Best Brushes For Oil Painting
Updated: Feb 28
Whether you’re a beginner painter or an experienced artist, the most important tools in your painting setup are paintbrushes. This blog post is dedicated to distinct types and shapes of oil paintbrushes. For best results, the artist needs to choose the best hair type, according to the technique, the style, and the consistency of oil paints the artist use. Brush “spring” and “shape” resiliency, a brush should have enough spring to respond well to your hand when you make a stroke, When bending the hairs, they should always spring back into position, a high-quality brush holds its shape when loaded with paint.
Parts of an oil paintbrush
"Any brush consists of three parts, bristles, ferrule, and handle."
These are the “hairs” that carry the paint. Bristles can be stiff hog’s hair or softer sable (or other soft natural hair) or synthetic, the ends should taper to a fine edge.
A metal band secures the bristles and connects them to the handle. Don't mix oil paint with a brush to avoid filling your brush with paint up to the ferrule, professionals use a palette knife for perfect oil paint mixing. If the paint dries at the ferrule juncture, it’s harder to clean and will spread the bristles, making the brush lose its point.
The artist may use a long or a short handle, wood or plastic. extra Long-handled brushes may allow Expressive artists to take a farther view to keep the composition in perspective. This crimping process bends the metal to shape and keeps the handle tightly attached to the brush. Once the paintbrush is assembled, it needs to be branded and tested. The size and logo of each brush are stamped in gold on the handle.
Types of hair used in oil paint brushes
Hog's hair brushes
Hog hair bristle has a unique remarkable brushstroke, stiff hog’s hair brushes (referred to as bristle brushes) enable the artist to adjust the color gradient on canvas, i.e., adding more pressure on the hog's hair bristle would blend two overlaying tones on the canvas.
Also, the Hog's hair brush's stiffness enables the artist to work with high-consistency oil paint, if the artist intends to create an oil painting with a remarkable texture.
While many other natural and synthetic hairs are used for brushes, nothing has quite matched the quality of sable. A brush head made from kolinsky sable, a Siberian weasel that's hair is said to cost three times the price of gold by weight, is the best for control and pinpoint accuracy. Kolinsky's hairs are chosen because every single strand has a surface of directional, interlocking scales, increasing the surface area and giving the hairs their strength. Once the hairs are cleaned and graded, it's time to start making the brush. The wool has to be removed with a comb, and the hairs are packaged, carefully boiled, and ironed. The making of Kolinsky Sable Brushes needs highly skilled brush makers, This skill takes years of training and practice.
Wet-point testing assures that everything works exactly as expected and there aren't any loose or crooked hairs. Each brush is then gummed, a process that gives the brush head its final shape and allows it to bounce back. The shape of the natural hair gives the brush a wide belly and a fine point. Kolinsky Sable has more snap and spring than the Red Sable. Both hold the same amount of pigment or liquid but the Red Sable does tend to wear down quicker.
Kolinsky Sable is the best hair available due to being conical in shape, and strong in character with a long tapered point and thick belly. Being widely used by leading design departments, with its beautiful tapered sharp point. The Kolinsky Sable Hairs are ideal for drawing and expressive work where continuity of flow is required.
Sable brushes are soft and perfect for finer details and smoother blending, and not suitable for adjusting the color gradient on canvas, the artist needs to fully adjust the color tones on the palette before transferring the paint to the canvas. Sable-type brushes are wonderful for oil painting. Just remember, if you work in both media, do not go back and forth between oil and watercolor with the same brush.
Synthetic Hair would be the best choice for durability and economic prices. because synthetic brushes have bristles constructed with man-made hairs of nylon, polyester, or other synthetic materials. Natural brushes are not easy to clean as hold paint on its bristles. And thus, continuous washing of these brushes might lead the quality to deteriorate. Since Synthetic Brushes are less likely to trap paint, it is easier to clean.
Oil paint brush shapes
Fan, A fan-shaped arrangement of bristles. meant to be used for blending and subtle texture, to give the best results, the fan brush works well with thin paint.
Round, Smaller rounds are great for detail.
Flats, rectangular brushes. Longer flat brush hairs carry more paint, so flats can cover more area per load. Held flat against the canvas, it creates smooth edges and sweeping strokes. Used on edge, relatively thin lines are possible.
Filberts, This is like a flat but with rounded sides, so it creates a softer edge better than a flat brush.
Oil paint brush sizes
Brushes are numbered low to high, 0000 (or 4/0) being less than 0, and up to 24.
Different brands will vary somewhat, so a No. 6 from one might be slightly larger than a No. 6 from another. In oil painting, large bristle brushes are best for washes and broad areas of backgrounds. Mid-size bristle brushes with sharp edges can also be used for some detail. Finer details are best accomplished with small, round, sable brushes.
Clean oil painting brushes with turpentine after each painting session, and wash with diluted alkali(0.1% Sodium Hydroxide NaOH) every 10 sessions. Notice, natural hair brushes are sensitive to alkali-based cleansers.