24 Different types of Paint Brushes - Explained
This entry was posted on April 8, 2022.
Painting has always been a definitive and attractive form of art, something that children, as well as adults, always love. When it comes to art, you always need that particular tool that acts as the steering wheel to the vehicle, and for painting, a painting brush does just that. Painting has existed for centuries but it was the painting brush that changed it all and gave the man an excellent tool to create masterpieces for people to feast their eyes on. Just like the mighty Mjolnir of Thor Odinson, the paintbrush helps to channel an artist's creativity onto the blank canvas and make mesmerizing pieces of art with nothing but colors and some water.
The paintbrush is what everyone considers to be an artist's weapon, and rightfully so. However, this weapon has a plethora of varieties, different sizes, and shapes, which ultimately decide how an artist picks his poison based on how he wants to create his art. Sometimes, many of the brushes seem pretty similar but they are very different from each other based on how and what they're used for. Let's take a look at the different kinds of brushes that artists use to create their bonafide works of art.
Before we get into the wide array of brushes that are available, it's integral to first discuss the basics. Generally, there are four basic types of brushes for painting which then get divided into various types based on size, shape, use, etc. knowing these basics is important as it will help you primarily decide what kind of a painting brush you actually need, after which you can browse through the many brushes that suit your needs.
1. Natural Hair
Natural Hair paintbrushes are most often premium brushes that are mostly used by oil painters as they work best with oil paints, which also means that they have to be cleaned with paint thinners. The natural hair in these brushes are mostly the hairs from badgers or Chinese Hogs, and the latter ones are also preferably used for water-base painting as they are good absorbers of water.
Natural hair brushes also come with camel or sable hair, but these brushes often tend to be expensive, which is why they have to be taken proper care of. Hence, most of the time, these brushes are used for fine art projects to create crisp, brush marks-free artworks.
2. Synthetic Hair
Synthetic hair brushes are those whose bristles are usually made from nylon or polyester. These are the kinds of brushes that are usually the norm for stationery and academic uses, which is why synthetic brushes are probably the very first paintbrushes that we used while we were children. These brushes are best-suited for watercolors and are not at all recommended for oil paints as they tend to be stiff and scratch the paint onto the canvas when used for oil painting.
Synthetic hair brushes are the cheaper alternatives when you're on a budget, but they're paint spreaders, just like foam brushes, as they're not carefully constructed and the bristles tend to fall out. This is why professionals stick to buying natural hair brushes.
3. Flagged Brushes
Flagged brushes are brushes with bristles that have been split to be used solely with latex paints. These brushes, sometimes known as exploded bristle brushes, are exclusively seen in high-end synthetic brushes. Because the brush has a larger surface area, there is more paint on it, which makes painting easier.
The USP of these brushes is the fact that, due to its split bristles, paint can be applied more smoothly, and there are few brush marks. The best-exploded bristle brushes have tapered bristles where the handle consists of the thicker portion.
4. Sized Brushes
This is the most common fact that all of us know, whether professional artists or not, that paintbrushes come in different shapes and sizes, and each of them has its own uses and preferences, based on their proportions. These paintbrushes can range from the smallest brushes that are used for detailing and fine art purposes, to the several inches wide ones that are used to paint walls and houses. Within the category of sizes, there are the specialist brushes, for example, the sash brushes, that have their bristles cut to a point or tapered in a chisel-like manner to access tight corners.
Synthetic VS Natural:
Broadly speaking, brushes come in mainly 2 different bristle types (as you read above), the natural and the synthetic. While the former are best-suited for oil painting, the latter works best with watercolors and can also be used for oil colors if the need arises too.
Soft vs. Stiff Bristle Brushes
Soft Bristles: Paintbrushes with soft bristles are ideal for smoother paint strokes. Soft, synthetic brushes are ideal for blended, flat paint surfaces. For these brushes, the consistency of the paint has to be fluid and rather light as they lack the strength to apply heavier body paint. Long-bristled soft brushes are also perfect for creating "hairy" irregular marks at the end of a stroke, which is helpful for portraying any subject requiring fine lines, like grasses or hairs.
