View Full Version : Paint brushes! (what kind and brand)

03-08-2012, 03:07 PM
We use ARTistic Pursuits as our main art curriculum and each child has a box with material needed (all of my kids have an IKEA plastic box with the supplies listed for their art lessons, this way we save time and conflicts)
I bought most of my supplies at Dick Blick since they had convenient links to the needed materterial, so I use the Dick Blick paint brushes for the curriculum since these where listen in the links, I like these, but my kids can only use them for there ARTistic Pursuit assignments (since they keep these brushes in their art boxes)

But for 'free' painting I bought a big supply of cheap paint brushes.
The problem now is: I'm running out of paint brushes! the cheap ones didn't last very long.

So I'm planning to buy new paint brushes, lot's of new paint brushes.
I thought it would be easy, just order a classpack 'non-cheapo' brushes and be done with it.
But it's not as easy as it looks, especially since my children really love paiting and are very good at it, I want to buy them the right brushes for the mediums and techniques they are using and their age/grade/level

But now I'm lost.

I hope someone here on this board know a little (or maybe a lot) about paint brushes and can give me some advice on buying the right ones.
Here's the situation:

- 5 middle/high school aged
- 5 Elementery school aged
- 2 Kindergartners
- 1 PreK
- 3 toddlers (2.5 year old twins, and Abby will be 1 year old next month)

At the moment we use:
- Tempera (Crayola Washable, Crayola Premier, Prang, Jazz Gloss)
- Tempera Cakes (Richeson)
- Watercolor Pans (Prang Washable, Crayola, Winsor & Newton, Pelican Opaque)
- Liquid Watercolor (Reeves)
- Oil paint (Reeves)
- Acrylic paint (Crayola)
- varnishes, gesso, glue, glitter, ink etc.

Different brushes
This is where I lost it: white taklon, golden taklon, pony, camel, hog, sable, nylon, natural, synthetic, round, flat, wash, hake, bright, fan etc. all in different sizes.
The different brands: Blick, Royal, Reeves, Dynasty, Nasco, Crayola, Big Kid's Choice, Princeton, Da Vinci, Grumbacher, Winsor & Newton...
The different grades: Artist, Student, Scholastic, Economy, Short Handle, Long Handle, Stiff, Firm, Medium Soft...


I really would like to invest in some good brushes for my children, my kids are creative and talented and right now are frustrated because of the cheap brushes.
Buying Class Packs, Canisters, Boxes, Sets would me the most convenient option for me, but what to choose?

03-08-2012, 03:45 PM
Cheap brushes will make painting way harder than it needs to be, plus they fall apart and you end up with bristles in your work. I think that student grade would be what you are looking for, and if taken care of would last a very long time.

This chart has a decent overview on the types and shapes of brushes.

To cover the basics you want a couple of sizes of the square brushes, maybe a very soft filbert edge, an angled brush, and a few of the round tip ones....small medium and large. I might also go with a larger square one for back round painting, maybe a 1 inch, depending on how large your pieces are.

For watercolor you really want very soft bristles, I prefer the natural ones, but I am not sure I would bother for kids since they are so expensive.

For tempera and acrylic I really like the white synthetic sable brushes, I think they would be just fine for watercolor too, as long as you rinse them really well after each use.
You could supplement with one or two larger natural bristle brush for wetting/washing large areas for water color.

Nice paper also makes a huge difference with watercolor, as well as taking the time to soak it and tape it to a board, this keeps it from warping and bubbling so much causing your paint to run and pool where you don't want it to.

Watercolor pencils are also a really cool medium and great for doing detail work.

I confess to preferring the liquid acrylic paints from hobby lobby and other craft stores, they are cheap and come in a million colors and are really easy to work with and usually mix really well to get the shade you are after. They are thinner so you could easily use watercolor type brushes with them with no problem.

I don't know much about oil, other than that you will need a separate set of brushes. I think stiffness will probably depend on how thick you use the paint. Once again I would get the highest grade brushes you are willing to pay for.

I personally like the Robert Simmons brushes, I have both the white sable, the sienna and the green handled expressions. They aren't too expensive and perform well while being sturdy. Dick Blick doesn't seem to have a large package of these, but somewhere else might.

