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Brush Guide

Can't figure out which brush to use? The brush guide below, provided by Loew Cornell, maker of fine brushes for over 35 years will help you choose the perfect brush...and teach you how to care for it.

Brush Shapes and Their Uses

Round - Use on point, or apply pressure to make thick-to-thin strokes.
Spotter Brush
Spotter - For fine detailing.
Liner Brush
Liner - Continuous curved or straight lines. Vary thickness with pressure changes.
Ultra Round Brush
Ultra Round - Use as a liner on point. Full belly provides a reservoir for paint.
Script Liner Brush
Script Liner (Long Liner) - Scroll work, flowing thick-to-thin lines. Length of hair holds more paint than regular liner.
Shader Brush
Shader (Flat) - Blocking in color, shading, blending, highlighting, and stroke work.
Chisel Blender Brush
Chisel Blender (Bright)- Short, flat strokes and blending, especially useful with heavy mediums.
Angular Shader Brush
Angular Shader (Angle Flat) - Tight shading, curved strokes. Popular rose petal brush.
One Stroke Brush
One Stroke (Stroke)- Long, flat lettering brush.
Filbert Brush
Filbert (Oval) - Strokes with soft edges. Blending. A natural flower petal shape.
Deerfoot Stippler Brush
Deerfoot Stippler (Long Liner)- Texturizing brush. Use a dry brush and light, pouncing technique for fur, shrubbery, and soft backgrounds.
Fan Brush
Fan - Use dry or with tips loaded to create texture or smooth other brush strokes.
Rake Brush
Rake - Flat, texturizing brush with a naturally-fingered shape. Use for hair, grass, wood grain, feathers and fur.
Dagger Striper Brush
Dagger Striper - Long chisel edge for easy, fine lines. Vary pressure for thick-to-thin ribbon effect.
Stencil Brush
Stencil - Use a dry brush with very little paint and circular or stippling technique.
Mop Brush
Mop - Blending and softening. Washes.

Brush Selection

Choosing a brush is largely a matter of personal preference, but each type of hair bristle has its own unique characteristics.

Some of the more popular types of hair used in artists' brushes include:

Natural Soft Hair

Kolinsky - Finest red sable, Finely-pointed hair with superb spring, strength, and absorbency. Ideal for watercolor.

Red Sable - Any red hair from the weasel family. Many different grades are available on the market. Ideally they hold a fine point with good spring and absorbency. Well suited to smooth strokes and blending in oils and watercolor.

Ox - Lacks the fine tip of red sable, but is a strong, silken hair often used in moderately-priced brushes.

Goat - A relatively inexpensive hair. Possesses good absorbency with a soft, wiry feel.

Squirrel - Highly absorbent, finely-pointed hairs, but lack the spring of red sable.

Camel - An all-encompassing term for brushes made from a variety of hairs, none of which are camel. They may include ox, goat, squirrel, or pony hair.


Coarse, strong hair that ideally has a natural curve and flagged tips. Well suited to work with heavier mediums like oils, acrylics, and tempera. White bristle comes in many grades. Black bristle is a stiffer, economically-priced hair.

Synthetic Hair

Manufactured fibers of various thicknesses, each tapering to a fine point. They are available white or dyed (Taklon). The performance characteristics of synthetic brushes can vary widely. They are suitable for all media and ideal for acrylics.

Synthetic Bristle

Stiff, coarse, tapered fibers lacking the flags and curve of natural bristle, but suitable for work on rough surfaces, and are excellent for use in stencil and fabric painting brushes.

Long or Short Handle?

Short-handle brushes are the choice for most craft and hobby applications when working at a table or other flat surface. A short handle is also the preferred length for watercolors. Long-handle brushes are designed for easel work so that painters may distance themselves from their work.

Things to Consider

When selecting the best brush (hair and shapes to be used) for a project, you will want to consider:

ˇthe properties of your paint/media;
ˇthe properties of your surface;
ˇyour technique and style, and the desired final effect.

Caring For Your Brushes

Follow these tips to keep your brushes in top-working condition:


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