Stiff Bristles: Due to their coarse character, stiff-bristled brushes are the logical choice for creating thick layers of impasto or rough effects on the canvas. Heavy paints require stiff, springy synthetics and hog bristle, which leave painterly footprints in colors. Stiff-bristled brushes are popular among wet-in-wet painters because they can be loaded with paint and brushed over wet paint, making them suitable for layering.
The Various Kinds of Brushes
Now that we've covered the basics, let's take a deeper dive into the various types of paint brushes that are used by painters and artists.
1. Flat Brushes
Flat brushes are some of the most common types of paint brushes that we come across very often. The bracelet which holds the bristles of this brush is totally flat, which allows the bristles to be spread out uniformly in a rectangular shape, and the bristles are flattened too. "One Stroke" brushes are a popular kind of flat brushes that have long hair and hold more paint.
Uses: Flats are used for almost any medium of painting without any hassle. However, they're mostly used for blending, washing, and shading. Its flat and uniform bristle nature makes it the best brush to create wider strokes to draw skies, and landscapes, as well as to create thin lines and smoother blends between several colors. Floating, stroke work, base coat applying, varnishing, etc., are some of the many uses of a flat brush.
The carrying capacity of a flat brush is usually determined by the bristles it possesses and by their lengths as well. A synthetic bristle with shorter hairs will hold lesser paint that a long-haired, natural hair or mixed brush.
2. Wash Brushes
If you ever buy a set of paintbrushes and you see a paintbrush looking bigger than the other ones, that's probably the wash brush. These brushes are flat but very wide and are crafted in such a way that they can hold excess pigment, paint, or water.
Uses: Wash brushes are mainly used to cover larger parts of a paper or canvas in a short period of time. Since these brushes are thicker, they're also of great use to pick up a little excess water or paint off the canvas an artist is working on. In most cases, wash brushes are used to create solid backgrounds or broad, square-edged patches of color.
3. Angled Brushes
The angled brush is a member of the flat brush family but consists of bristles that are cut at an angle for the type of use it fulfills. These brushes have slanted or angled tips and are especially useful for curves, lines, and shapes that vary in coverage and thickness. In short, these brushes are flexible and give an artist the ability to go from thick to thin in a single stroke!
Uses: The angled brush is mainly used to create curve strokes, precise strokes, various lines of various sizes, for example – drawing leaves and petals. Usually, normal flat brushes cannot be used precisely for different curves and lines, which is where these angled brushes excel.
4. Fan Brushes
In a fan brush, a short flat ferrule lays out the bristles in such a manner that it looks like a fan. If you've ever struggled with drawing grasses, shrubbery, trees, and other abstract watery designs with acrylic paints, this fan brush will become your best friend the moment you use it.
Uses: Due to the fan-shaped nature of the brush’s tip, these fan brushes are excellent for blending purposes as well as adding subtle highlights to darker portions of the painting. Using a fan brush, you can also experiment and create various textures. For example – tapping the brush slightly will create a different effect than a simple long stroke. Though these brushes are often associated with painting natural elements like landscapes, skies, etc. in acrylic, they can also be used for creating awesome textures and various designs as well!
5. Round Brushes
Round brushes are the ones that are characterized by a round ferrule, where the hair tips are rounded or, in some cases, have a pointed tip. These brushes are usually much smaller than the angled and flat brushes and have a soft, rounded edge.
Uses: The main use of these rounded brushes is to master the art of brush control. They are perfect for washes, detailing, creating strokes, and filling, can create broad lines and fill small areas at the same time as well. In acrylic painting, rounded brushes are widely preferred as they provide maximum control for different kinds of details, and due to the narrow design of the handles, these brushes are perfect for having flexibility as it feels just like holding a pencil or a pen. When an artist wants full control over the flow and size of the paint, a round brush is a tool he will want.
6. Liner Brushes
Often known as the outliner or the high-liner, the liner brush is an extremely thin paintbrush with long bristles, somewhat resembling a round brush but it is much smaller and thinner. Usually, liner brushes are characterized with their long ferrules and thin bristles (long or short), which makes them perfect for delicate strokes and movements, usually for intricate lettering art.
Uses: The thin and sleek nature of liner brushes is what makes them perfect for thin strokes, for lettering art, detailing, and delicate strokes that are continuous. As the tip of the brush is petite and small, it acts as the perfect tool for adding words, signatures, numbers, and for adding fine details to a piece of artwork. Usually, liner works can be used with oil, acrylic paint, as well as ink (for signatures).