03-08-2012, 04:00 PM
Dick Blick's synthetic brushes (red handle, white bristol) are pretty good general all around brushes. Get some brush soap also--it will keep the bushes conditioned so they last longer. For the art I do, I use almost exclusively the round brushes as small as I can get them (and have been known to use a single cat hair), but general sizes from a 1 up are great for most things. The DB 1 brush has a good enough point you can do detail work with it as long as you keep it clean and conditioned.

03-08-2012, 05:50 PM
I worked in an art supply store for nine years. I'm also an artist by profession. I mostly work with acrylics on wood or metal, which means I need to find a good quality brush that will stand up to the harsh treatment of painting on these surfaces, but that's cheap enough that I can afford to replace them when they wear out. Working on substrates other than paper or canvas is very hard on brushes. I've also worked a lot with watercolors and gouache. I've used oil, but not lately. :)

I can tell you in detail the differences in all the bristle types, brush shapes, etc.--but I think that will take far too long. I bet Dick Blick has that info on their website somewhere, though.

Short version:

Watercolors, tempera: natural or synthetic bristles, short handle

Acrylics: synthetic or hog bristles, short handle

Oil: natural bristles, usually hog are most common, but synthetic is okay too, long handle

The different shapes to the brush will give different effects when used. Round and flat are most common, and are probably all you need for now.

(The long and short handle thing can be personal preference, but usually, if you find a long handled brush, it was made for oil. If the long handle gets in your way, you can saw it off, or buy a short handled version.)

The different types of natural and synthetic hair all have different properties, which might be important in order to meet the specific needs and materials of the artist. Some are softer, some more absorbent, some springier, some less springy, etc.

I use Royal Langnickel Soft Grip Golden Taklon brushes for all of my acrylic painting. I like the quality and the price. Here is a page of sets (http://www.dickblick.com/products/royal-langnickel-soft-grip-golden-taklon-brush-sets/), but they also sell them individually. Note some are long handled.

These will probably work for all of your needs, but if you want something more appropriate for oil, look for hog bristle. It's stiffer and will stand up better to both the texture of the oil and to the solvent.

It's vitally important to keep the brushes clean, especially with acrylics. Small amounts can dry in the bristles near the ferrule, and the brush will soon be splayed out. It's also important to use and clean them properly, so the bristles aren't damaged. Get some brush soap or cleaner, and possibly a jar or tray made specifically for cleaning brushes.

No matter how much you spend on a brush, it's possible to get some duds. I've bought the best quality watercolor brush available only to have the bristles "split" on the first use. I've spent a dollar on brushes that I used for years. If you can, it's best to try them out in the store. Ask a clerk for a small cup of water, or bring a little bottle of water, make a small puddle in your hand, and wet the brush. This will dissolve the sizing they use to keep the brush looking nice, and you can see how well the bristles hold together. Press gently on the back of your hand and draw the brush across and lift up. The bristles should fan out smoothly, and come back to a crisp point or edge. Of course, it's hard to do this when you order online. If you're getting a big canister, the savings should make up for any duds. Use those for glue.

I hope this helps!

03-08-2012, 08:16 PM
Yeah, don't ask me, I inherited all my brushes from a wonderful ex boyfriend who was (is?) an amazing painter.

All Isabey. And fantabulous. Love them love love love love them.

And great advice Kara, thanks for all the tips and tricks.

Becca what state are you in?

03-09-2012, 03:07 AM
Thanks for your advice, especially Kara, that really helped me a lot!
Tommorow I'm going to order new brushes, and use the old brushes for... I don't know, whatever the kids come up with (and knowing my kids it will be something funny)

@lakshimi: We live in Nevada

03-09-2012, 10:28 AM
Oh weird... I went to the Isabey brush site and then I got sucked in and forgot to add the link. lol...


03-09-2012, 07:36 PM
I can't recommend any specific brushes, it looks like there is info in the links above, but I can certainly echo the sentiment and tell you by experience that cheap brushes frustrate the artistic experience. I would rather my child have a small handful of good brushes rather than a large amount of terrible ones.
Good luck!