View Full Version : Brush conundrum

01-24-2019, 10:51 PM
I'm a new oil painter. I started with pretty inexpensive "student" brushes I bought at Michael's. I then bought some better W&N brushes - the long handled black ones.
Into small details, I bought detailing brushes from Amazon. Pretty poor quality I guess. The whole kit was about $20. The bristles splayed out after 1 or 2 uses. I can mold them back into shape but they're really not the best.

At Hobby Lobby I saw these Princeton Velvet Touch brushes and bought a few. I liked them a lot - I went back and bought a few more. The bristles stay in shape very well - even the tiny #1 brush. I think the bristles are synthetic. I hear a lot of talk about synthetic vs natural. I don't see natural hair brushes either on Amazon or the art supply store. Maybe there's a secret stash in the back - I don't know. I would always assume natural hair and fiber to be preferable (and usually more $$) to synthetics in clothing and other products. I prefer them anyway. That's why I went into oil paint vs acrylic to begin with. But I don't see the brushes even if I hear about them.

What brushes does everyone use? I do like the Princeton Velvet Touch line and they are available on Amazon. Love the chisel point, the spotter, etc. But is there an upscale brush made of natural hair? Sable, that sort of thing? And is it suitable for oil?
(and please don't just brush this question aside)

01-25-2019, 02:59 AM
Before recommendations.How do you clean your brushes after use?

01-25-2019, 04:23 AM
I buy all my brushes from Rosemarys, their online site is like a sweetie store for me :lol:
I have tried quite a few different ones now and for me personally I love the sables for fine details, they seem to carry more paint and give finer control than the same size/shape synthetics.
But I do have synthetics and hog bristle that I use too in the larger brushes.
Sables are expensive but not too bad in small sizes.
Mine are holding up well so far, I wipe them, dip in OMS, wipe again then wash with brush soap.

Harold Roth
01-25-2019, 07:14 AM
IMO, natural hair is not better for painting than synthetic. They're different.

For me, a synthetic brush for oil painting holds more paint than bristle. But bristle is way easier to clean, probably for the same reason. I like bristle flats a lot. I have been using Princeton 5400 series, which is pretty cheap.

In the smaller sizes, I like synthetics way more than bristle. Synthetic rounds like Princeton Select keep a decent point. And they are way cheap. I've used the Velvet Touch too; they're great for really tiny brushes. Others I've tried have been Dynasty Black Gold, nice in flats and some rounds, and Catalyst, which I dislike because for me it is too stiff. But that would make it great for someone pushing a lot of paint around or paint that contains added stuff like sand.

I have noticed that bristles do not keep as good of a point as synthetics, I guess because the fibers are coarser. So usually if I want to do details, I use small synthetic flats, especially the synthetic mongoose "Modernista" by Escoda. It is softer than bristle but stiffer than sable.

I would not ever use sable for oil painting. I know people do, but I have some WN Series 7 brushes I bought in the 70s that still keep a point in watercolor. I cannot ever imagine using them in oil painting. They would be ruined. I ordered some small sable brushes for painting details from Rosemary years ago but didn't like them, but they sell such a variety of brushes that I haven't tried.

01-25-2019, 07:16 AM
I used to purchase Winsor & Newton line of cheap brushes made in China, I really like Loew Cornell white nylon, golden, etc.

01-25-2019, 09:53 AM
Brushes can have a lot going on besides just the type of hair or fiber used, the two most common natural hairs used in oil paint brushes are:

Hog hairs which are stiff bristles and leave lots of bristle marks in the strokes made with them.
Sable hair which is soft and does not leave much in the way of bristlemarks in a stroke.

There are other natural hairs as well, but the two above are found much more often and perform very differently. With exposure to several synthetics you have probably found some that are softer than others and maybe even a couple that you like more than others. The same would be true in natural hair brushes.

01-25-2019, 12:23 PM
Well, I’m in the Hobby Lobby parking lot. Checked the thread before I go in in. Some recommended brushes are on the list. I held my visa card to my ear and it still has a heartbeat.
To clean brushes, I alternate pink soap and water with OMS, and just “ beat the devil out of them”.

