How to choose your Paintbrushes for Acrylic.

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

When you are a painter, one question remains; how to choose the perfect paintbrushes.

Artist paintbrushes become beloved tools with time. As you paint, you will begin to be more and more familiar with how your brushes handle the paint and what they can do for you. Very soon, the brush will become a part of you and you will know how to use it. It will be your 11th finger.

The different mediums used to paint - watercolor, acrylic painting, oil painting - suggest to paint with different brushes. Each technique and every method involve choosing different brushes, depending on their bristles, their handle, the end of the brush, the shape, weight or size. When buying your paintbrushes online or in an art store, choosing can be daunting. You face thousands of shapes, sizes and prices. To simplify the process of choosing your paintbrushes, there are two key options: the type of bristles and the shape.

It is very important to use good quality brushes and paint, but you also need to choose the best type of paintbrush adapted for the subject of your artwork.

Painting: anatomy of a brush, how to choose.

Each part of the brush will influence the style of the artwork:

  • The hairs or bristles

  • The handle

  • The shape

  • The size

  • The weight    

The anatomy of the paintbrush and the functions performed by each part of the brush.

The handle. You'll notice that some paintbrushes for acrylics have short handles while others have long handles. Brushes with longer handles are useful for easel work, when you want to paint from a distance that allows you to see the whole work at once. Small and short brushes should be used for small areas and details. Usually made from painted or varnished wood, it can also be made from plastic.

The handle must be nice to hold and comfortable.

Hairs and Bristles. Paintbrushes are made of natural hair or synthetic bristles. The emulsion from the acrylic paint may damage the quality of brushes with natural hair over time. Plus, they don't like to sit in water. This is why I recommend the use of synthetic bristles for acrylic painting. Made of nylon or polyester, they offer a resistant and soft fiber. Multi functional, they are perfect to paint thin lines, regular or bold strokes as well as creating and impasto technique. They are easier to clean, and don't mind sitting in water.

The shape of the brush. For acrylics, there are 8 main shapes, each suited to different techniques and levels of detail. Different types of shapes will change the way the paint is applied on the canvas. Creating blending strokes or working with precision will require different paintbrushes shapes. There are two main brush shapes: (1) Rectangular and flat, and (2) round and pointed.

  • Detail Round: thin with long bristles, great tool for painting lines or text.

  • Pointed Round: for flat areas and background colors.

  • Flat: long bristles and square ends. They hold a lot of paint and are very useful to cover a big area of paint, or the background.

  • Round: round or pointed tip. Useful for details and lines or edges, small ones are great for finishing touches.

  • Bright: they will be used for glazes and finishing.

  • Filbert or Almond: rounded ends that make soft strokes, good for blending.

  • Angular: the bristles are angled. Great if you are painting on an easel and it gives you better control than flat brushes doing thinner lines.

  • Fan: to create melting, glazes and fading.

Choose your brushes according to your style.

The artist, when choosing his brushes is wondering: which paintbrush will enhance my way of painting? Which brush will be the best for my painting workshop?

It is good to have a variety of brushes of different shapes and sizes. As your skills broaden to encompass different techniques, you'll need to accumulate more brush types - but if you're a complete newbie you can start off with as few as two brushes: a mid-sized flat brush and a mid-sized round brush. Sets of brushes often provide variety; however, avoid the very inexpensive hobby brushes as they wear out quickly and easily breakdown.

When painting, your brushes are your working tools. It is very important to use good quality brushes and good quality paint, but also to choose the best type of brush for the task at hand.

Some brushes to include in your art kit are:

One each of the following (seven to eight brushes are ideal):

  • 1 gesso brush (can be purchased at a hardware store)

Round Brushes:

  • Medium to large

  • Medium synthetic

  • Fine synthetic

  • Very fine synthetic

Flat Brushes:

  • Medium to large 1”-2” width

  • Small synthetic 1/2” width

Soft hair or Stiff hair? Which one to choose.

Acrylic paints are softer than oils, but thicker than watercolors, so you will need different brushes. In fact, the harder the hair is, the better it spreads the paint, but sometimes it leaves visible strokes, even scratches on the canvas; perfect for creating an impasto effect. The hard-bristled brush is also more rigid than a soft bristle, it can quickly become a brush similar to a toothbrush. The soft bristles will give you smoother brushstrokes, with more blending options as well as glazing. It will glide on the canvas and absorbs more paint and water.

Paintbrush brands

Beginners can buy some relatively inexpensive brushes. It will be better for the novice artist not to buy too many accessories at first; you do not want to be overwhelm or spend extra money. The prices of the brushes will usually run from $4.00 to 60.00

Loew Cornell, Grumbacher, DaVinci, Mont Marte, Royal & Langnickel, Jerry Q, LorDac, Blick, Princeton, Raphael, Winsor & Newton... Many brands offer a wide variety of brushes.

Some brushes cost more than $320 a piece!

How to clean your brushes

Every artists should take care and maintain their material. I am giving you some tips to ensure the health of your brushes.

  1. Remove as much excess wet paint from the brush as possible, either by rinsing or wiping it with a cloth or a paper towel.

  2. Massage the bristles with hot running water. If the paint has already begun to dry, use a stiff brush or hair comb to loosen and get rid of any build up paint.

  3. Wash in soapy water. Carefully clean the brush in warm, not hot, soapy water and gently wash the hair. I like to "brush" circles in the palm of my hand, making sure the soapy water gets into the hair.

  4. Rinse and dry. Rinse and shake the remaining hair and store the brush flat or standing in a glass, make sure you do not bend the hair. The storage area should be cool and dry, away from any source of heat.

The brush will be your magic wand to apply enchanting colors to the canvas.

Click here to discover my acrylic workshops!