Paint brush are made by crimping the bristles or filaments to a handle by way of a ferrule. They come in different sizes, shapes, and materials. There are two main types. The first type is used to paint walls and buildings known as decorators’ brushes. The second type are known as artists’ brushes. Artists’ brushes are more designed for visual art, and they will be the focus of this article where I explain some details about acrylic paint brushes.
Anatomy of a Brush
Brushes are pretty much all made in more or less the same way. A brush ismade of bristles, a ferrule and the handle. The bristles are sometimes referred to as filaments as well. The bristles are what holds and transfers the paint to the painted surface. The ferrule is the metal sheath that holds the bristles and connects them to the handle by way of crimping. The handle is self explanatory. All three of these components can be made from various materials, but the only real concern is the type of bristles used. If you are painting with acrylics, it is best to get synthetic bristles like nylon or polyester because the acrylic paint will damage natural bristles over time.
Brush Shapes and Types
Below are the names and descriptions of the various brushes that are most common in acrylic painting. This is not a complete list of all the brushes out there, but they are the ones that I use often, and they will likely be easy to find in most sets or individually.
- Decorators’ – First I want to touch on quickly on the decorators’ brush as
I use a few different sizes of decorators’ brushes regularly. These are the wide brushes used to paint walls in your house. They can be very useful when covering large areas of the canvas like when filling the background color or the sky and water. I generally have a 1” and a 2” decorators’ brush on hand. They can come in handy when creating different textures as well.
- Fan – Fan brushes are very narrow when viewed on edge and “fan” out fairly wide when viewed face on. They are great for wide coverage and blending. They also create nice patterns when the brush is tapped on its edge or when just the corner of the brush is used.
- Flat – Flat brushes have longer bristles that come to chisel edge which is straight across and even. They can be useful for covering large areas with paint and making stripes and lines. They are meant for long strokes
- Bright – These brushes look much like the flat but have rounded corners with shorter bristles. They are used to paint thick and heavy colors using short controlled strokes.
- Filbert – Is a flat brush with curved edges, the next step beyond a bright. It is a combination of a flat and round brush as they are wide enough to get good coverage but can be used for detail as well.
- Angular – Like a flat in its chiseled shape but its bristles are shorter on one side than they are on the other. Good for coverage using the full width and fine lines using the edge or tip.
- Round – The shape is round tapering to a point at the tip. Used for detailed work, outlining and filling in smaller areas
- Pointed Round – Same as a round but thinner and a sharper point on the tip. Used for detail and thin lines.
- Detail Round – Short bristles with a fine point tip. Used for detail. This is as close to a pen as a paint brush gets.
- Painter’s Knife – I know its not a brush, but I am noting it here as I use a knife regularly when painting. They are used to mix paint as well as spread paint onto the canvas. Like peanut butter to bread. There are a couple different designs Some are known as palette knives which are primarily for mixing paint.
What Brushes Do I Buy?
If your pockets are full of money and you can’t wait to spend it, buy a nice variety or a set. If you are on a budget and just starting out, you really only need a couple of brushes. I suggest one Flat or similar (Angular, Bright or Filbert) and one Round. If you get a Pointed Round you will have more ability for detail. Also, as stated above, it is amazing how much I use a 1” decorators’ brush. But it is not necessary.
Long handle or short? That is up to you. Long handles may feel awkward if you are not used to them and short ones might feel like you are always on top of your canvas. It becomes a personal thing. For wider brushes I like long handles and prefer short handles when working in detail with smaller thin brushes.
There are many sizes of each brush from itty bitty to “why would anyone use that?” As a beginner find something in the middle.
As you paint more you will develop techniques and understand the different ways to use each brush and then you can expand your brush collection and techniques further down the line. Remember you don’t need to buy the most expensive thing out there.
By the way I own the set shown to the right. It is cheap ($19.99 CDN) and has a wide variety of brushes. The quality is not the top of the line but as stated they don’t need to be. You can find this set at Amazon.
Brushes? Who needs brushes?
There are many ways of putting paint to canvas besides brushes. Sponges can be used to make strokes or dab pretty designs. Bunched up paper towel can make some interesting patterns. Rags, butter and steak knives, twigs and wood, I have used grass! Let your imagination go and try something odd. It’s not crazy if it works! Don’t forget you have hands and fingers that work well too. I suppose you could try your feet if you were so inclined.
The point is get creative, you may find something that does what nothing else will do.
Did This Help?
This is not the bible of what is out there, but I hope it helped to educate you on the different brushes that are commonly used. If you found this helpful I would love to hear from you! If you think I missed something or you have questions, leave it in the comments section below, I try to respond to everyone. THANKS FOR READING!
UPDATE! Since I wrote this post I recently found a great starter set of brushes on Amazon. It includes the basics and a decorator’s brush AND a palette knife! It also includes a palette and other accessories. Check it out here!