Natural hair or bristles
Brushes with natural bristles commonly use the following animal hairs.
- Goat hair brushes: coarse, no spring. Good for watercolour and calligraphy.
- Hog bristle brushes: coarse, stiff hair. Good for acrylic and oil.
- Horse hair brushes: strong and a little coarse. Good for watercolour and calligraphy.
- Pony hair brushes: soft and strong. Good for watercolour and acrylic.
- Sable hair brushes: soft, flexible and springy. Considered the best of all animal hairs. Good for watercolour and oil. Natural sable hair brushes are expensive, so many manufacturers now use synthetic sable hair instead.
Flat with a sloping edge. Ideal for shading, highlighting, filling corners and tight areas.
Flat with edges curving inward at the tip. Ideal for blending, applying thick colours and controlled strokes.
Flat with a fine tip and gradually angled edge, resembling a sword. Ideal for striping, tight curves, freehand lettering and fine line detail work.
Slightly flared with an angled flat end that resembles a deer’s foot. Ideal for precise painting and adding texture.
Similar to a filbert brush, but with longer hair and capable of holding more colour. Ideal for blending, applying colour and figurative work.
Flat and spread out like a fan. Ideal for blending, feathering, smoothing and creating textured effects.
Flat with a rounded edge, forming an oval edge. Sometimes called cat’s tongue. Ideal for blending, colour washes, shading and highlighting.
Flat / Shader
Medium-length bristles with a square end. Ideal for broad and bold strokes, filling wide spaces, washes, edges, fine lines and stripes.
Flat with a curved head. Produces a repetitive pattern of thin lines, making it ideal for details such as fur and feathers.
Liner / Rigger
Thin brush with a very fine point. Ideal for fine lines, outlines, lettering and small details like eyelashes.
Available in a variety of shapes, with some resembling a makeup brush while others are flatter and stiffer. Ideal for blending, blurring, softening and large washes.
These classic brushes have a round or pointed tip. Ideal for filling in areas, outlining, sketching, detailed work and controlled washes.
Round with short, tight hair. Less flexible than round brushes, making them ideal for detailed work.
Round with a flat top and densely packed bristles. Designed specially for stencilling.
Similar to a flat brush but with a squarer and larger head. Ideal for applying colour washes and filling in large areas.
Paintbrush sizes are indicated on the handle and refer to how big or wide the brush is. The higher the number, the bigger the brush.
The most common sizes are from 000 to 20. Brushes below size 4 are ideal for details, while sizes 4 to 6 are commonly used for painting small areas. Brushes above size 6 are used for broad strokes and large areas. Note that sizes can be inconsistent between brush manufacturers, so a size 6 in one brand could be different to size 6 in another brand.
You may also see sizes listed as 4/0, 10/0, 12/0 and more. These refer to the number of 0s, so 2/0 is 00, 4/0 is 0000 and so on. The more 0s, the smaller the brush.
Flat brushes are sometimes identified by their width in inches, so you’ll find their sizes listed as 1/2”, 3/4”, 1/8” and more.
Stiffer brushes are better for acrylic paint so choose hog bristles or a stiff synthetic brush. Natural brushes can get damaged over time due to chemicals used in acrylic paint. As a rough guide, select a brush that’s harder than a watercolour brush and softer than an oil paintbrush.Browse our acrylic paintbrushes
Hog bristles are best for oil paints as they are strong, resilient and accentuate the qualities of the paint.Browse our oil paintbrushes
Natural brushes such as sable or squirrel hair brushes are recommended for watercolour painting as they retain their shape longer and can hold more water. Soft synthetic brushes are a good alternative.Browse our watercolour paintbrushes
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