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Go Back   WetCanvas > Explore Media > Casein, Gouache, and Egg Tempera
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Old 03-11-2010, 05:17 AM
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Which brushes for tempera?

Hello
I am hoping to use some Sennelier (tubed) tempera soon and was wondering which brushes would be most suitable. Watercolour brushes? Oil brushes? Small and round or filbert? No hog hairs I assume.....

Is there a reason why a lot of tempera paintings are made with tiny brushes and a lot of hatching?
(it suits me fine, but was just wondering if it is more difficult to do larger planes perhaps?)

Thank you very much!
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Old 03-11-2010, 07:49 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Any brush suitable for watercolor is great for tempera. I find that natural hair (sable, kolinsky, etc) works best for rounds, and natural or synthetics for flats.

A #4 or #6 round is my workhorse brush. I have them up to #12s, but the smallest I have is a #2. I also use flats from 1/2 inch up to 2".

Small crosshatching is the traditional application for egg tempera because the paint should be applied thinly and doesnt blend well due to quick drying, and crosshatching allows the best control and allows underlayers to show through in near-microscopic degree, giving tempera its particular luminosity. While one can crosshatch with a single fine point on the brush, I usually flatten out a round brush, making a small fan, and use that to feather paint so that each individual hair creates a separate stroke. I will often use a broad flat brush to apply large areas of semi-dry paint too. This takes some practice to make it even , since the paint dries instantly and cannot be reworked easily.

Depending on the style of painting and effects one wants, one can use a wide variety of paint application techniques with egg tempera other than those associated with finely controlled classical painting. Sponging with natural or cosmetic sponges, spattering, smearing with the fingers, dabbing with cloth, or yes, even using rough bristle brushes can make wonderful effects. The only rule is to not apply the paint thickly.
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:03 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Here's an 18x24" puppy I just finished:



The sky and base of the snow field were done with broad synthetic flats, in many layers. Like I said, this takes practice in egg tempera to get the value and hue to softly transition.

Here's a detail of the lower right, where you can see the brushwork where I went in with a smaller flattened round brush to add detail to the underlying gradient:

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Old 03-11-2010, 08:07 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Thank you so much Jeff - this is very helpful. Since ET is water based I suppose its best if I buy some new brushes for this and leave my oil brushes alone. I like working with small brushes so I'll get some of those. For my oils I usually break a natural-hair brush in no time so I'll go looking for some watercolour synthetic ones....
Thanks a bunch - and...fantastic painting there!! Even more amazing stuff on your website. Its funny....tempera paintings always have something different about them....its crisp (small brushes perhaps) and....I don't know....something....you can see it in your work too. I hope to find that special something when I start playing with it ...
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Old 03-11-2010, 08:21 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

I would not recommend using an oil brush for tempera for the same reasons I wouldnt suggest using one for watercolor painting:

1. The main reason is the grip and handles are different for oil brushes vs watercolor brushes. One is meant to hold them differently due to the different properties of 2 kinds of paint; watercolor, gouache, et and casein are similar in working properties and the grip is used with short handled brushes, while oils and acrylics are meant to be used with long-handled brushes and a different way of holding the brush.

2. If the brush isn't brand new, there will most likely be some oil residue in an oil brush might affect the tempera, although this may not be an issue when using the tubed ET stuff that contains some oil.
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Old 03-11-2010, 09:57 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

OK - watercolour brush it is then!
looking forward to trying it all out...
thanks so much for your help!!
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Old 03-11-2010, 02:31 PM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Just one more question, if you don't mind....how long does ET take to dry - as so it is ready to frame? I thought of doing some small ET on panel (as to try out and explore) and if they're any good frame in simple frames (no glass, just like a canvas with some clips).
They say it dries very quickly - but does that mean dry enough to frame?

Oh, and Sennelier sells a 'medium' - since one can dilute with water etc, what on earth is this medium for?

Sorry for all the questions.....
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Old 03-12-2010, 08:13 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soap
Just one more question, if you don't mind....how long does ET take to dry - as so it is ready to frame? I thought of doing some small ET on panel (as to try out and explore) and if they're any good frame in simple frames (no glass, just like a canvas with some clips).
They say it dries very quickly - but does that mean dry enough to frame?

Traditional ET dries nearly instantly, but it takes about a year to cure, which means harden and become virtually insoluble. If I have to, I can frame them right after they're done and send them out, but if I can, I put my pieces in the sun for about a week before that, since UV light helps harden the paint. However, you can frame a piece right after its finished without worrying that the paint will stick to anything but until it cures (and perhaps after), the paint is susceptible to scraping and abrasion where it is under the frame. I've taken to padding the inside of the frame rabbet and putting slats in any gaps between the panel and the frame to keep them from wiggling around and possibly scraping the edges.

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Originally Posted by soap
Oh, and Sennelier sells a 'medium' - since one can dilute with water etc, what on earth is this medium for?

I have no idea. Sennelier "egg tempera" and the real stuff are different. From what I'm told, the Sennelier stuff is more like an oil-egg emulsion with some sort of preservative.
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Old 03-12-2010, 08:43 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Thanks once more, Jeff, you are such a great help.

If I get hooked I might try the 'real stuff'....

Thank you so much.
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Old 03-13-2010, 06:35 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

You're welcome!
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Old 03-17-2010, 11:17 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

As much as I prefer pure sable brushes, I'm unintentionally rough on them (I've TRIED to change my slovenly ways) and can't afford the constant replacement. I now use synthetics which generally endure my shameful abuse and hold a tip longer.
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Old 03-17-2010, 11:25 AM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

LOL, G.W. ! I am the same using oil paints....any sables I have ever bought only last 1 or 2 paintings....but they do make the most delicate and smallest brushes. I am hoping that water-based paint might help as I might clean my brushes a bit better.....otherwise...synthetic it is.
Which ones are you using??
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Old 03-17-2010, 01:52 PM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soap
LOL, G.W. ! I am the same using oil paints....any sables I have ever bought only last 1 or 2 paintings....but they do make the most delicate and smallest brushes. I am hoping that water-based paint might help as I might clean my brushes a bit better.....otherwise...synthetic it is.
Which ones are you using??

Hi soap...

They have a curious label: H.J. Series 970 white taklon (the "H.J." being the curious part). They're made in Sri Lanka.

I buy in bulk, usually three or four packets of six brushes each (#1 & #2) and this will last me a couple of years, depending on how productive I am. My larger brushes are sable and far too pricey to abuse!
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Old 03-19-2010, 05:07 PM
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Re: Which brushes for tempera?

Thanks for that G.W. Never heared of H.J.....
I'll probably go for the Cotman series 111 - see if they're any good.
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