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  • Choosing brush sizes for painting
    by Aisling D'Art

    One of the most common mistakes by beginning painters is to start with a brush that is too small.

    If you're painting a chair or painting a still life, start with the biggest brush possible for the job. For a fine art painting, this means a brush at least 1 1/2" wide.

    If you're working on a large canvas, anything larger than three feet in any direction, consider a house-painting type of brush.

    Save your money by choosing a brush intended for painting houses, rather than the overpriced version in the art supply store. Just make certain that the bristles won't fall out; when you're an esteemed gallery artist you may choose to invest in better brushes. When you're starting out, big-brush quality is less important.

    And if you're simply covering a collage support with color, this big brush will be your only purchase.

    But many people will be working with multiple colors on smaller projects, and will choose a brush between one and two inches wide, to "rough in" areas of color when starting a painting.

    For this purpose, the stiffer, hog-type bristle brushes are far more economical than the sable type. Also, as long as the brush isn't losing bristles from the start, you can buy a cheaper brush for this purpose.

    Once you have suggested the broad areas of color and covered your canvas (or painting surface) with paint, you'll move down to a smaller brush.

    Again, choose the largest brush you might possibly use. Get more specific with your areas of color.

    Then, move down to the next smaller brush.

    The smaller the brush, the more likely you are to choose soft, sable-like bristles, but this is a matter of taste. I recommend buying two or three soft brushes at the very most, when you're starting out. If you're working with oils or acrylics, choose brushes that have long bristles, fairly stiff, and blunt-cut at the ends. The fluffy brushes with tapered ends are usually for watercolor work, or washes.

    Do not waste your money on a very expensive "two-hair" brush at first. You'll only use it to sign your name, and frankly, a small hog-bristle brush is better for that.

    But remember, I'm talking in terms of brush type, not actual material. In my brush collection, I have mostly hog bristles, some sables, but also a good collection of fine nylon/acrylic/plastic brushes which mimic their more expensive, natural bristle counterparts.

    And, the only reason that I have so many natural bristle brushes, is because I work in oil paints more than acrylics.

    Now that you've decided which brushes to buy, let's discuss how to take care of them, on the next page.


    lotsa art!

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