If you have ever stood in an art store paintbrush aisle, you know how overwhelming selecting brushes can be. There are brushes for every medium, synthetic and natural brushes, and brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have a variety of brushes but in truth I only use a few.
Here are some tips for selecting brushes:
- Round brushes are the most commonly used brushes for painting in watercolor
- Thick and thin. If you could only buy two brushes I would recommend a medium sized round brush for larger areas (like a 6 or an 8) and a thinner round brush (like a 1 or 2)
- Natural vs. synthetic. Synthetic brushes tend to be more affordable and are a good option (especially when you are just starting out.)
Over time I’ve learned:
- Flat brushes are great for horizontal lines. I use flat brushes for certain details when painting seascapes.
- Very thin brushes (less than 1s) are great for fine lines and detail.
I rarely use bigger brushes (10+). I may use them to wet a background or to paint a gradient in the sky but I primarily use size 8 and smaller. It’s a personal preference that may have to do with the size of the paintings I most commonly create (8”x10”). My choices may also have to do with style I paint in. Some artists paint in a looser style perhaps using larger brushes, and some in a much tighter more realistic style, perhaps using thinner brushes.
There are also specialty brushes for creating certain types of lines like a fan brush. More often than not, I stick with the brush in my hand instead of switching brushes.
Caring for your brushes:
- Wash your brushes and lay them flat to dry on a paper towel.
- Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water. It will cause the paint on the brush to chip off.
- Use an old brush to reactivate dried out paint. I’ve squeezed my paint into a palette. When I want to use a color, I mix it with water. To protect my newer brushes I use an old brush to stir the water into the dried out paint.
The more you paint, the more your own personal preferences and brush needs will emerge. Start with a few round brushes and add from there.
If you missed the last Watercolor Basics post you can read it here –> Watercolor Basics – Paper 5 Tips.
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