Value Study painting by Lynnette Horn

Paintbrushes for the Acrylic Artist

One of the biggest mistakes I see beginning artists make is to short change themselves when it comes to supplies. They go on the cheap, buying a packet of assorted craft brushes and buying student grade paints. And then, they wonder why their paintings are not as they should be. Well, duh.

First of all, let me state that there are no magic brushes that will make your brushstrokes a thing of perfection. But, a good quality set of brushes will help you along your journey and won’t wear out nearly as fast. My rule of thumb has always been to buy as much quality as you can afford.

Just a side note about student grade paints–they contain more solids and filler than artist grade paints. If you are following a dvd or a painting pattern, and using student grade paints you will not be able to achieve the same look as the instructor’s. It will appear duller. If you don’t realize it is the paints, you may get discouraged and give up. Always use a good quality artist paint.

The next issue is deciding what type of quality brushes to buy. There’s so many to choose from–hog bristle, squirrel, synthetic, synthetic mix and nylon. No matter what they are made of, what is most important is the degree of softness. In the store, brushes will always feel a little stiff. they have sizing in them to help them keep their shape in shipping. brush your fingers along the chisel (which is the edge of the bristles) to break up the sizing, before you check for stiffness.

Oil painters usually choose the stiffest brushes that will allow their brushstrokes to be seen. Acrylic artists generally want softer brushes that will paint flat, yet have enough resilience to bounce back to their chisel point. Watercolorists use the softest brushes of them all. Personally, I use DecoArt Traditions Brushes, which are high quality brushes specifically made for acrylics. The Traditions line of brushes fill all my needs with a wide variety of liners, rounds, filberts, flats, angles, mops and blenders. If you are interested, they can be purchased from http://www.artapprenticeonline.com. By the way, I don’t receive a penny for endorsing them.

Not matter which manufacturer you go with, the cost may be prohibitive to buy the whole line. So the beginning artist should concentrate on buying the workhorses that will form the foundation for future purchases. Here is my list–stripped down to the bone essentials:

  • •big fluffy mop
  • •3/4″ or 1″ oval brush
  • •#3 round
  • •#4 filbert
  • •#6 filbert
  • •1/4″ angle
  • •1/2″ angle
  • •#10 dome blender
  • •3/0 liner or 0 liner
  • One step beyond bare bones is a #1 mini mop–I just love this brush and couldn’t leave it off, but absolutely necessary, well…

If I had to, I could get by with only these brushes, yet I rarely paint larger than 16″ x 20″ canvases. If you plan on painting mostly larger canvases, you might want to up the sizes a bit. As you learn different techniques from various instructors, you will want to add to this list. I recommend that you just go slow and only buy as needed. If you take care of them, they will last your a very long time. Tomorrow I will cover taking care of your brushes.

Do you have a favorite brush that would be on your bare bones list?

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8 thoughts on “Paintbrushes for the Acrylic Artist

  1. Joyce Powers

    Thanks Lynnette – I have a beginning painter friend and have been forwarding these blogs to her. Such wonderful information. Thanks,Joyce

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  2. Sheila Landry

    Hi, Lynette – I find that my 1/4″ angular shader is my MUST HAVE brush. I not only use it for shading, but I can use it for basing in small spaces and also line work and fur. (Yes – Line work!) If you get a good quality brush (I also LOVE and use the 1/4″ Angular brush by DecoArt Traditions) you can easily use the chisel edge to do line work. I just load the paint on the front corner and the ‘heel’ of the brush helps stabilize my stroke. I recently did my entire snow leopard pair painting using an angular shader, except for the background areas. People said they couldn’t believe that I only used that. I find the brush versatile and one that is essential to my painting tools. Thanks for a great post! I look forward to tomorrow’s entry! 🙂 Sheila

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  3. clarajteixeira

    I find this very helpful. Thanks for the info! I am a beginner of sorts in that I am starting back up after about a decade. I feel a bit rusty and am trying to find my favorite brushes again!

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      1. clarajteixeira

        Thank you! I have two smaller specialty art supply shops in my local town and they both carry quality supplies. I am taking money I have made from paintings I have sold recently to invest in better supplies. I will keep my eye out for this brand!

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