Brushes are made from nylon, animal hairs, and other synthetic hairs that approximate the characteristics of natural hairs. Watercolor is a transparent medium and is not as viscous as acrylic paints and oils. Watercolor for best application will need brushes that could hold the liquid more. For this reason, watercolor brushes preferred by artists on this medium prefer bristles that are softer with denser tuft. Although recent application of technology made possible the designing of brushes that simulates the behavior of hair on water, natural hairs are still preferred.
Brush choices vary from one artist to the other. This is largely defined by the personal style and the genre that the artist is working on. All artists have their own work tools and discipline and may come up with entire works using only two or three brushes. There are however general purpose brushes that have to be included in the artists tools these are:
Round brushes - These are the most common brushes used for many different applications. Round brushes are rounded at the ferule tapering as the tuft reaches the tip. A #4 round brush is good for detailing and dry brushing while the #8 round brushes are good for wider lines and washes.
Flat brushes – are composed of tufts flattened at the ferrule. The tuft appears rectangular with a perfect edge. The variety of flat brushes are the "bright" mostly used as one stroke brushes that will form a uniform line width and the wash brushes that is similar in appearance to the house brushes. Wash brushes are used to paint wide areas as the brush could hold water more.
Mops –Mops are usually made from hairs of squirrels and tied with copper at the ferrule. Since these brushes are made from animal hairs only, mops could carry huge quantity of watercolor for their size and are best used for wet on wet watercolor painting. A size #12 mop is a must have as they are excellent at washes and wicking.
Filbert – filberts too are made only from animal hairs. It is shaped like a cats tongue with a straight flat edge rounded off at the tips. Filberts are for special shapes and special brush strokes.
Fan – these are flat brushes that are narrow near the ferrule and flays out like a fan. Whether made from animal hairs, nylon or synthetic hairs, fans are handy at hatching, texturing and painting irregular lines.
Acrylic – This a flat brush made from nylons beveled at the tips. Its main purpose is for scraping and scouring. Acrylic brushes are also handy at scrubbing the paints before lifting it from the paper. Size ½" acrylic brushes are also used for mixing and dissolving paints.
Round brushes are normally designated by numbers ranging from 0 to 24, while other brushes are designated by its width. Different manufacturers use different methods at sizing their brushes. The idea though is to have different watercolor brush sizes to best cover every application that you would need and select from there your favorite tool.
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