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Hints and Tips Artists Brush's

 Deerfoot Stipple brush Masterstroke Terry Harrison   Deerfoot Stipple brush Masterstroke Terry Harrison Small, Medium or Large Series 65F

Large - 7/16 inch round. Hair length 1 inch
Medium - 3/8 inch round. Hair length 7/8 inch
Small - 1/4 inch round. Hair length 5/8 inch
The round shape of this brush is ideal for painting small trees and foliage, also texture on buildings and animal fur. Natural haired brush. Suitable for watercolour, acrylics or oils

Manufacturer: Pro Arte

 Comb Rake brush Masterstroke Terry Harrison   Comb Rake brush Masterstroke Terry Harrison Small, Medium or Large Series 65G A great synthetic brush for painting animal fur, bird plumage, waterfalls grasses and wood grain. Suitable for Watercolour, Acrylics and Oils. Pro arte Terry Harrison special effect brushes. Angled shaders, tree and texture, merlin, stipple fan and round foliage, comb and rake. Create wonderful effects in watercolour or any other medium you choose. Manufacturer: Pro Arte

 Diana Kolinski Sable   Diana Kolinski Sable Brush for watercolour
Diana Series Round Brush
Finest selected Kolinsky sable for watercolour painting. Diana is the name that signifies the very best in sable brushes. Sable is essential to achieve high standards in watercolour or gouache. For colour holding capacity and spring there is no better natural hair or man made fibre.

Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable watercolour brush - singles or in a set

Winsor & Newton Series 7 sable watercolour brush - Retractable in singles or in a set

Pro Arte
Care and Cleaning of Brushes
After use with light watercolour pigments, wash thoroughly in cold, clean water then shape and leave to dry in a well ventilated room.
When heavier pigments have been used, such as poster paint and gouache or acrylic colours, knead gently with finger and thumb at the base by the ferrule to avoid a build-up of hard colour which distorts brush shapes.

Daler Rowney Brush Fact files
reproduced with kind permission from with various additions from other artists


The most important thing is to obey the following fundamental rules:

1. Water-soluble colours should be washed out with water.

2. Acrylic colour, as long as it is wet, should be washed out with water; when dried up it can only be dissolved with special cleaning agents.

3. Oil colours should be wiped off thoroughly with a piece of cloth. Afterwards the hair of bristles should be cleaned with pure soap (order No. 4033) and warm water until the soap begins to produce white lather. Do not use strongly fat removing soaps or detergents!

4. To wash out the brush rub the body of the brush carefully and remove the remains of pigment that chiefly stick to the edge of the ferrule.

5. Afterwards wipe the brush with a fine piece of cloth and bring it to its original shape. Artists call this procedure "dressing".

6. Let the brush dry completely before you use it again. Don't put it on the radiator to dry. There the hair will dry too quickly, the handle will shrink, and the brush head will come loose.

Brushes that have not been cleaned properly will lose their interlocking quality after short use, i.e. the hair will stand apart. Moreover, the hair and bristles may break at the edge of the ferrule.

Brushes are often protected during transport by little plastic tubes that keep off the dust until the brush has found its owner. It has been  noticed that time and again these tubes are taken off and then put on again in a less than careful manner, with some of the hair being bent in the process. The damage done can be easily repaired. Put the brush in water and rub it carefully out towards the tip. After the drying which, depending on the brush size, may take between one and five hours, the plastic tube can be placed again over a completely intact brush.

If you put on the plastic tube when the brush is still wet, it will develop mould and smell bad. But that isn't a disaster either. Clean the brush thoroughly in mild soapy water, rub it out to its original shape and let it dry completely this time,

Another important thing to remember when using a brush - squirrel and red sable are too fine for rough surfaces of raw ceramics and stoneware.

It isn't good for a brush to be used alternately with water colour and acrylic colour or even Oil colour.