Usually, liner brushes work best when they're dipped in water, but they can be used dry too. However, dipping the brush into water before paint helps to make the paint flow and helps it to spread smoother as well.
Types: When it comes to liner brushes, there are usually 2 types of liners – the script liner and the short liner.
Script Liner: Script liners are the kind of liners that have longer bristles than a regular liner and thus, are perfect for fine lettering.
Short liner: As the name indicates, a short liner has shorter bristles and thus, is great for creating smaller details like drawing eyelashes.
7. Bright Brushes
The bright brush is a short-bristle brush that resembles the flat brush since both possess flat ferrules. However, a bright brush is characterized by a flat ferrule with edges that are curved inwards at the tip, with shorter bristles. This usually differentiates it from a normal flat brush. Brights do not hold as much water as wash brushes and are thus ideal for acrylic, oil, and decorative mediums usually.
Uses: Bright washes are mostly used for blending paint and is ideal for controlled, short strokes. Since it works great with heavier and thicker colors, it acts as a great tool for working up close, for dry brushing, creating scratchy strokes, and dabbing (the short, controlled strokes). Very often, these bright brushes are also used to salvage any kind of messy painting as well.
8. Filbert Brushes
Filbert brushes are flat brushes that have longer bristles with rounded tips. With a thick flat ferrule, Filberts have chiseled round-edged bristles and can thus, contain a fair amount of water, making them perfect for washes. Since the bristles hold together when wet, these brushes are ideal for stroking and blending purposes as well. The hairs on the brush should be in an even oval-edged configuration, much like a cat's tongue, when viewed from the chiseled edge.
Uses: Filberts brush cannot be beat when it comes to being a tool for base coating, as the shape of the bristles eliminate all ridges. For figurative painters, Filberts are a top favorite as they can create a wide range of marks, from linear to broad, without a flat brush's square edges. Filberts are also used by professionals for blending as well as for applying washes of color, because of its capability to hold quite a fair amount of water. Lastly, Filberts are best suited for filling rounded areas and drawing rounded strokes for petals, flowers, leaves, and bird feathers too.
9. Mop Brushes
The mop brush is a member of the round family, created with soft, absorbent fiber, making it ideal for laying in larger portions of color on the canvas. Very often, people confuse the mop brush with a make-up brush as they look identical, so I'd advise you to keep an eye out for that. Mops are usually characterized by their thick and rounded nature.
Uses: Mop brushes are also ideal for washes and their soft bristles are perfect for softening the hard edges, blurring, and blending purposes as well. Due to their oval or pointed shapes, mop brushes can be used to create washes of colors with varying pressures and angles that can subtly change from narrow to broad, and vice versa. Mop brushes can also be used to absorb the extra water or paint from the canvas as well.
10. Rigger Brushes
Uses: Rigger brushes are very often the neglected brushes from a set as they’re not that useful for quintessential artists. However, for professionals or artists who deal with the natural arts of lettering art, rigger brushes are extremely useful. Riggers are usually characterized as thin rounds that have very long bristles. These brushes are capable of holding a lot of fluid paint and are ideal for creating smooth, long, continuous strokes on the canvas. Usually, rigger brushes are used to draw tendrils, delicate branches, and for the letter, calligraphic, and linear marks as well.
11. Sword Brushes
Yes, you read that right, the sword brush! A sword brush, as the name suggests, is a steeply angled brush, rather than being pointed, and the entire proportion of the brush looks just like a sword. It is a bit like a liner or rigger brush but does not have a pointed tip as they do.
Uses: Sword brushes are often used to pain extremely thin lines and intricate details, where only the tip of the brush is used. For a fluid, calligraphic mark-making, one can rotate the brush in hand while moving it across the canvas, by lowering or raising it as well. By holding the brush loosely in hand and, to some extent, letting it do what it wants, one can also get an expressive free mark, which is great for instance, drawing the many branches of a tree.
A water brush is quite a unique tool as it's a combination between a brush and a fountain pen. Its structure consists of a head that has a brush and a handle, which is the plastic reservoir of water. These two parts screw together and come apart with ease for quick refills. The water brush operates by a gradual and continuous trickle of water that comes down the bristles of the brush as it is being used, and more water can be used by squeezing the handle. The amazing part about this tool is that it makes a painting from a darker color to a lighter one very simple – all you have to do is keep painting, and the paint is then thinned with the extra water until all that's left is the water itself!
