosemary's, hence curious as to what Mark would think about the latter. Also, for someone who has hardly painted in the past and even now, I have an unbelievably large collection of brushes which I've hardly used and don't even know how good/bad they are. I just want to make sure that the next lot I buy are the ones that I will actually, definitely be using for Mark's method.
  • edited December 2012
    We need sound effects......... screeching to a halt would be good right now :))

    After reading the comments about Rosemary&Co in this and the other 'brush' thread, I requested a catalogue from them and it arrived today. A5 size, 60 full colour pages of brushes, which, to a brush junkie like me is almost like porn (not that I'd know about that sort of thing of course).

    All the pictures/photos in the catalogue are actual size of the brush, so no more guessing whether a #6 filbert is the same as my #6 filberts. Rosemary has been in the brush business for 30 years so she obviously knows her stuff and has built a successful and reputable company. You don't stay in a niche market for 30 years unless you're doing it right (was/maybe still is a supporting partner on wetcanvas as well).

    How did I miss seeing/knowing about her and her operation?

    Needless to say, I shall be making a list and spending some of my Xmas money very soon :)
  • I have been painting and making my living at it for a little over 30 years now and when I first started I bought all kinds of brushes. Most I had no idea of how to use them to their best advantage. Eventually I learned one can actually paint with just about any brush. I did this once as a demonstration in a art class I was teaching. I used a large hog bristle fan brush and did a portrait of one of the students. Admittedly it was, shall I say impressionistic, but it would have made a good lay in and finish it with better more appropriate brushes. I do not recommend this, but my point that I am recommending is use a brush that fits the job and feels good in your hands and is easy and comfortable to move.

    I do not buy specific brands. I buy what works for me and lasts. Rosemary's are fairly new to me, but so far the ones I have used, the Ivory's and the Mongoose are much more comfortable and well balanced for me. I also like Trekell, bristles and Silver brush bristles. This may surprise many but I also find the Winsor Newton University brush #1 flat great for fine short straight lines or edges. I can also do some small painterly finish brush work with them. They are cheap and do splay out after a little use, usually one painting of 18x24 roughly in size and I treat them as disposable brushes. Used they are near useless, but when new and still holding their shape I find them wonderful tools for certain paintings. Usually smaller works.

    I think one cannot go wrong when buying the best quality, with the W/N University exception, and feels right and easily controlled by each artist. What works great for me, may not work that well for you. We all develop our own ways of handling a brush. The more "miles" you can put in with a brush in hand will make you a better artist. Use good techniques like Marks and you will constantly improve your work.
  • @AZPainter I agree entirely. The finest and most expensive brush in the hands of a novice won't instantly turn him/her into a fine artist, but a broken twig or bent nail in the hands of Rembrandt demonstrates that a fine artist doesn't necessarily need the best brushes.

    However, using the best brushes, and perhaps sticking with a range which one feels comfortable with should, over time, produce the better result. I have yet to find that range but do like the Escoda imitation mongoose and Jackson's own brand black hog.... both of which I think are supplied by or similar to some in the Rosemary catalogue (eclipse and ebony).

    I'm also a keen golfer and when looking for new equipment, in order to justify the purchase, I always try to ask myself the question "will buying this make me a better golfer?" You and I know what the answer is :) .... but I still have several sets of golf clubs and more putters than I care to count.
  • Good analogy Linden! Why do putters always feel so good and work so well on the putting greens in the golf shop but perform so poorly after I buy them? In the store I'm a scratch golfer not the 15 handicap it says on my card. I need to go count as I'm not sure if I have more putters or more brushes! If you need any more putters just let me know...I have them in shapes of round, square, triangle, the enterprise (as in Star Trek); in weights of light, medium, heavy, extra heavy; with or without titanium inserts; hosel's of all lengths and bends; short putters, belly putters, broom stick putters; with groves, c-groves, no groves; various lofts from 0 to 7 degrees; regular grips, reverse grips, fat grips; small heads and huge heads......and on and on! I never made the connection between golf and painting before your post, don't know if that makes me feel better or worse!! ;)
  • Gary

    How does it go? Golf is a game where a man uses a club to propel a ball and then spends the rest of his life trying to change the swing.

  • So very true Denis! Kind of like painting?! :)
  • I have yet to throw my easel in the pond.
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