Dipping your brush into washing up liquid before using masking fluid makes it much easier to clean off.

extra -  Save old phone books to wipe brushes on the top page; discard, and there's a fresh page ready

Old T shirts , off castes clothing  - dusting rags


'bound' - round hair brushes of expensive quality standard: Water colour brushes, oil colour brushes and filbert-shaped brushes are pre-formed in a brass tube, then bound and afterwards cupped to characteristic shape with the hand through twisting. A brush is never shaped with a knife or a pair of scissors.

'brown sable' - tails together with the body fur were dyed by the furrier. Brown sable is used for inexpensive sable qualities.

'camel hair' - hair from the pastern of Japanese and other Asian ponies. Why then 'camel' hair? We don't know.

'cementing' - using adhesive to make the hair stick together and to the ferrule. The adhesive used is resistant to all known solvents

'Chungking' - term applied to a white and especially strong Chinese bristle; bristles named after the Chinese city of Chungking

'ferrule' - metal tube that shapes the head of the brush and connects it with the handle. It is either round or flat

'seamless ferrules' - tapered, cylindrical brass tubes, usually plated with nickel or gold, or made of polished aluminium.

'seamed ferrules' - tin and nickel ferrules have a soldered seam. They are used for some 'budget' quality brushes. When the brush is left in the water too long, the handle will swell and soldered ferrules may break

'Fitch hair' - a name that refers to both the hair of European and Asiatic polecats and to black ox ear hair. These hairs are so short and so smooth, that it is sometimes difficult even for experienced brush-makers not to let these hair slip from their grasp

'flags of bristles' - while it grows the bristle splits into two or more tips, the 'flags'. This fullness of the bristle accounts for the ability to hold a large amount of colour.

'gumming' - the hair and bristles of the finished brush must be protected for transport. We use a gum Arabic solution for that purpose.

'handle' - most of  the handles  produced are made of wood. Artists often prefer unlacquered, so-called plain wood handles. Also  make a distinction between the lacquered handle and the polished handle.

'Hexagonal handles' - a da Vinci patented design. This handle shows at its thickest part six imperceptible flattenings which are styled in a way that they do not make the hand tired during painting nor impede the turning or shaping of the brush-tip (sizes up to 6 have only 3 flattenings due to the smaller diameter of the handles)

'interlocking' - two equal-sized portions of bristle are set against each other with the natural curve of the bristle turned inward. MAESTRO artists brushes of interlocked construction are labour-intensive; however, they will keep their form even after long and intensive use. Our second quality artists bristle brushes are prepared to interlock, that means that the brush is made from straight bristles and is shaped by heat after gumming. This technique has also proven to be long-lasting and reliable.

'Kazan squirrel' - the name is derived from the Russian town of Kazan. It refers to a species of squirrel whose hair-tips are of brownish-red colour while the remaining part of the hair is flecked with grey. Kazan squirrel hair is manufactured into china painting brushes.
Tip from an Artist using squirrel brushes - "The secret to using squirrel brushes is soaking them in water for 15 to 30 minutes, laying flat" .

'Kolinsky' - the tail of the sable "mustela sibirica" (common names are Siberian marten, weasel, polecat - the term sable seems to be confined to the art world). HARBIN-KOLINSKY, named after the capital of the northernmost part of Manchuria. The principal habitat of this "mustela" is the river valley of the Ussuri, the Siberian border river to Manchuria. The tail of this Kolinsky sable is slightly smaller than that of its Russian neighbour, but the hair is very strong, straight and has a fine tip.

TOBOLSKY-KOLINSKY and USSURI-KOLINSKY, named after the most eastern rivers of Siberia. The "mustela sibirica" lives in the basins of the Ob, Lena, Amur and Ussuri rivers. The colonies of these animals are under permanent supervision by the authorities due to their habit of digging into the embankments. The male "mustela sibirica" has an extraordinarily beautiful, bushy tail. From this hair the da Vinci MAESTRO water-colour brush is made.

