The Purpose of Different Paint Brushes 1

Many beginner and even advanced painters are often overwhelmed by the wide selection of paint brushes available on the market. Because of the plethora of choices, artists often get stuck in ruts where they only work with one or two brushes most of the time, when this can greatly hinder their creative ability. Learning the purpose of each brush and how to use it properly can open up doors to more innovative works of art.


Almost every painter is familiar with traditional sable brushes. However, here are a few lesser known brushes that are fantastic to work with:

  • Squirrel hair brushes- super absorbent brushes that hold a great deal of paint; creates a clean smooth stroke with its soft-end bristles
  •  Ox hair brushes- strong, durable brushes with a thicker tip than sable brushes; can be used to add different textures to paintings
  • Goat hair brushes- extremely soft bristled brushes that are used in blending
  • Camel brushes- unlike goat hair, ox hair and squirrel hair brushes, camel brushes are NOT made from the animal the brush is named for; made out of the scrap hair leftover after creating other hair brushes, camel brushes are a mixture of hair types, which is why these lesser known brushes are good practice brushes, because they are usually the most cost-effective hair brushes on the market

Just like there are different types of brushes that affect the way a painting looks, the shapes of the brushes also have a big impact on the overall look of a piece. Typical shapes for paint brushes include blenders, brights, filberts, and riggers. Blenders are fan-like, rounded brushes used to smooth and blend paints. Brights are short, flat brushes ideal for thick paint and wide paint coverage. Filberts are flat brushes with a curved end. These brushes can be used to blend and hide brush strokes. Riggers are long, rounded brushes with bristles that come to a pointed tip. Riggers are used most commonly in watercolor painting and oil painting.

Paint brushes are an investment, and you want to get the most for your money you possibly can. If you care for it properly, a good brush will serve you for many years. Always be sure to clean your brushes properly, dry them properly and condition them as needed.

Now that you know a little bit more about your brushes, whip out your easels and start painting!

Kathy O.

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