Technique Of Watercolor Painting WC03 BRUSHESTechnique Of Watercolor Painting WC03 BRUSHES

Watercolor brushes are the connecting link between the painter and the ground. They convey the desired mixture of pigment and water from the palette pool to the ground. Brushes are essential tools in the work of the watercolorist. Their selection is vital for the successful completion of the work.

This means the best brushes should be used consistent with the capability of the painter and financial resources. Do not buy expensive brushes unless you know how to use and look after them.

Sable fur is considered the best. At the end of each hair there is a curved tips makes for unique nesting of filaments into a fine point. Brushes made from this fur are not resistant to ill use. If you are the type of painter that likes to scrub at the work erase it throw all manner of stuff in its direction ride bicycles over it then do not buy sable brushes because you will deprive those who appreciate them from getting the best out of their efforts.

Sable brushes need to be high priced to justify the time spent on hand placing of each hair. Sable hair has more air pockets along its length. This means each brush can hold and release more water to the ground as needed by the painter.

Brushes are also made from other natural fur filaments but none are as good as sable.

Brushes are also made from sable and synthetic mixes yet these are still expensive.

The modern synthetic brush does stand up to indifferent treatment. Though synthetic filament is not as good as sable it stays truer to itself over the long term. Synthetic filament lasts very well but it too needs to be given sympathetic use. With sympathetic use synthetic filament brushes of good quality will be more than adequate for most watercolorists.

Fortunately there are very good 100% synthetic brushes available at very reasonable costs. There is no reason why inferior brushes should be bought just to save money. The best of the synthetic brushes will last long and be good enough for most hardworking painters.

In my possession I have a pullout brochure showing in good photographic quality illustrations 50 different types of artist brushes. Each type of brush consists of a range of sizes for all types of picture painting.

In my opinion thoroughly study your catalogue and when you buy always buy at the time from such a catalogue in front of you. In the moment it is easy to buy the wrong brush and you may not even know the brush is wrong for you.

For example the filaments of a designer's watercolor brush are longer than a picture painter's brush.

Round brushes but pointed brushes are traditional for watercolors. Wide flat brushes are now used.

These flat brushes or-one-stroke-brushes are good for use in lettering because by using the bush in the horizontal and keeping it horizontal as you run down the work following say the curve of a letter ?O? without changing the position of the brush in the hand the thickness of the letter will vary to that of a model letter. By holding the one-stroke-brush at an angle this facility is even more exaggerated. The advantage of this type of brush to a painter can be appreciated for ease of laying down large washes.

Flat brushes come in flat equivalents to the round in various widths. This means their filaments react more or less in the same way as the round.

The Hake is a different kind of brush from Japan. It is stitched donkey-hair and in my experience needs to be kept wet. This is largely superseded now by a Hake in which the hairs are sealed to hold them firm.

They come in 1, 1.5 & 2 inch widths. I advise to buy a 2-inch for clear water or light washes plus one of each for general painting use. These are twice the cost of the Japanese brushes but better to use and better value. They shed less hair on the ground [paper] as the removal of this from the laid watercolor often spoils the work. Wide brushes are best for beginners to watercolor painting.

Special brushes exist for particular purposes a few are mentioned here. The Rigger is used for painting long fine lines such as wires ropes and er... rigging. It is best not to use them for anything else. If your close sight is not too accurate you may find it difficult to judge the distance from the tip of a rigger to the surface of the ground. In this case buy a rigger with shorter filaments. One that is ? inch long should be good.

Use an oil painter's half inch but worn down hog brush for mixing watercolors. Mixing pigments with the brushes you use to paint with should not be done. An old stiff brush is what is needed.

Buy a fan brush for damp blending of different colors or to remove hard edges from clouds mists and fogs or edges of soft curved surfaces such as the furry backsides of hairy animals.

Use a fine brush for signing paintings but in my view its better to use cool brown watercolor pencil.

Beginners are advised to buy the 100% synthetic brushes only [not mixtures.] Only the even # round brushes up to #24 should be bought. Only buy a sable in the largest size if you can afford it and are able find one. Maximum natural sable size is 14 synthetic sizes go three more sizes up to 24. Buy one 1-inch flat nylon brush. Buy three Hakes in widths of 1innh 1.5inches and 2inches. Also buy one-stroke flat brushes for work in narrow widths sizes ? and 1 inch.

Brushes should be preserved and kept clean to avoid need for harsh cleaning. The clue to achieving this is to rinse the brush thoroughly as soon as possible. The used brush should not be left in the air to dry unless it is cleaned first. Never ever leave brushes dirty between sessions - always clean as a natural habit.

Rinse first in dirty water to ensure pigment is eased from brush core. This is the area where brushes if left dirty begin to deteriorate. Filament ferrules should be nickel and kept keep clean but not left in water unnecessarily. First it is all right to rinse in dirty water providing a following rinse is used in clean water until it is obvious the brush is clean and does not smell.

Do take care not to touch the filaments until last to bring to point. Do not use soap or oil or grease at all. Do not use detergents or cleaning fluids because these too will have to be cleaned out and the cleaning then becomes pointless.

Make brush-cleaning a discipline at end of each session. Keep brushes not in use filament up in three jars for each main size group. Larger jars upside down over each to keep dust out but devise some sort of air circulation by using three distance pieces under the rim to form an air passage.

Black red or other lacquer on handles will flake off if allowed to remain in water. This makes brushes horrible to hold and plastic handles do not feel right.

Get to know the type of work various brushes are best suited.

Next Article: Technique of Watercolor Painting WC04 TOOLS

by John Blenkin
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John Blenkin is a retired architect and is now a watercolor painter and article writer. His interests are wide covering both technical and philosophical subjects. He also writes online articles on the technique of watercolor painting.

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