01-25-2019, 01:34 PM
I like Roubloff brushes. Their 301T (https://www.roubloff.ru/en/product/457) series are great. Also they have nice brushes made of fake mongoose (https://www.roubloff.ru/en/catalog/hudozestvennye-kisti-roubloff?type_add%5B%5D=imitacia-mangusta&search=#catalog).

01-25-2019, 02:19 PM
Here's what I came home with. Of course the cheaper bargain ones were all on sale, half off. Not these.

01-25-2019, 05:28 PM
Hey, Marc, did you know there's a 40% off weekly coupon that's always on the Hobby Lobby website and often in the local newspaper as well. You can use only one per week, but if you're close to a HL store to make weekly trips, you could save a lot.

I find the HL brand brushes are often knockoffs of other brands. My local Hobby Lobby carries a "Master's Touch" that in appearance is similar to the Princeton "Catalyst Polytip," a brush that I like a lot. But the Princeton version, although it's a synthetic, has bristles that are a little thicker and have some texture at the end for better paint holding. They tend to be on the pricey side, at least for me, but with careful attention to proper cleaning they hold their shape pretty well and are a pleasure to use. Blick carries them. The HL version has much finer bristles and more of them, which, although fairly stiff, will produce a different sort of mark and be less likely to show brushmarks than the Princeton brush.

It's hard to see but it appears that several of the brushes you bought are Royal Langnickels, which seem to be an underrated brand, imo. I have a couple of their SableTEK brushes that I just love. They would be a good choice if you were looking for a softer brush.

It's hard to give recommendations for brushes, because the type of brush one needs and prefers is very much dependent on the type of painting one does. In general, bristle brushes (and synthetic variants) are more appropriate for direct painting and will often provide visible brushmarks, while sable brushes (and soft synthetics) are used for indirect painting (in layers) where a very smooth paint layer is desirable. This isn't hard and fast, however, and there are many permutations in between.

01-25-2019, 09:44 PM
I love the velvetoutch brushes. For ultra-fine white lines -- cat whiskers on a dark background, that sort of thing -- the tiniest short liner is incomparable.

Unfortunately, those brushes are hard to find in stores, at least around here in Baltimore. None of the art stores near MICA carry them. The blue-handled Princeton 3750s are, by contrast, very common and very inexpensive. They'll do.

There's nothing like a good kolinsky, but they are hard to purchase in the US these days. You have to buy online. Some consider Raphael brushes the best, and these people (http://discountartistbrush.com/brushes/raphael.html) have probably the best prices on the net, if you consider the price of shipping.

My feelings have varied concerning the eternal question of which kolinsky to purchase. The Escoda Reserva seemed perfect at first -- it just felt right, and it was cheaper than most. But it didn't last long, and neither did its replacement. (The same proved true of the Escoda Prado, which I used to consider the finest of the synthetics.)

Frankly, I consider the good old W&N series 7 kolinskys the most reliable, both in terms of handling and durability.

I've always felt that artists should have a wide range of brushes, from kolinsky to krap. The cheapest brushes available on Ebay sometimes serve marvelously well as blenders.

If you do watercolor or comic book inking as well as oil painting, I see little alternative to keeping separate sets of brushes.

01-25-2019, 10:38 PM
I used the 40% off coupon at HL. I also get tons of Michael's coupons but I find the range of choices and the quality at HL to be superior.
So after I wrote I was in the parking lot, I go directly to the brush aisle and see all these signs 50% OFF ALL MASTERTOUCH AND ARTISTS TOUCH BRUSHES AND PAINTS
These are the "cheaper knock off" brushes I told you about and someone else mentioned. I asked the sales woman - are those included in the sale? pointing to the Princeton velvetouch and the Royal & Langnickel (which I had one of before, and love it so much, and they run about $1 less per brush than the velvetouch) and of course they were NOT in the sale. My philosophy is, I'd rather have 2 of a high quality item, than 4 of a lower quality item. So I bought 10 of the high quality ones. And got 40% off one of them. They cost more but there's no comparison. Even I can tell the difference.