Monday, August 14, 2017

Brushes for water media

Betty-Jane Moss asks:
Would you advise using different brushes for the different kinds of water-based paints (casein, gouache and the transparent watercolor)?

Betty-Jane, the quick answer is yes: If you're painting in casein, use only synthetics; don't use natural hair brushes (bristles or sables) because the ammonia in the paint can be hard on the fibers. If you're using gouache or watercolor, you can use any kind of synthetic or natural brush.

I usually carry a mix of flat and round brushes, but the ones I use most are a 3/4" and 1/2" flat and a #10 synthetic watercolor round.

Synthetic options
A good bargain is to get a watercolor brush set with carrying pouch (regular length handles) or a short-handled water media brush set with carrying case. The folding case will fit over the left hand page of the open sketchbook.

There are a lot of other brands available, everything from very expensive Kolinsky brushes to cheap brush sets from big box craft stores.

I don't think you have to spend large amounts of money. I find a good brush, I buy a few extras to have on hand. I've found brushes of acceptable quality at the big box craft stores for very reasonable prices, but you have to check them out. What you want to look for are brushes that have good spring or snap, not floppy. The brush should come to a fine point — or edge in the case of a flat. That way you can use a fairly large brush to paint your picture.

Natural hair brushes
If you're using watercolor or gouache, you can use natural hair brushes. I like sable flat brushes, such as: 1/2-inch  and 3/4-Inch size, and I use them especially for laying down big washes. The sable flats hold more water usually don't hold as sharp an edge as the synthetics.

For laying bigger washes and wetting the paper, a Cat's Tongue Wash Brush is a good tool. It has a flattened ferrule similar to a filbert brush.

If you like watercolor techniques where you wet large areas, a squirrel mop brush

Round Kolinsky sables are wonderful, and will hold a point for a long time if you take good care of them.
Winsor and Newton Series 7 
Richeson Siberian Kolinsky brushes
Escoda Optimo Kolinsky
Da Vinci Maestro Series Kolinsky Red 

If you have a very compact kit and can't carry a box of brushes, you might want to use a Escoda Sable Round Travel Brush, which safely stows the brush tip inside the handle. The Rosemary brush company in England also makes a set of "reversible" "folding" "pocket" "travel" brushes.
Previous posts on GurneyJourney:
Review: Richeson Travel Brush Set
Check out my feeds at InstagramPinterest, FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.


David Webb said...

I'm a big fan of the squirrel mop brush for watercolour. It's biggest advantage is that it holds lots of water, even more than sable, and is great for doing skies or any large wash.
One thing that does make it less popular with some is the fact that it doesn't spring back into shape like a sable or synthetic. It tends to be a bit floppy. However, it's worth persevering and, if you can get past this, they are lovely brushes to paint with.

K_tigress said...

That's all we have around here cheepo big box stores. Even the local mom and pop shops resort to cheep quality brushes. I'm thinking of making my own fine brushes out of collected animal hair I salvaged from my cat's dinner. I'm going to use epoxy glue to bind the hairs. I wonder if that is going to be a problem if I decide to use a brush cleaner?

James Gurney said...

K_TIGRESS, you can get pretty good brushes at the big box stores. The brushes I use a lot are from a set of four brushes I got for less than $10 at Michaels. Their biggest problem is that the ferrule falls off and needs to be glued on better. I've tried making brushes out of dog and cat hair, but I found the hair was way too soft. I'm sure there are brush making tutorials online.

K_tigress said...

Thank you for your input. :)
However I do already have those type of brushes and are quite useful. But I found that Its really hard to find a great fine brush with in my local area to do specific thing cause after awhile it wears out too quickly or just doesn't do it for my liking the way I use to get. So yeah, gonna try my hand at making one. Eventually. :)