Paintbrush shapes: A brief guide

Paintbrush shapes: A brief guide

Paintbrushes. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

For an artist, a paintbrush is one of the most important tools. It is considered as every artist's magic wand. As much as paint or canvas is viewed necessary, one also requires a paintbrush to complete most of the paintings.

The thought of going over to a store and buying a paintbrush may seem easy but it is not so. Paintbrushes come in an array of styles, shapes and sizes. Each of these characters gives a different painting effect. It is important to know the different shapes of brushes and their uses. It helps painters try and figure out their own method of using a brush to their advantage.

Brushes start from the size 000 then going on to 00, 0, 1, 2 and so on. With the increase in size, brushes get bigger and wider. The first thing to remember is that there is no consistency in the size of the paintbrush between different brands. The size of a No. 5 brush may differ from the No. 5 of another brand.

There are three parts of a brush that one should be familiar with:

1. Bristle: The part of the brush that transfers paint onto the surface. It can be made of different materials such as synthetic, nylon, natural hair etc.

2. Ferrule: It is the metal part of the brush that attaches the bristle to the handle.

3. Handle: The handle is the long wooden or fibre part which acts as an interface between the artist and the brush. One needs to know that the lighter the handle the better it is for painting.

Here are some of the commonly seen brush shapes:

Shapes of paintbrushes. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Different shapes of paintbrushes. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

1. Round: The round shaped brush is pointed at the tip and has long closely arranged bristles. It is good for sketching, outlining or creating detailed work. It is capable of creating thick lines when pressed down.

The pointed round brush is narrower than the round paint brush. It is good for fine details and lines. It is also ideal for spotting and retouching.

2. Flat: The flat brush has a square end and medium long hair bristles. It is useful for spreading paint quickly. It is mainly used for filling wide spaces and bold strokes. The long-haired flat brushes are good for varnishing.

3. Bright: The bright brush has shorter and stiff bristles. It is flat with edges curved inwards at the tip. It is used for short and controlled strokes.

4. Filbert: A filbert is a flat brush with oval-shaped ends. It is excellent for blending colours. For instance, it can be used to paint the soft round edges of flower petals.

5. Fan: The fan-shaped brush is flat and the bristles are spread wide. It is usually made of natural hair and is good for smoothing and blending. It can be used for painting grass or to add the effect of flowing water.

6. Angle: Angular brushes are flat with angled bristles at the end. They are ideal for filling corners and can reach small areas with their angled tips. They can be used to attain curved strokes.

7. Rigger: Riggers are round brushes with long-haired bristles. They are useful for painting fine lines.

8. Wash brush: A wash brush is a wide brush that is used for basecoats, backgrounds and to cover large areas of the paint surface.

9. Mop brush: The mop brush has a rounded edge and is good for soft application of paints. It does not damage the lower layer of paints. 

Brush care tips:

1. The first rule that one has to remember is do not let the paint dry out on the brush.

2. Do not let the paint get on the ferrule and also be careful after washing. Do not let either water or paint get stuck between the ferrule and the bristles as it results in shedding of the bristles. It also causes fanning of the brush.

3. Do not pull out the hair of the bristles. When the hair of the brush is disoriented, the artist cannot get the desired strokes.

4. Always keep the bristles of the brush facing upwards. If not, the bristles tend to get damaged.