How do you know what acrylic paintbrushes to buy that you actually need and will use? There are a lot of different options: nylon, synthetic, squirrel hair, bristle hair. A good brush is one that holds its shape, lets the paint flow, doesn’t break off into your paint, and lasts for a while.
First, some brushes that artist Nina Weiss doesn’t recommend are bristle brushes or squirrel hair. Bristle brushes tend to be stiff and break into your paint. Squirrel hair brushes are very floppy and don’t hold their shape.
Nina likes to use nylon brushes by Princeton. Nylon gives flexibility, won’t leave brush marks, and will hold its shape for a long time.
Long or short handles? Nina suggests using long-handled brushes because when you paint standing up, you will extend your arm and hold the brush at the end for maximum gesture. Short handles are sufficient for working closely on something small and delicate at your desk.
Shapes of brushes
– Fan brushes are very thin and are usually used for special effects.
– Filbert brushes have a rounded edge and are great for blending.
– Chisel brushes have a point and are shaped like a chisel for sharp lines.
– Flat brushes have longer hairs that can wobble when painting, so may be harder to control.
– Brights are shorter than flat brushes.
– Rounds come to a point and are great for fine lines or larger coverage with varying pressure on the brush.
Unfortunately, sizes are not consistent from brand to brand, but if you look for 4, 6, 8, or 10, you will likely have what you need—the larger the number, the larger the brush. You will learn how to eyeball the size you need despite the number on the brush.
When you are at the art store, feel the brush before you buy it. Nina prefers a softer brush, but you can find some that are more stiff.
House painter brushes are great for applying gesso to your supports. They are synthetic and hold up really well even after being used quite vigorously.
A mega filbert splays out for good coverage without leaving streaks. Nina likes to use this to apply a ground (a thin layer of color) on top of the gesso to remove the white.