The decisive point is that this hair is taken from male winter tails. Hair of other species of marten such as the Asiatic weasel or the hair of the female animals which is also of golden-red colour, but not as fine and as springy, is traded on the world market at about half the price. The brush-making industry has traditionally manufactured all of them under the collective term "red sable hair".

'original shape' - the hair of bristles of the brush are brought into their characteristic shape, shape', which is called "original shape", with the help of a gum arabic solution

'sabeline' - produced from white ox ear hair through dyeing. White ox ear hair is exclusively taken from Alpine cattle. These cattle have particularly strong hair because of the climatic conditions in that region.


A brush is as good as its hair, its bristles and, nowadays you may also say, its synthetic fibres. How good a brush is, depends on how carefully the raw materials have been selected and manufactured for their respective tasks.

Handling hog bristles and preparing hair from various animal tails, furs and ox ear, are operations in which the experience of generations is involved. Quality features and the proper use of technical terms may also cause difficulties. As previously stated, the most expensive and most valuable soft brush hair, for example, is from the tail of "mustela sibirica", a quality marten which lives in the valleys of the Siberian rivers Amur, Tobol and Ussuri. In the technical language of brush-making it is called "Tobolsky" or "Kolinsky" red sable. The decisive point is that this hair is taken from male winter tails. Hair of other species of marten such as the Asiatic weasel or the hair of the female animals which is also of golden-red colour, but not as fine and as springy, is traded on the world market at about half the price. The brush-making industry has traditionally manufactured all of them under the collective term "red sable hair".

Unfortunately the purity regulations are abused more and more. Often the quality term "Kolinsky" is also used freely when simple red sable hair has been taken. You can be sure with da Vinci Kolinsky red sable, Winsor& Newton and Pro Arte brushes that the name keeps its promise.

Hairs and bristles are similar in their structure. They consist of a central medulla around which scales are grouped like a shell. The elasticity and the "interlocking quality" of a brush depend on the nature of these scales. If you leave a brush in the water too long or if it cannot dry properly, this shell of scales opens up like a fir-cone. You feel that it has lost some of its spring and colour holding capacity. After thorough cleaning with pure soap and intensive drying, the brush has been brought back onto its original shape. The scales close tight onto the medulla, the hair and bristles have regained their original spring and the brush is a perfect tool again.

However, natural hair gets more precious by the year and it is necessary to accept the challenge to our generation to protect and preserve natural species and resources, resulting in intensive research into synthetic fibres.

Artist Brush Roll

This novel brush wrap is crammed full of 18 long-handled brushes in varying sizes and shapes. A great gift and is an ideal way of storing all your brushes together in one place.
Artist Brush Roll
Reeves Artist Brush Case  Reeves Artist Brush Case

 16 x Hog bristle brushes in a stylish navy blue case containing
 16 long-handled hog brushes. Great value and an ideal gift for any
 beginning artist.

  Squirrel mop brushes for fine detail, blending and large watercolour washes also suitable for gouache, silk and other fluid colour applications.

The soft natural hair has excellent colour carrying capacity and good control

Russian Blue Squirrel is softer than sable the hairs are very fine, relatively thin and conical in shape with thick bellies which enable the brush to hold a large amount of colour.

Wooden handle around 15cm  6" long

Hand crafted with a natural goose feather quill which is more flexible and responsive than a metal ferrule

Manufacturer: Winsor & Newton
  squirrel mop wash brush  
Cotman Synthetic Nylon Brush - For over 100 years, our brush makers have applied their knowledge to produce brushes of the highest standard. As new materials have become available we have used our experience to produce new ranges of brushes, each with their own benefits. The Cotman brush range was the first complete range of synthetic brushes to be developed by Winsor & Newton. The secret of Cotman lies in the special blend of synthetic filaments of differing thickness. Recent improvements in this process have enabled us to improve on spring, colour carrying capacity and point.
cotman brush

