• Paintbrush selection and care






    Paintbrush Selection and
    Care





    Introduction A paintbrush is probably the most
    important tool that you will purchase in helping you bring a
    miniature to life. With proper selection and care, a good
    quality paintbrush is an investment in the miniature-painting
    hobby, and can make the experience all the more enjoyable.
    With a fine tip, you, the painter will have more control in
    the application of paint, exactly where you want it to be. So
    take extra time in choosing and caring of your brushes, as
    they will result in your best possible work. Anatomy
    of a paintbrush In general most paintbrushes are still
    assembled by hand with brush tips made from either natural or
    synthetic hairs. These hairs are bound together with cord or
    nylon rope and then set into the metal ferrule with a wax
    based adhesive. The wooden or plastic handle is then pushed
    into the back of the ferrule and held in place with a crimp.
    Knowledge of how a paintbrush created is important, because it
    allows you to properly care for your brush. Because the
    adhesive that holds the brush hairs is wax based, you should
    never rinse your brushes in hot water. This can melt the
    adhesive, causing the hairs to unseat themselves, losing the
    valuable pointed shape necessary for fine control. Also, the
    contact point between the handle and ferrule is not
    waterproof. Any moisture that collects within this area from
    indiscriminate washing will cause a wooden handle to swell and
    then contract, resulting in loose paintbrush handles.






    Brush hair types Traditionally paintbrushes
    were made with natural hairs. Today we have synthetic nylon
    bristle brushes specifically designed for use with acrylic
    paints. Sable brushes are generally regarded as the best
    material for natural hairs. Red sable is considered a good
    grade of material obtained from weasels, and the type of hair
    most novice painters are familiar with. Kolinsky Sable is the
    most expensive and highly regarded natural hair from tails of
    weasels found in Northeast Asia. It has an almost unnatural
    ability to hold a pointed shape due to the natural taper of
    the hair fibers. Paintbrushes made from ox, badger, goat,
    horse, or mongooses are not suitable for use in miniature
    painting, mainly due to their inability to hold a fine point.
    Synthetic hair paintbrushes are a more recent
    innovation, made primarily from nylon or polyester fibers.
    They can also be manufactured with a tapered shape, and can
    have a stiffer feel compared to natural hairs. They are also
    more resistant to solvent damage, and do not wear out as
    easily as natural brushes. Low grade synthetic brushes will
    eventually curl at the tip, forming an annoying hooked shape.
    Regardless of what kind of brush hair you choose, make
    sure it is the best quality you can afford, and be prepared to
    spend some time picking and choosing the best brushes
    available to you. Where to purchase brushes
    One of the best places to purchase paintbrushes is
    your local art supply store. Invariably they will have a
    larger selection of brushes, allowing you to choose from
    handle length, hair type, hair style, etc. I'm not trying to
    put your favorite hobby shop out of business, but if you are
    serious about painting to the best of your abilities, you owe
    it to yourself to broaden your horizons. One benefit of an art
    store is that you can actually "try out" the brushes. Better
    grades of brushes will come unpackaged, point up. A good art
    supply store will have a pot of water, and special brush paper
    for you to test the point of the brush. By dipping a brush in
    the water and painting several lines onto the paper provided,
    you can accurately judge if the brush has characteristics you
    desire. Dont worry, the water evaporates off the brush paper,
    and can be reused. In addition most art supply stores offer
    frequent sales and discounts if you have a student ID.









    Brush selection When purchasing a paintbrush,
    you have to keep in mind what you are really paying for is the
    brush tip. This is really important because you are looking
    for a brush that comes to a fine taper, with no frayed hairs,
    and a sharp firm point that doesn't waver when you apply a
    brush stroke. When you find a brush without any visible
    damage, (such as bent hairs, etc.), dip it all the way to the
    ferrule into the water, flick off the excess, and form it to a
    sharp point with your fingers.






    (Left to Right) pointed, "fishtail",
    stray hairs, hooked tip

    Now test the point: 1) "Paint" several
    straight lines on the paper provided. Does the tip fishtail or
    break up? 2) Now paint little swirls on the brush
    paper. Any problems yet? If not you probably have a good
    brush. 3) Finally lightly "stab" the tip onto the
    paper, as if you were painting many tiny dots.






