Searching the forums for the keyword 'brush' brings up a lot of small tidbits of information, but the "what brushes should I buy" threads are numerous, and scattered here and there. So I thought I'd make a unified round table thread for information on brushes, beginning with some copy-pastes from the other threads, and hopefully continuing with a lot of discussion from the pros.
I'm not starting this thread because I know a lot about brushes, but for the exact opposite reason: I don't know much at all. My hope is that this thread might become a one-stop resource for brush basics, manufacturer reviews and related discussion.
Just to clarify, in case someone still hasn't understood: this is about brushes as used in traditional media, not PS or Painter brushes. Also, when I've been searching for information, I've mostly been concerned with brushes for oil painting. Information related to painting in acrylics, watercolours or any other medium is of course just as welcome!
Ok, so some basics on brushes. Any normal brush is made up of three parts. The handle, the hairs, and the thing holding them together, most often called the ferrule, but I guess since it's not always made of metal, it can be called something else.
(Image taken from here.)
The hairs can be natural or synthetic. The most common natural hairs used in oil painting is hog bristle and sable. There are also brushes with hairs from many different animals, like camel, pony, squirrel, mongoose. The staple brush for the oil painter is the hog bristle brush.
When talking about round or flat brushes, you shouldn't (as I did before) think about the point of the brush, but rather the ferrule. A flat brush has a flat cross section, and the ferrule is squeezed together where it holds the hairs. A round brush has a cylindrical ferrule all the way.
Can you spot the one round brush?
Here's a couple good posts about brushes, along with links to the original threads:
Here, DSillustration talks about the difference between bristle and sable:
"What brushes are good depends often on the way you paint...
not the brand you paint with.
Different brushes do different things.
if you paint on really rough surfaces (like a course canvas), natural sable brushes will fall apart rather quickly.
Instead, try using bristle brushes.
They are great when laying in fast areas.
Soft brushes are reserved for a smoother stroke.
Personally, I like synthetic sable.
It lasts longer that a natural sable and can take a lot more abuse.
For both I prefer Utrecht Brand brushes.
They are the generic brushes the store makes, but I like them more than any others I've tried.
(and I've tried just about everything)
For the cost, they are awesome.
Here's a link to the ones I use:"
This thread contains some good discussion on brushes, particularly this post by Elwell:
"On a good, well made round brush, the point on a #10 is the same as a #00. Shorter hair is easier to control, but you reach a point where a brush is just too small to carry enough paint.
Also, it's important to suit the size of the brush to the size of the area or form one is painting. It's simply inefficient to have to put down five strokes to cover an area when one will do.
Finally, flats and filberts are much more useful in the early stages of a painting. Keep the rounds in reserve for as long as possible, you might be surprised by how much you can accomplish without them."
Some more links to good threads on brushes:
Non toxic brush cleaner
Paint Brushes - Storing and Cleaning
Glazing Brushes for Oil
How do you clean varnish brushes?
Using same brushes for oils and acrylics?
My paint brushes aren't reusable
How to clean my brushes from acrylic paint?
Questions on Acrylic paints/brushes/palettes for human figure work
Question about using Brushes with different mediums
Questions about Oil Colors, Brushes and more..
oil paints and brushes
Opinions on brushes from 1898
A lot of these threads touch on washing your brushes. There's a lot of different ways and opinions on this. I'm still not sure what is the best way, but I guess everyone has to test what works for them. Most methods seem to agree on the soap and water in the end. But some dip the brushes in a solvent first to get off the excess paint, some dip them in oil, some just wipe them off on a rag. Some wipe them off and let them stand in oil between uses, and only washes them thoroughly maybe once a week or so. Some does that after every use. Opinions please!