Art Paint Brushes – The Ultimate Guide

Study different kkind of art brushes and how to use them
What will a magician do without the magic wand! Likewise, what will an artist do without the paint brush! It's an essential tool that can make or break a painting.

The way you handle a paintbrush determines the outcome of the painting. Artists know which brush to use to bring their style in the painting. Therefore, they choose their brushes with great care.
Today paint brushes come in many shapes, sizes, and bristle types—and all of these qualities can be either a help or a distraction to an artist. If you are beginner and not sure what type of brushes to use, do not worry!. This article will help you learn about different types of paintbrushes, how are they used and how to take care of them.

Firstly, let's understand the different parts of a paintbrush.

A paint brush typically consists of three parts: the handle, the ferrule, and the bristles(tip and belly). The handle is the part that you hold onto while painting. It can be made of wood, plastic, or other materials. The ferrule is the metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle. The bristles are the part of the brush that comes in contact with the paint and the canvas.

Tip: This can be rounded, pointed, curved, or flat.

Belly: The bristles are either made from natural or synthetic hair

Ferrule: This piece connects the handle with the bristles

Crimp: Part of the ferrule which holds the handle

Handle: Body to hold the brush

Now find out the types of brushes and where to use them.

Types of Brushes

Types of Brushes

Different types of paint brushes for different mediums are available in the market. Let us talk about brush with soft and stiff bristles.

Soft Bristles for Oil and Acrylics

Soft bristles creates smooth strokes with no sharp edges. They glide smoothly on the surface. They are ideal for painting large areas and also makes blending easy with no obvious marks. 

You must use the right consistency paint though. Fluid paint will work best with them. Heavy body paint will not work, as the bristles will does not have enough strength to slide through. 

Ideal for mixing and filling large space. Brushes with thin hair are also great for making fine lines, grasses and some detail work.

Stiff Bristles for Oil and Acrylics 

Brushes with coarser bristles are a good choice for rough effects. They can also be used to create impasto layers. Hog bristles can be used with heavy body paint even though they will leave pigments over the bristles. 

They work very well with wet-in-wet technique. Hence they are good to work in layers. If you want to create scratch marks or uneven marks, take very less fluid paint in the brush and start working. 

Common Brush Shapes

Each shape is designed, keeping in mind the different styles and strokes required in a painting. Based on what stroke and style you want to create, select the paintbrush. Below are the most common type of brushes available.

1. Round

Paint Brush Round shape

When you think of painting, a basic brush that might come to your mind is a round brush. 

This standard brush comes in a teardrop shape with a soft round tip. Artists use this brush for many purposes, like filling gaps, small and bold strokes. The small round brush is used for intricate details and drawing. 

Then there is a unique round brush that comes with a blunt tip to give a variety of effects. It is commonly used with fluid paints and not thick paints.


2. Liner 

Liner Brush

This is a round brush with a sharp pointed tip. It is used for intricate work, outlining, and detailing. The handle of these brushes has a narrower design. 

Hence, when you hold it, you get the feeling of holding a pen. It is also used for lettering or numbering; given its sharp tip, it works just like a pen.

The very tiny round brushes are often labeled as riggers. They can hold a lot of paint despite being so thin. Use this brush when you need complete control over the fluid paint flow.


 3. Flat

Flat brushes have square, flexible ends and can hold a lot of paint. The brush comes with long and short bristles. They are very versatile and popular since you can create long and short strokes with one brush. 

Use it flat to create bold strokes; turn sideway to use it with a narrow edge for thin strokes. Hence, they are great for fine lines and curves too. 

The large, long hair belly brushes are used for washes and filling larger areas. Stiff bristles brushes make distinctive square edge marks giving a palette knife effect.   



 4. Bright 

Bright Brush

A bright brush is also a flat brush but with shorter bristles. They give better control and are used for short strokes as they can hold less paint at a time. Use this when you want to blend on a smaller area.

When used with heavy body paint, they  leave distinct square edge marks similar to palette knife.

You will also hear 'shader brush', which is typically a bright brush with longer bristles. 



5. Filbert Brush

Filbert Brush

A filbert is a flat brush with long bristles and has an oval-shaped head. You will notice it has a body of a  flat brush and a tip like a round brush. They can make a variety of marks, and hence it is a commonly used brush.

Similar to flat brushes, they can also be used for bold strokes. When used sideways, they create tapered marks with smooth edges. They are great for making linear strokes and blending colors without leaving clear marks.

The versatile filbert brush is an artist favorite.



 6. Angled Brush

Angled Brush

An angled brush is a flat brush with a slanted tip. Hence is also known as the slanted brush. 

It is used for painting clean curves, creating shapes and lines that vary in thickness and coverage. Thinner lines can be drawn using the tip of the brush.

They are ideal for sharp edges, creating zig-zag strokes, and double loading to get a mixed look. They work well for calligraphy. Angled paintbrushes are  comfortable for artists who paint on an easel. 