    Does the brush still have a good point? If so, perfect!
    You now have a brush that exhibits good snap(ability to retain
    a pointed shape), a quality much desired by artists in their
    brushes. Now make sure you find another paintbrush with
    similar properties and purchase the best one. Dont forget to
    pick up a few caps to protect the brush hairs.


    Care of your brushes during use There are a
    few rules that I follow when using my paintbrushes. I never
    use the brush tips to mix paints. I never dip the tip of the
    brush into paint so deep that it gets into the ferrule. Any
    buildup of paint in the ferrule can cause the brush hairs to
    splay out, ruining a fine tip. If I notice paint
    collecting near the ferrule, I stop painting immediately, and
    rinse the brush in warm water and soap. This is inevitable,
    because capillary action will draw paint up into the ferrule
    no matter how careful you are. The key is to stop and clean it
    out before paint has a chance to dry inside the ferrule. You
    can use this time as a break to change your water pot, and
    stretch out you back. In addition, wash your hands frequently
    when the brush feels slick after hours of painting.




    Brush cleaning After each painting session,
    take the time to carefully inspect your brush. Look for frayed
    hairs, and carefully tease them out if necessary. Purchase
    specially prepared "brush soaps". Various manufacturers sell
    these, and they safely remove the rings of paint under the
    ferrules easily. In addition they replace natural oils removed
    in most cleaning processes. Use brush soap to remove any paint
    you find between fibers and under the ferrule according to the
    instructions. If you paint frequently, condition your brush
    one a month or so. I use shampoo with conditioner on them.
    Swish your brush in some hair conditioner, wipe off the
    excess, shape to a point then leave it upright for an hour or
    so. Rinse off well with lukewarm water, then with a little
    brush soap, shape to a perfect point. Let it stand upright
    with a cap on them. I actually put my brushes in the same
    cabinet as my miniatures, so they will remain dust free!!!!!




    A newer product you should try is liquid brush cleaner.
    Liquid brush cleaners do an even better job than most bar or
    tub style brush soaps. Being quite viscous, liquid brush clean
    actually works its way up the bristles into the ferrules,
    dissolving trapped paint. Even previously cleaned brushes
    (using brush soap) will rinse out with dirty paint flecks.
    These days, I clean my brushes with liquid brush soap, and
    condition and shape the tip with bar style brush soap to get
    the best of both worlds.


    My Favorite brushes My preferred
    brushes are the vaunted Winsor and Newton Series 7. The are
    alleged to have been commissioned by the queen of England
    herself back in the late 1800s. I've been using these brushes
    for 3 years now, and haven't found any better for my painting
    style. Be warned, they are extremely expensive. A 3/0 can run
    $14USD or more. But are certainly worth their price. They hold
    a fine point, have the desired "spring" when laying on paint,
    and are very resilient to wear. They have the right balance
    between a fiber that is too limp (cheap nylon) and too stiff
    (hog hair bristle). I heartily recommend them if you are
    willing spend the money. I have also tried various brands of
    fine sables with success from Raphael and Isbly.
    Regardless of the of the brushes I prefer, every miniature
    painter should find a brand of brush that suites their
    particular style of painting and requirements. If possible,
    experiment with different manufacturers and hair types; I'm
    currently trying out various synthetic/natural blends to test
    their suitibility for my purposes.



    I hope this article
    has been of interest to you. There are many more articles on
    the Internet that deal with brush selection and care; I hope I
    have succinctly provided all the necessary information to help
    you choose and protect your investment. Proper care of your
    finest tools is not a guarantee for painting excellence! It
    can certainly make things easier while painting; for you can
    now concentrate on technique, rather than make due with a
    poorly maintained brush.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Wouter's Avatar
      Wouter -
      Very helpfull artickle. I want to add that when I started painting I had a lot of trouble maintaining a fine point. This had nothing to do with the brush I used but with the way I used it. I got quite frustrated but then someone told me you should always paint in the direction of your brush strokes. This helped me out.
    1. Lord-Chaos's Avatar
      Lord-Chaos -
      thanks for all the information, I was on the verge of replacing some of my brushes and now have a better idea of what to look for.
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