Oil Painting Basics: Brushes 101

There’s no need for beginners to be intimidated by oil painting, especially when you have the basics laid out for you from an artist such as Julie Gilbert Pollard. Following is her overview of some of the materials you’ll need, including brushes for oil painting and tips for cleaning them.

Best brushes for oil painting | ArtistsNetwork.com

Julie’s Basic Oil Painting Brush Kit, from left to right: bright bristle, filbert bristle, small and large flat bristles, an old bright bristle cut into with scissors (for making loose ragged brushstrokes), Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II round, assortment of Winsor & Newton Monarch brights, flats and filberts; and a fan bristle. (Pin this!)

Brushes For Oil Painting by Julie Gilbert Pollard, from Discover Oil Painting

Brushes come in a variety of styles. Eventually, you’ll determine your own favorite brushes to use. Until then, you’ll probably want to experiment with a few different brush types and sizes. Here are some basic brush descriptions, though the length of the bristles often varies from brand to brand:
• Round: round with a pointed tip
• Flat: flat with squared ends
• Bright: flat with shorter bristles than flat brushes
• Filbert: flat with rounded ends
• Fan: flat and shaped like a fan–the only fan brush I use is one out of which I have cut some of the bristles in a ragged pattern to make a very rough scraggly mark.

I use hog bristle brushes in a variety of brands, from nos. 2 to 10 for the lion’s share of my painting, but I also like synthetic mongoose brushes, flats, brights and filberts in several sizes. The synthetic mongoose brushes I use are Winsor & Newton Monarch brushes. They are sized differently from bristle brushes, with a no. 14 being about 0.5″ (1.25cm) wide. The Monarch nos. 0 and 2 are good for small branches, as are the nos. 0 and 2 filberts. I use a Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II no. 1 round for tiny twigs and for my signature.

Oil painting basics | Julie Gilbert Pollard, ArtistsNetwork.com

Free As a Bird (oil painting on canvas, 12×24) by Julie Gilbert Pollard. Learn how to paint with oil in “Discover Oil Painting: Easy Landscape Painting Techniques”

Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

You’ll need odorless mineral spirits (OMS), a rag and tissues or paper towels. (I use the least expensive pop-up facial tissues.)

It’s especially important to clean your brush between values, and often different colors of the same value, if you don’t want your colors to mix. If you’ve been applying a light-value color and need to add a darker value, simply wipe the brush with a tissue. However, if you want to add light value over dark, the brush needs more thorough cleaning. Wipe the brush, then wash in OMS by rubbing it over the coil in a Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank. Wipe the OMS off the brush firmly with a tissue before picking up the light-colored paint.

I generally only change brushes when I need a different size or shape, not because the brush isn’t clean enough. Normally I use about three or four brushes during a painting session, and I clean them as I go. I used to grab a different brush instead of cleaning the one in my hand. By the end of a painting session however, I would be too tired to clean them properly and would leave them to be cleaned later on. I ruined a few brushes that way. So now I clean as I go, which is quick and easy. It makes clean-up at the end of my painting day a breeze. ~Julie

Because you’re part of our ArtistsNetwork community, you’re among the first to know about Julie’s new book, Discover Oil Painting. Visit North Light Shop to pre-order your copy here. Have a friend who has expressed interest in oil painting or is already beginning their journey? Share Julie’s tips with them today!

Yours in art,
Cherie
Cherie Haas, online editor
**Free download: Oil Painting Tips for Beginners: Learn How to Oil Paint!
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