Uses: Waterbrushes are mainly used together with a mini travel watercolor set, for on-site sketching as it eliminates the need of a water container. These are also ideal for using with watercolor paints and pencils as well. Usually, a water brush cannot hold as much pigment as a sable brush does, but since its bristles are synthetic in nature, one can often pick up a lot of colors. A water brush is also very useful as it eliminates a lot of hassle for cleaning and refilling. To clean it, all you have to do is squeeze it gently to allow more water to pour out, and then wipe it with a tissue. It is also easy to refill it from a water bottle or a simple water tap.
When it comes to water brushes, different brands work differently. While some waterbrushes have an effortless, easy, continuous flow of water, others require a hard squeeze to get the water flowing. However, it is not recommended to fill the water brush with calligraphy ink or dilute watercolors as both of them might clog up the brush. Depending on the brand of the water brush, you may or may not be able to fill it with sepia ink without facing any issues as well.
13. Varnishing Brushes
A lot of people view the varnishing brush as an extravagant purchase, because if you need a large brush for varnishing a painting, why not just use a large paintbrush? Well, this notion is actually incorrect, because varnishing is one of the final tasks of painting and is integral to the final look of the painting as well. This is why a varnishing brush is more of a small investment if you're a serious painter. Usually, varnishing brushes are a big, flat brushes, at least a couple of inches wide (preferably five cms), a third of an inch thick (1 cm), and have long bristles. These can be either natural or synthetic hairs, but they are usually soft.
Uses: Well, a varnishing brush has a simple use, that is, to varnish a painting once it’s done. However, there are a couple of reasons why it is extremely useful for any serious painter. Firstly, a varnishing brush does not wear out frequently, which means you don't have to replace one anytime soon. Secondly, a good quality varnishing brush helps to ensure a smooth coat of varnish, and also, a varnish brush never gets tainted by paint! A great part about these brushes is the fact that almost all art stores or large art material stores have a wide range of varnishing brushes available. Thus, ease of access for you.
14. Trim Brushes
Yes, the trim brush does look very similar to the angled brush, but it has a very different use and is not a very common choice amongst artists. trim brushes are usually characterized by very short handles that provide the user with complete control over the brush.
Uses: The trim brush is designed to give better usability than an angled brush (or an angled sash brush) in such a way that it provides better control and complete the task faster. The short handle provides increased control while using the brush, which means that not only will you have more efficiency, easier maneuvering in smaller spaces, but you'll also get less fatigued while using it, and as a result, be able to work much faster.
15. Foam Brushes
Foam brushes are yet another uncommon preference amongst artists as they do not have much use with every painting job that one completes in their home. However, they are ideal for some specific situations where your tasks can become faster and easier.
Uses: Foam brushes are generally designed in such a way that they can hold a lot of stain, paint, and urethane. They are capable of producing a very smooth finish on a final project, but you do have to be careful not to leave behind air bubbles. As foam brushes are cheap and thus affordable, you can just throw them away once your job is done. Foam brushes are ideal for use on furniture, cabinetry, and trim purposes.
16. Stippler Brushes
Uses: Stipplers are the kind of paintbrushes that are mainly used for creating foliage and fur that helps to give a soft or open general appearance to a painting. A stippler is usually characterized by an oval body structure with tidy, flat bristles. Stipplers are usually used dry, and the amount of pressure one applies while stippling or pouncing will determine the overall color value and look of the painting as well. A stippler is usually available in a variety of sizes as well.
Deerfoot Stipplers: Deerfoot stipplers are a type of stippler that is also known as a texturing brush, mainly used for creating the foliage and fur. It gets its odd name from its appearance as the bristles are short on the heel and long on the toe, almost resembling Bambi's foot. A Deerfoot stippler can be used in both wet as well as dry conditions.
17. Filbert Rake Brushes
Uses: A member of the Filbert family, the Filbert Rake brush is quite the fun paintbrush for creating beards, fur, grass, feathers, hairs, and wood-grain. This is usually a flat texturing brush that is characterized by a naturally fingered oval shape. Due to these proportions, the Filbert Rake offers softer edges than those offered by flat Rakes.