7. Fan Brush

Fan Brush

A fan brush is a specialty brush. It possesses a fan-shaped tip. 

They are not commonly used for painting but for a specific purpose like adding subtle highlights to darker regions, showing furry things, adding textural effects, often used for soft blending and smoothing.

Artists also use them to soften any hard edges on the painting. One can experiment with this brush. Use it as a brush or flick the paint on the surface to create a texture effect.

Paint Brushes Sizes

Types of Acrylic Brushes with names

Brush manufacturers do not follow any standard size chart for paint brushes. Hence, you have to check the bristle thickness before making a purchase.

The size of the brush is mentioned on the handle. The numbering starts from tiny ones, 000, 00, 0, 1, and goes up. Higher the number, bigger or broader will be the thickness of the bristles.

An artist should have small, medium, and large brushes in their toolkit. In practice, you should keep many medium to large size brushes as they are used more often.

  • Use small-size brushes for detailed work. 
  • Use mid-size brushes for color mixing and underpainting. 
  • Use big-size brushes for creating the initial wash, covering larger areas.

Some brush sets are diversified to include several sizes. 

Short and Long Handle 

Traditionally, paintbrush handles were made of wood, but now they can also be made from plastic or bamboo. Paintbrushes come with both long and short handles, and it is essential that the brush feels balanced in your hand, regardless of its length.

Every brush fits differently in the hand, so choose the one that is comfortable for you as you will be holding it for an extended period. Choose the brush based on your style and personal preference.

Long handles  are typically double the size of a pencil. They are ideal for painting on the easel. For example, when you are at a distance, like a little away from the canvas.

Short handles are usually pencil-sized and used when you are closer to canvas or for detailed work. You can get a good hold, and it's easier to control the movement. They work wel with acrylics and water colors.


The materials used to make the bristles, ferrule, and stick determine the durability. Artificial hairs are most durable.

Ferrules made from metals such as aluminum or nickel provide good protection, preventing the bristles from falling apart. The sticks are mainly wooden, but some form of the coat helps preserve the wood.

Synthetic or Natural Bristles

Natural vs Synthetic Paint Brush

Synthetic paintbrushes are often made from polyester, which gives them their name. They come in a wide variety and are suitable for use with all types of mediums. Synthetic brushes are especially well-suited for acrylics because they can handle the chemicals present in acrylic paint.

Many synthetic brush manufacturers combine synthetic bristles with animal hair to create the best possible paintbrushes.

On the other hand, natural hair brushes are made from animal hair. Although they are more expensive, they can hold and apply paint in ways that synthetic brushes cannot. They are best suited for watercolors or poster colors. It's important to avoid using natural hair brushes with acrylic paints because they can easily be damaged.

The two most commonly used natural-hair bristles are rigid hog bristle and soft sable. These are often used for oil painting because they can handle the thick texture of oil paint and maintain their shape even after multiple uses. 

Paint Brush Set

Single and assorted brush set, both are available in the market today. Generally, the paint brush set of assorted brushes are suited for beginners. You use always start with the assorted brush set and buy individual brushes when you know which kind of brush is best for you. 

Brushes are an investment, and they are expensive. In the start, keep it economical and purchase only a few of them. 

Paint Brush Storage

Paint Brush Holder with many brushes

To save your most important tool for a long time, keep them in a paintbrush organizer. Otherwise, they will probably go missing or get damaged. 

Buy a simple paintbrush holder, or you could even use an old mug where brushes can stand in it. Read Acrylic Painting Tips for an artist to get more suggestions.

Paint Brushes Care

Taking care of your paint brushes is crucial to ensure their longevity and to create beautiful art without any obstacles. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not leave brushes with paint unattended for too long as the paint can stick and harden the bristles.

  • Avoid covering the ferrule (metal part) of the brush with paint.

  • Do not let your brush sit in water for too long as it can damage the brush's shape.

  • Always wash your brush thoroughly with water and soap (if needed).

  • Use a brush cleaner instead of detergent to clean your brushes.

Proper care can help preserve your brushes for a long time, even if they are expensive. So, take the time to care for your brushes, and they will serve you well.

Steps to Clean Paint Brushes 

1. Wash the brush thoroughly, first in a jar, then under running tap water. Now try to remove the excess wet paint from the brush using a cloth or tissue paper.

2. Take soapy water to rewash the brush. Massage the brush gently by rubbing the bristles. Never use hot water to clean the brush.

3. Rinse and shake the remaining water out of the bristles. Store the brush flat by making sure not to bend the bristles or in a jar where brushes rest with bristles facing up.

4. Repeat the above process until there is no trace of color left. With time, the color gets stuck, and hairs get stained, but do not leave it like that. Stop, only you're sure there is no paint coming out of the hairs.

5. Now, use your fingers to bring the brush head in its correct shape. Leave the brush open and let it dry at room temperature. Store them in a jar with the head facing upward.

So use the above steps to keep your brushes clean and make them last longer for creating beautiful art!

That's all for now, thanks for reading!