How to: Brushes

Warning this How-to contains no pictures if you need the illustrated version chances are it would be best if you just back away from the painting table now.

Two of the major things often overlooked by miniature painters are the brushes they use and the paints they use. In this article we are going to cover brushes since to me they are even more impotant than the paint you use. One of the things about a good brush versus a bad brush is how well it hold paint. The more paint it holds the smoother your strokes will be. Now there is a negative side in the fact that some brushes, Horse Hair seems to be the worst culprit, hold too much paint so no matter what you do you are always applying too much.

As you progress as a painter you will find that you use thinner layers of paint to build up highlights and shadows. The flow and control of a good brush makes it all the easier to achieve a smooth and clean finish. Now I’m not going to go over how to use a brush properly, but I will say never push always pull your brush across the surface.

So let’s look at brush types:

Sable: This is the ultimate soft brush, made from the hairs on the tail of a sable marten; these taper naturally, so when they’re put into a brush they form a point. There are several types of sable brushes. Each has it’s own properties and disadvantages. This is usually reflected in price of the brush. Kolinsky sable from Siberia has traditionally been considered the best hair for brushes. These are also some of the most expensive brushes on the market. If you are really ready to be the best you can be then Windsor Newton Series 7 Miniature can not be beat in quality. They range anywhere from around $10 up to $200 per brush. I just recently made my first real purchase of high end sable brushes. I will tell ya at $10+ a brush sometimes it is a little hard to use them because you think you are gonna ruin it. When you do decide to use them you will be amazed at how you ever got along without them and with a little care they will last for years.

Hog Hair: This is a very stiff bristle bush that I find works great for when I have a large area I need to cover with a drybrushing technique. Also are dirt cheap and a great source of terrain material.

Synthetic: Cheaper and easy to find at most craft stores. They do vary widely in price and quality. Biggest problem I have had with them is after awhile they have a tendency to lose their point and are harder to clean. I do recommend these if you are just starting out, so you will not break out in a cold sweat over ruining it every time you go to use one. When buying synthetic brushes make sure they are for acrylic paints because there are several different types available out there. Most of my drybrush, chalking and wash brushes are all synthetic.

Horse Hair: Better left on the horse except for two uses, and that is for applying a very heavy wash or glue. When you buy one of those cheap 25 packs at the local wally world you will usually get a mix of Horse, Hog and Synthetic.

There are several other types of hair brushes out there but as it stands right now I have not found a real use for them in painting miniatures.

I know you are asking is Sable the only type you use? Well no I have every type from my High end #0000 Sable to the 25 pack from Wal-Mart for $8. They all get used and I never throw a brush away, but that is for another article.

You will need all shapes and sizes of brushes as you grow in skills and you will use each for a different purpose. I would not buy super expensive brushes for dry brushing washes or applying glue to your bases. That is where the cheaper packs from your local craft stores and Wally Worlds come into play.

Now on to the shapes of brushes and their uses:

Flat – Dry brush usually don’t need anything smaller than a #1 the larger the better use the largest brush you can to make contact evenly with the mini. Also can be used for applying washes to a large area.

Round – Fine detail everything from a #1 to 30/0. It is also good to have a couple of these for dry brushing when you really need to control where you are applying the paint. Also goos for controlled washes.

Liner – Long and thin great for doing lines and detail work smaller the better.

Angled Flat – I find these are great for controlled dry brushing or washes on a scheme like the DBOG when you need a good separation of color.

So now you know the basic 4 shapes I use and I’m sure you are wondering where do I go from here. If your not I will wait for you to catch up……. Okay time’s up.

Taking care of your brushes is as important as changing the oil in your car if it you do not do it like clock work you will find yourself stuck in south central L.A. at midnight.

The following Brush Care will help you keep your brushes performing at their best.

#1 – Rinse your brushes often do not let the paint dry in the bristles, also try not to let the paint travel all the way up to where the bristles meet the metal. Try and keep the paint ½ way down the brush. This will stop the bristles from flaying out from dry paint under the taper. I always use 3 brush cleaning jars. 1 is clear distilled water. The other 2 have a small amount of acrylic brush cleaner mixed in with the distilled water. One is for metallic paint the other is for non-metallic and the third is a rinse jar.

#2 – When you have finished your painting session always clean all of the brushes used with a mild dish soap and warm water. DO NOT USE HOT WATER this will break the glue bond holding the brushes in the tapper.

#3 – Once every third paint session clean your brushes with a dedicate brush soap like Master’s Brush Cleaner and Preserver. This will help get rid of any residual paint but will also restore the natural oils to keep the brushes soft.

#4 – Always bring your brushes back to a point. Best way to do this is to pull the brush across a coffee filter while turning it slowly with gentle pressure. You can also use what is called brush shaper to help keep your brushes in their perfect form.

#5 – Always store your brushes bristles up…..

#6 – If you are a brush licker try not to paint after eating until you have brushed your teeth. I once ruined a good brush with the oils from a really good pizza I was eating while painting.

So now that you have the basic of brushes down I will lead you into the wild and colorful world of paint so stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled.