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 paintbrush! A paintbrush is a crucial tool for it gives life to their imagination. Every artist has an approach that is in line with their character making their art unique.

How you manoeuvred the paintbrush to create the magic spell in the painting?  An artist knows what kind of brush is needed to bring out their style in the painting. Hence, they choose their brush very carefully!
Today paintbrushes 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.

First, understand the different parts of a paintbrush.

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 paintbrushes 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 Shape

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 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 Brush Sizes

Types of Acrylic Brushes with names

Brush manufacturers do not follow any standard size chart for paintbrushes. 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

The brush handle is commonly made of wood. Nowadays you also get  handle  made from plastic or bamboo. Paintbrushes can have long and short handles. 

What is important than length is that the brush feels balanced in your hand. Different brushes tend to fit differently in the hand. Choose the brush which is comfortable for you while using it since you’ll be holding the brush for a period of time. So based on your style and personal preference, select the one that is suitable for you.

Long handles are double the size of the pencil. They are used 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 go well 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

The second name to synthetic is polyester, which is used to make synthetic paintbrushes. They come in a lot of variety and are suitable for use with all mediums. 

They're best suited for acrylics because they deal well with the chemicals present in acrylic paint.Many synthetic brush manufacturers will combine synthetic bristles with animal hair to create the best paintbrushes. 

Natural hair means animal hair brushes. They are expensive but can hold and apply paint that is not possible with synthetic brushes. Best suitable for water or poster color.  It's easy to ruin them with acrylic paints, so avoid using them acrylic paints.

Commonly used natural-hair bristles are the rigid hog bristle and soft sable for oil painting because they deal well with the thick texture of the paint. They also maintain their shape even after several applications.

Paint Brush Set

You will get an assorted brush of different sizes and shapes in a paintbrush set. They are for beginners, and hence the quality is average. Once you know which kind of brush you are more comfortable using, you can buy its superior quality.

Brushes are an investment, and they are expensive. In the start, keep it economical and purchase an acrylic paintbrush set. 

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 Brush Care

To ensure your brush stays functional for a long time, take care of them. When your brush is in good health, you can only then create beautiful art with no blockers in the way.  Remember some most important points:

  • Brushes with paint should not be left unattended for more than a few minutes because the paint will stick, and the bristles will harden
  • Do not cover the ferrule with paint
  • Do not let your brush sit in water for long, it will damage the shape of the brush
  • Always wash your brush thoroughly with water (and soap if required)
  • Never clean a brush with detergent. Use a brush cleaner

Yet, with the proper care, you can preserve them for ages! Some brushes are expensive, so it's worth spending time. 

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!

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