• Justin Cooke

Brushes 1. Bristle brushes for oil and acrylic paints.

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Brushes I wouldn’t part with.

Firstly, the technical bit.

These are some of the bristle brushes you might use. You will find them in various sizes.

1. Round

The metal ferule is round/cylindrical shaped. The bristles usually are of an even length.

2. Flat

The metal ferule has been pressed so the bristles form a flat arrangement. The bristles usually have an even length in a square shape.

3. Filbert. Like a flat brush but the bristles have been pre-trimmed to give an oval shape. Why the name? well it’s thought the shape resembles a hazelnut (Filbert is an alternative name for a hazelnut).

The more you use brushes (particularly bristle brushes) the more they will wear down and adopt the natural shape specific to the way you use them. Much like an ink pen becomes unique to its owner.

Naturally, if you the pick up a brand new bristle brush you will probably want to trim it as close as possible to the shape you like and are used to. Scissors will now be a part of your painting equipment.

Many artists, myself included, have brushes so exquisitely worn – (you know the sort of thing, an unattractive stub of bristle) that they wouldn’t lend it to anyone. These are the brushes I use for drawing with paint. The paint is used quite dry and the brush behaves more like a soft pad. They are no longer best suited to applying paint. The only time I might use a brand new untrimmed bristle brush is if I am scooping large amounts of paint onto a canvas.

Everyday Brushes

Think of it this way. There are brushes of all shapes and sizes. Pretty soon you will know what you want for your everyday brushes; you will buy a fist full of brushes and prepare them yourself!

Here are some of my drawing brushes

These are some of my bristle drawing brushes, I also draw with soft hair brushes with a delicate, sharp point.

So why these brushes?

When I draw with them they give me the same feel as a stick of charcoal. This is a feel I am very used to. So it works for me.

Here is a warning though.

Just because you’re now trimming brushes doesn’t mean that you should dismiss the more pricy, quality brushes.

Yes trimming can help with a mass produced cheap bristle brush – but you cannot deny the real pleasure of those expensive brushes. You see, it’s not just the shape of the way the bristles are cut; it’s the quality of the bristle, the way in which they are fixed to the handle (whether it will moult hairs); the luxury of holding something with some weight to it. We’re talking craftsmanship here, and as with all top craftsmanship; you can feel the quality. Trimming these “specials” takes a bit of courage. Maybe…just let them wear in, naturally.

And don’t forget.

All those stray bristles that poke out sideways from time to time….if you don’t want them…trim them. But keep a few eccentric brushes. Those scraggy, scruffy, character brushes…you’ve gotta love em too.

Here are some of my more eccentric brushes.

Also: Those beautiful watercolour brushes and Chinese or Japanese brushes you may have…Don’t trim. Keep those scissors away! Try to look after the point as much as possible and just pick off any troublesome stray hairs. For more on watercolour brushes, see the watercolour brush pages.

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