When you're using a rake brush, be it a flat or a Filbert one, you have the option to thin your paint, depending on what effect you're trying to achieve. To get a lighter texture, you should apply very little pressure. It is recommended not to overload the bristles with paint as they're designed with the idea of maintaining them at a distance from each other. Filbert Rakes are available pretty easily in a variety of sizes.
18. Dagger Striper Brush
As the name suggests, the Dagger striper brush is usually a striper brush that is used for detailing and striping designs. The dagger striper usually requires a bit of practice at first because it often comes across as a very unusual brush, looking like a filbert brush but with half of the bristles completely missing! However, once you master the learning curve, this is quite a brilliant brush to work with.
Uses: The Dagger striper is a true multi-purpose gem of a painting brush. You can easily load this brush with several colors and create distinctive, beautiful petals and ribbons, as well as draw intricate stripes. A masterpiece!
19. Stencil Brush
Uses: Painting doesn’t always mean drawing on a piece of paper, or that paper is your canvas. Very often, walls and houses can be canvases as well, and in situations like these, the type of painting people do is usually what is known as stencil work. For stencil work, you will need the appropriate brush to get the work done, and the perfect tool for this is the stencil brush.
The stencil brush is very different in appearance and usage, as compared to the other paintbrushes. It is generally characterized by a round body shape with a bunch of bristles packed together in a very tight manner. These bristles are all of the same lengths and this allows the user to press paint against any canvas, normally the wall, as well as the stencil without any kind of worry regarding hassles caused by the bristles lifting the stencil sides and ultimately causing a big mess.
Now that we've covered all the basic brushes that are mainstream tools for all artists, be it professionals or intermediates, it is time to discuss the "honorable mentions," that is, the few brushes that are very rarely used but still are integral parts of the paintbrush family. Let's take a look!
20.Needle Pointed Brush
This is one of the funniest-looking brushes that you'll ever come across. It is a new kind on the block and quite quirky looking as well, characterized by a round body with a longliner, which extends through the end. The bristles are arranged in such a way that they are pointed and look like a needle almost!
As the shape of this brush indicates, it is mostly used for creating intricate effects, especially the ones like twigs and vines of a flower or plant. The round portion acts as a reservoir, loaded with inky consistency paint, and the liner helps to create smooth, delicate details on the canvas. You can have lots of fun experimenting with this one by holding it perpendicular to the canvas and applying various amounts of pressure to create newer strokes and lines.
The name itself is such a funny one that everyone loves saying it! Jokes apart, the fandango brush is quite the gem for drawings delicate lines in paintings. Made with fine hair, this brush has long bristles with shorter ones in between as well, all of them having to find points on their ends. The fandango does a great job holding an adequate amount of paint, and when you start drawing with it, you will notice that it does a great job creating fine lines on the surface, almost bringing your painting to life. Artists mainly use this brush to create feathers, furs, shrubs, grasses, etc., which is not usually possible with regular brushes, and the Fandango aces in it.
22.Whale’s Tail Brush
Yes, I know how weird the name sounds, but the Whale's Tail is a brush that does resemble the tail of a whale. This is basically a flat brush where the bristles are cut in such a shape that it looks like a "V". The Whale's Tail is usually used to create various one-stroke effects and usually results in a tulip shape when loaded with a couple of colors and fully pressed. You can draw layered petals, palm trees, plaids, and ribbons with this brush pretty easily.
The wave brush is also quite an uncommon brush, which is barely used by artists but still has a very important use when it comes to drawing various objects. The wave brush has scalloped bristle tops and is available in a number of sizes, cut in Filbert, Flat, and Angular shapes. With easy and quick strokes, you can easily draw leaves, flower petals, butterflies, simple birds, eyelet laces, leaves, woodgraining, and many more. You can also use this brush to stipple airy foliage, and light, as well as for some dry brushing techniques as well.
Lastly, the fountain brush. This is a paintbrush that not only looks but is pretty useful as well. The fountain brush has quite an interesting shape with a ring of bristles that have a center opening. Load this with color and spin it in a circle, and you'll have yourself a quick little rosette. Press it down firmly, and you'll have quirky petal shapes. With the fountain brush, you can also try your hand at pulled strokes, stippled foliage, feathering, and drawing beautiful waterfalls as well!
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