Individual brushes or Sets

Benefits of the Cotman Brush Range

Colour carrying capacity
The re-developed blend of special synthetic fibres gives the brushes greater ability to make larger washes or longer lines, without the need to recharge the brush with colour. The colour carrying capacity of the brushes has been increased by up to 50%
A wide variety of shapes This popular range has been extended to include additional shapes for a variety of alternative applications. The latest shapes include synthetic mops for large washes, angled brushes for detail, filberts for softer edges, riggers for longer extended fine lines and short-handled fans for delicate blending.
round brushes in Series 111 have been re-designed to provide a finer point for finer lines with greater control.
The thicker fibres contribute to the strength and spring of the brush, the fibres are soft enough to work with but have a good snap so they return back to their original shape with ease.
The ferrule (which holds the hair to the handle) is made from high quality nickel-plated brass, which helps to prevent corrosion, clogging of hair and enables easy cleaning.
Handle shape 
The handles are specifically designed to provide balance and comfort when painting. Different handle lengths are available, typically short handles for water colour and long-handles for oil colour.
Care and cleaning of brushes
To ensure the best performance and long lasting quality, follow these simple cleaning rules. At the end of each painting session wipe excess colour from the brush. Clean the brushes with appropriate solvent (water or turpentine) followed by plenty of warm water and soap. Continue until no further colour comes from the brush. Remove excess water from the brush head and shape. Dry the brush handle and stand in a pot with the head uppermost to dry.
Restoring hooked  synthetic brushes 
Synthetic filaments if used on rough surfaces can eventually become bent and hook preventing a perfect point from being maintained. Should this happen, the polyester can sometimes be straightened by holding the brush head for one to two minutes in water which has boiled and cooled slightly. Remove excess water, shape the brush in Gum Arabic solution and leave to dry. Wash the brush before use.

  Comb brush polyamide fibre from Iris  

Comb brush polyamide fibre from Iris

  Pro Arte Artist watercolour brush nylon synthetic Prolene plus series 007  

Pro Arte artist watercolour brush


Number 20 actual physical size is 10.5 " inches from tip to end with a ferule diameter of 5/8 " inch approximately

  Pro-Arte's Prolene Plus is the flagship nylon synthetic bristle with very fine filaments
to give precise pointing and even better colour holding, this soft brush gives an excellent natural feel.
  Winsor and Newton Resources  

Brush Glossary - from Winsor and Newton Resources

The large number of artists €™ brushes available reflects two issues

1. Historically, many different brushes have been required to perform many different jobs and

2. Variations of the same shape of brush have existed to address different price points. 

The result is a complicated array of products which many artists do not understand in full.  Following is a glossary of brush terms for reference.


