Oil Painting Materials

Oil Paint Brushes

Good Brushes Make Good Paintings

Who knew the brushes are the most important part of your equipment. A good painter will always have difficulty painting with bad brushes. A good brush for oils keeps it shape when loaded with paint and bounces back after each stroke. A bad brush does not return to its original shape was loaded with paint and worst of all it doesn't bend.

Different Brush Chair for Different Purposes

The two types of hair used in oil painting are bristle hairs from pigs and sable hair from the weasel like Sable. When you are painting you start with large areas. Bristle brushes are best in sizes of half inch wide or larger so they are used to begin a painting. Whole paintings can be painted using only bristle brushes but if you then switch to finer detail and smaller areas, you may want to switch to a sable brush. Sable brushes are best in sizes 1/2 inch in width or smaller. Sable brushes are the detailed brushes and they are made for watercolors because they usually lack the spring needed for painting with oils.

Long Handles Balance the Brush

Oil painting is usually made with longer handles and watercolor brushes or house painting brushes. These other brushes are ideally used in a vertical position with the painting surface horizontal. Liquid always goes downhill so a short handle shifts the balance toward the front of the brush so the paint will flow more easily. Oil painting brushes are used in horizontal positions where the painting surface is vertical. The oil paint doesn't flow. When you hold your oil painting horizontally the long handle serves to balance the brush in your hand.

Imitation Hairbrushes Can Also be Good

Many brush manufacturers make brushes that imitate the quality of bristles and sables at a lower cost. These include nylon hair, horsehair and mongoose hair. None of them are as good as sables and bristles but they can come close.

Brushes Come in Different Shapes and Sizes

The most common shape are in flats, filberts, brights and rounds brushes. The numbers on brushes vary widely so just look at the size of the brush instead of the number.

Brushes and Their Strokes


Artisans Gallery - Flat Paint Brushes

A flat rush has hairs arranged in a rectangular shape and it's longer than it is wide. From the side it is narrow. The flat is the most versatile of all brushes and you could make a broad stroke, a narrow stroke, a little twist and a triangular stroke. This is your primary blending brush.


Artisans Gallery - Filbert Paint Brushes

A Filbert looks like a flat with rounded corners. The stroke is oval-shaped or half circular. They are used to gain a softer edge or for smaller blends.


Artisans Gallery - Bright Paint Brushes

A bright is a flat except the hair is shorter in the side view is narrower. A bright is when you want your brushstrokes to show. They tend to put the pain on thickly and when you work it too hard it will move as much paint as you apply. The bright is short and therefore stiffer than a flat, which gives you more control of your stroke.


Artisans Gallery - Round Paint Brushes

Many can use rounds successfully for their entire painting, as they are less versatile than the other brush shapes because a little variation in the size and shape of the stroke is possible. Rounds are most often used with sable hair and their use for small details and line work.

Varnish Brushes

Artisans Gallery - Varnish Brushes

These are soft sable light brushes that are used for varnish and retouch varnish. Clean the brushes with turpentine then wash them in soap and water.