Painting Tips Part 3

III: The selection, care and feeding of brushes.

Some questions have been about the mainenance of brushes. Here goes:

>2. Get good brushes. I prefer Windsor-Newton round acrylic brushes, although Polly-S golden foxes are excellent as well.

> mjmartino@igs*.net (Jay) wrote:

>I'll differ on this one. Get adequate brushes. Actually, it depends on
>your technique. If you drybrush alot, a poor brush is as good as a
>quality one. You should actually have a mix of brush qualities for
>different jobs.

Actually, what I do is buy the best brushes I can find and use them for one year to do my blocking and line work. After a year of continuous use, they get replaced with new brushes and the old brushes are relegated to dry-brushing, where their slightly splayed or bent bristles don't matter very much.

>As to brush size: I find I rarely need less than a #1
>brush for most 15mm figs. In fact I like the way a #1 retains it's
>point. I've never used smaller than a 000.

Agreed, although a 00000 comes in very handy when lining tartan stripes, painting flowered patterns on silk brocade robes or dotting the occassional eyeball.

Brush sizes: I went over to my painting table and grabbed just what brushes are now living on the table's surface, readily available for easy use. As opposed to those brushes residing in glass jars far, far to the back. Here'swhat I found:

1 x Old Lowe Cornell acrylic round #3 (for horses, mostly)
2 x New Windsor Newton acrylic round #2
2 x New Lowe Cornell acrylic round #1
1 x Old Polly-s Golden fox #1 (for most dry-brushing needs)
1 x New Windsor Newton acrylic round # 00
1 x New Windsor Newton acrylic round # 000
1 x New Windsor Newton acrylic round # 00000
1 x New Grumbacher red sable spotter # 00000
1 x New Windsor Newton acrylic FLAT # 2

This should give you some idea of the size of the brushes I routinely use and listing manufacturers was merely to indicate which brands I have had the most luck with over time. "Old" brushes are somewhat worn-out and are used mostly for blocking or dry-brushing, where their worn-out bristles can do the most good.

One other brush I use alot for priming most 15s or blocking very large items (elephants, 25 / 28 mm horses) is is a Grummbacher acrylic round #6. I have found this to be an essential piece of equipment, but it does require frequent trips to the alchohol bath to keep the ferrel clean of clogged paint.

Tip droop: all my acrylic brushes eventually end-up with the tip of the brush bent at 90 degree angle, giving a hooked effect. This is most noticeable the smaller the brush is. Here's the weird thing - I like using a hooked brush better than a straight brush because you can use the point as a spotter plus use the side of the curved "hook" to represent a larger brush than you are actually using. So don't panic if your expensive brushes begin to look all bent-over, just learn to use the extra advantage the odd shape gives you.

Wild hairs: unlike natural hair brushes, acrylic brushes will often get split-ends and small fibers down the shaft beginning to stick-out at odd angles. My solution is to use a small, portable nail clipper to tease the wild hair out of the brush and snip it off - it is easier to do this while the brush is full of paint as the offending fiber will be much more noticable than when the brush is clean.

Dried paint: The base of a brush or ferrel will often times become clogged with dried paint, making the brush splay apart in odd ways or fail to keep a point. Or you will have dry-brushed too long without cleaning the brush and paint will have dried completly, marring the bristles. I keep a sealed glass bottle on my painting table filled with ordinary rubbing alchohol, which is the soverign remedy for acrylic paint of all sorts. Merely let your brushes sit in the alchohol bath for a while, then swirl them about and you will see small clouds of dissolving paint come drifting-out. Do this until the paintbrush is clean - you will find it will extend the useful life of your brushes by restoring their flexiablity and shape.

A trip to the alchohol bath is also a useful way of stripping paint off a figure that you are not happy with and wish to try again!

  • Gettin' Good: An introduction, explanation and disclaimer.
  • Part 1: How to get good at painting? A professional's opinion.
  • Part 2: How to get good at painting? Dissenting opinions are heard.
  • Part 3: The selection, care and feeding of brushes.
  • Part 4: Questions and answers from the gentle readers.
  • Part 5: A primer on using stains and washes.
  • Part 6: Ragged Rebs (or painting irregular units in a regular way).
  • Part 7: Painting Ponies I. Just what sort of beast is that, anyway?
  • Part 8: Painting Ponies II. Your basic black, brown and chestnut horses.
  • Part 9: Painting Ponies III. Fancies - whites, greys, duns and finishing touches.
  • Part 10: A primer on stripes, checks and tartan plaids.