How to Choose the Best Brushes for Watercolor and Oil Painting

How to Choose the Best Brushes for Watercolor and Oil Painting

Whether you dabble in watercolors or paint with oils, you need paint brushes that suit your creative needs. There are many brush options available, however, and it can be difficult to know which ones to choose. Ahead, learn how to select a high-quality brush.

Analyzing the Parts of the Brush

Before you can choose your painting utensils, you need to know what distinguishes a high-quality brush. Start by looking at the head, or tuft, of the brush. The shape should be crisp and even, and the individual hairs should be tapered, rather than bluntly shorn at the ends. They must also be tightly bound—if there’s a noticeable gap at the ferrule, it’s a sign that the brush is poorly constructed. The ferrule—the metal cap that binds the tuft to the handle—should also be smooth, rustproof, and affixed to the handle with double crimps. When examining handles, look for ones that are straight, even, and unblemished by cracks in the paint.

Watercolor Brushes

If you’re a watercolor painter, your brushes need to fulfill specific criteria. The bristles should come to a sharp point, and when you manipulate them, they should spring right back into place. For the right level of spring and flow control, consider brushes made of sable, or brushes with synthetic and natural hair blends.

Oil Paint Brushes

For the best oil paint performance, you need brushes sturdy enough to move thick oil paint across the surface of your canvas. This requires firm brushes able to withstand wear and tear. This bristle firmness needs to be combined with admirable tip control, which allows you to achieve nuanced strokes and smooth blending. When selecting oil paint brushes, look for bristles made from boar or hog.

Care Is Essential

Once you’ve found the perfect fine art brushes, don’t forget to take care of them. Many brushes have specific care requirements; sable brushes, for example, should be stored in an airtight box out of direct sunlight. There are also rules applicable to all brushes. Don’t leave them soaking in water for too long, as it can ruin the shape of the bristles. You should also clean them right after you’re finished, as failure to do so can result in permanent stains.


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