Oil Painting Brushes
This page contains details of the brushes I use, plus how to care for and clean your oil brushes.
There's a wide variety of oil brushes available, too many to include in here. Although I do use other oil brushes (mainly testing) I keep returning to the ones that I've detailed below.
About and selecting oil painting brushes:
Use the correct brush:
Use the correct brush for what you are painting, be that for size, method or part being painted. Oil paint requires brushes with enough resilience to manipulate the paint with complete control and therefore depending on what you're painting and/or your style/technique a number of different brush types may be used, even on one painting.

Use a stiffer brush (what's known as Hog) for thicker, impasto or viscous paint application. These come in different shapes and sizes: round, flat (long or short) and filbert which all have their use and the size/s needed will largely depending on the scale of the painting being produced.

A softer brush (synthetic (wide range) or natural like Sable) is better when the oil paint has been thinned to a fluid consistency allowing better flow, blending and control. Like the Hog brushes, Sable or synthetic brushes come in a range of shape and size.
Main oil painting brush shapes:
The two characteristics you'll notice in any oil painting brush are shape and size. The different shapes allow to you load paint onto the brush and apply the paint in specific ways. Choose the size of the brush according to the size of your painting or the part being painted.

Flat: These brushes have a clean, straight edge for an even covering.

Bright: Similar to the flat, but has shorter bristles towards the sides.

Round: A brush for more detailed work, lines etc.

Filbert: A more round end shape than the Bright.

You can also find other types of brushes that are used for specific purposes. For example, fan brushes are used for blending and textures and long liner brushes are used for lettering. Experiment with the brushes to find the sizes and shapes that suit your working methods.


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Brush Types:
Hog Brushes:
The finest quality hog brushes offer firmness plus flagged ends for control and blending. The Hog bristle is very good for applying thick paint while making a strong mark. They are both tough and durable enough to stand up to the oil paint plus clean well when finished. The hair is extremely resilient and the most important characteristic is that it is 'flagged' or split at the end. These flags help carry more paint on the brush and apply it evenly on the surface.

These are a good brush to have from beginner right through to professional. The best ones are going to be ones made of 'Chungking' bristle, which are made from natural pig hair. As with other ranges these come in different sizes and shapes.

Synthetic Brushes:
Next are synthetic brushes, some work very well and have improved greatly over the last few years. Make sure that they're made for oil painting or for both acrylic and oil. You will find a wide variety of synthetic brushes that can be used for oil painting and provide years of service plus at a reasonable price. Many have a softer feel than hog brushes.

Sable Brushes:
You'll also see sable brushes. They're softer, therefore more delicate, more expensive and they require more care. Sables are great for blending, glazing, and making soft, less-defined marks.
Brush characteristics that you should consider:
How firm is the brush? Is the bristle capable of moving heavy oil paint over the support surface - canvas, board etc.

What about the tip of the brush? Does the hog, synthetic or sable hair allow fine control when applying detail plus allow blending of the oil paint.
Oil brushes that I use for my oil painting - Note: I've no connection to Rosemary and Co apart from a long time customer.
Rosemary and Co Ivory Brush:
A superb brush that I use for the bulk of my oil painting and as stated on the Rosemary and Co website these brushes do hold their shape, something that non have done before.

From the range I use in a range of sizes the Ivory Filberts , Ivory Long Flats plus some Ivory Short Flats but of the smaller sizes.

As can be seen from the links below I like a long hair and use a short handle but that may not be right for everyone.

Ivory Long Flats
Ivory Longer Filbert
Rosemary and Co Masters Choice Brush:
I don't have many of these but used for painting grass, vegetation when the hairs are open (less paint) or flat for painting water/long lines etc

Masters Choice Long Flats
Masters Choice Long Filberts
Rosemary and Co One Stoke - Goldern Synthetic:
Used mainly when painting water - ripples, reflections etc. Have longer length, form a flat edge which can be thin or as wide as the brush and softer feel with some spring.

One Stoke

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Rosemary and Co Sable Brushes:
Riggers - use a lot of these.

Sable Riggers

Fan Brushes - for blending

Fan Brushes
Others brushes used:
House painting brush:
A range of sizes and different hair types are used. By selecting varying amounts of hair and then shaping with your fingers a range of effects can be achieved. Used for stippling on leaves, vegetation or just used for getting larger areas done quickly.

Wall Paper Brush:
Depending on the type, these can be broken into small sections as most are now made with just clumps of hair set into a plastic. These clumps, held together by the plastic can be used individually or as a row. Having a more random hair than the house painting brush these therefore produce a more random effect when stippling.

Varnish Brush:
Size needed depending on the size of paintings produced. Only used for applying retouching varnish or varnish.

Gesso brush:
Use a normal household brush that has long hair. The long hair avoids getting the gesso (which dries quickly) anywhere near to the ferrule. Only used for applying the gesso.
Cleaning and Storing Oil Brushes
Start by wiping any excess oil paint from the brush or brushes using a rag. This is followed by washing more oil paint from the brush/s using White Spirit or turpentine - you can use alternatives like Winsor & Newton's Sansodor or Zest It Oil Paint dilutant and brush cleaner for oils and alkyds which have a better smell than White Spirit or turpentine but are more expensive. More useful brush cleaning information can be found on the Zest It site.

This will remove most but not all of the paint as will be seen in the next stage.

Next, clean the bristle with a bar of household soap (not detergent) or Winsor & Newton Artgel. Working up a lather on the bar of soap and/or in the parm of you hand and then rinse the brush under warm (not hot) water.
The objective is to remove all traces of paint, with the area around the ferrule needing the most attention. Repeat with more soap and washing under water until there is no trace of colour seen in the soap. Finally wash in water to ensure all traces of soap are removed.

Lastly, if required shape up the brush, dry the handle and rest the brush bristles uppermost in a pot or jar to dry, although not near a heat source.

Should the worst happen and a brush/s has not be cleaned and the paint dried, a long soak in the Zest it Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner with some working between fingers has rescued the brush, though never really as before.
Care of Oil Brushes
All paint brushes have a cost and therefore deserve to be looked after, even more so if they are more expensive.

A used but well cared for paint brush will in fact perform much better than a new one but they will all become worn, some in a good way as it creates a new shape, others not so when the fine point goes and needs replacing.

If possible mix paint with a palette knife. If not use a hog brush, not your soft brushes.

Only add the amount of paint needed and apply according to needs. Be it carefully or briskly and using the correct pressure and action. Also vary your holding position on the brush, as this effects how the colour is applied.
Avoid, if possible, getting to much paint on the hair around the ferrule, which will clog the ferrules. This paint must be cleaned out or will dry and ruin the handling of the brush by making the hair splay out.

Never stand brushes point down in jars or containers. This only results in the hairs being permanently bent out of shape.

Clean the brushes, if possible soon after use and certainly a must at the end of the day's work or painting session. Use turpentine or a brush cleaner like Zest-it followed by a good wash with soap and warm water until the brush is clear of any paint.