Acrylic brush for Artists - synthetic brushes, the mix of hair is specially made for use with acrylic colour.
Balance - the correct weight and shape of a handle in relationship to the weight of the brush head.
Belly - the mid-section and thickest part of the brush head, or the individual hair filament itself.  Sable filaments have excellent bellies, which result in well shaped round brushes.
Blunt - a hair which is missing its natural tip.  Finest quality brushes, do not contain blunts or trimmed hairs.
Bright - often Short flat, a chisel ended, square headed bristle brush.  Bright was a painter.
Bristle - hog hair brush.  Coarse, strong hair, suited to thick brushwork in oil, alkyd and acrylic painting.  Different qualities of hog brushes are available, the most expensive ones carry the most colour and retain their shape best when wet.
Camel - is a pseudonym for a mixture of miscellaneous hairs of low quality.
Crimp - the compressed section of the ferrule which holds the handle to the brush head.
Designers €™ - an elongated round sable, most common for illustration work.
Egbert -  an extra long filbert.
Fan - a flat fan, used for blending, available in both bristle and soft hair.
Ferrule - the metal tube which supports the hair and joins it to the handle.
Filbert - flat brushes with oval shaped heads, available in both bristle and soft hair.
Flag - the natural, split tip of each bristle.  Flags carry more colour and are evident on the highest quality hog brushes.
Flat - usually Long flat; flat hog brushes with a chisel end.
Goat - makes good mop wash brushes.
Gummed - newly made brushes are pointed with gum in order to protect them in transit.
Interlocked - bristle brushes whose hairs curve inward towards the centre of the brush.
Kolinsky - the highest quality sable hair.
Length out - the length of hair, exposed from the ferrule to the tip.
Lettering brush- very thin, long, chisel ending sables, traditionally used for lines and letters in sign writing.
Liners - see Lettering.
Long flat - see Flat.
Mop - large, round, domed brushes, often goat or squirrel, used primarily to cover whole areas in water colour.
One Stroke - a flat soft hair brush which allows an area to be covered in one stroke, traditionally used in signwriting for block letters.
Ox - ear hair is used for flat wash brushes.
Pencil - see Spotter.
Polyester - Synthetic hair is made of polyester; different diameter filaments, varying tapers, different colours and different coatings result in as many possible variations in synthetic brushes as in those made from natural hair.
Pony - is a low cost cylindrical hair, i.e.. lacking a point, often used for children's €™ brushes.
Quill - bird quills were originally used for ferrules prior to the development of seamless metal ferrules.  Still used in some squirrel brushes.
Rigger brushes - very thin, long round sable, traditionally used for painting rigging in marine pictures.
Round - available in both bristle and soft hair, the latter having different types of rounds.
Sable - produces the best soft hair brushes, particularly for water colour.  The conical shape and scaled surface of each hair provide a brush with an unrivalled point, responsiveness and colour carrying capacity.  There are different qualities, the finest  being taper-dressed Kolinsky [Winsor & Newton Series 7].
Short flat - see Bright.
Snap - see Spring.
Solid-dressed - sable which is sorted in bundles of equal length prior to brush making.  Resultant brushes are not as responsive as taper-dressed sables.
Spotter - extra short and small sable rounds, used for retouching photographs and other high detail work.
Spring - the degree of resilience of the hair and its ability to return to a point.  Sable displays excellent spring.
Squirrel - hair makes good mop brushes but does not hold its belly or point well.
Stripers - see Lettering.
Taper-dressed - Kolinsky sable which is sorted into different lengths prior to brushmaking.  Resultant brushes have wider bellies and finer points.
Wash - large flat soft hair brushes, used primarily for flat washes in water colour.


Artists brushes can generally be categorized into two types, according to the type of hair used, [i] bristle and [ii] soft.  Each type can then be further categorized by the shapes available in each hair type.

1. Bristle - The bristle category includes the original hog but also the synthetic stiff brushes like Artisan for water mixable oils.

Shapes available: Round, Short Flat/Bright, Long Flat, Filbert (short and long) and Fan.

2. Soft - sable, ox, goat, squirrel, synthetic, pony, camel.  Sable produces the best soft hair brushes, particularly for water colour.  It is conical shape and scaled surface provide unrivalled points, responsiveness and colour carrying capacity. Largely as a result of the cost of sable, other hairs are used for soft brushes, either on their own,  or mixed.

Shapes available:
Rounds; Spotters/Pencils, Designers, Riggers, Lettering/ Stripers/Liners, One Stroke, Mops, Wash, Filberts and Fans.

Two Additional Points To Note On Brushes

1.The sizing of brushes is most commonly done by a number system.  Each number does not necessarily correlate to the same size brush in different ranges and this is particularly noticeable between English, French and Japanese sizes.  It is important therefore that actual brushes are compared rather than relying on the sizes of the brushes you currently own.

2. Long handled brushes are available for oil, alkyd and acrylic painters who are more likely to be at a distance from their work than water colourists, whose brush handles are shorter.


Size Conversions

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