artist’s tool kit – brushes
Word of the Day – Absorbency
Brushes hold a reservoir of paint, allowing them to be used for more than a few strokes. A brushes’ absorbency refers to how much paint and medium it holds. Natural brush hair is comprised of scales, increasing the strands overall surface area, allowing it to hold more paint and offering more control for thin applications of paint, as the flow of paint and medium occurs at a steadier pace. Natural brushes also have ‘flags’ which are similar to what we would call split ends. These flags also allow for even flow and distribution of paint. Recent innovations in creating and blending synthetic hair have been very successful at mimicking the effect of scales and flags and offer incredible absorbency, longevity and value based pricing. In some applications, a synthetic is the best choice depending on the technique and medium used.
Today I want to talk about the part of the brush that does the brushing; hair. Brush hair (often referred to as filaments or bristles) can be broken down into two main categories; natural and synthetic.
Natural is made from animal hair and ranges from very soft Sable to stiff bristled Hog. Sable is naturally conical in shape, has spring and tapers to a point, which makes it great for thin layers of paint and detail. It is costly and wears quickly. Stiff bristle brushes, like Hog, come in varying qualities and also have flags. Good quality hog uses strong, inward curved bristles, which stay in place and are great for pushing around heavier bodied paint.
Synthetic brushes come in a range of different shapes, styles and diameters. Certain types of synthetic hair are superior to natural hair depending on their construction and companies like Princeton are at the forefront of the synthetic hair revolution, creating brushes that perform like sable, titled, Syn-Sable and stiffer brushes with flagged tips, simulating natural hair. Recent innovations in brush making have resulted in unique blends of both synthetic and natural hair to create various effects.
Blending hair is an art form in itself and involves generations of experience. Below is a photograph of various brush styles from the Select #3750 brush line that are unique due the blend used to create them.
Rounds, flats, filberts, angles and wash brushes (standard shapes and sizes) within the same series are often comprised of the same blend for consistency and maximum performance. A great blend of synthetic involves knowledge of various hair diameters, interlocking, tapering and shape to create the right spring and ensure quality.
Bristle Bright (Bristle Basecoater)
I love this brush for my slip slap basecoats. When I undercoat a canvas or another surface, my initial coat is almost always done with a 4” foam roller to ensure an eggshell texture. The coats after that are done with the Bristle Bright or as I call it, Basecoater. It is a natural hair brush with flagged ends, holds a lot of paint and adds a soft texture to the acrylic undercoats.
Oval Mop (Ultimate Decoupage and Varnish Brush)
Is an innovative synthetic hair crimped to mimic the shape and movement of natural hair. This is an amazing brush for decoupage and varnish.
The Lunar is comprised of a blend of 50% stiff bristle and 50% synthetic hair, allowing paint to settle on the outside of the hair, while distributing evenly throughout the bristles for textured effects like drybrushing, foliage and I frequently use it for the fluffy areas of a bird.
Shop for these brushes at your local Princeton Artist Brush Co. Retailer.