Do I Need Special Paint Brushes For Oil Painting

Bob Ross’s famous painting videos have inspired many people to create “happy little accidents” with oil paint on a canvas. But oil painting isn’t an easy medium, and choosing the right paintbrushes can be a tricky choice. You will quickly discover that oil paint requires some specific knowledge, lots of practice, and some specialised equipment. While you don’t “need” specific paintbrushes for oil painting, choosing the right ones will make painting with oils a pleasant and fun experience.

Understanding The Oil Medium

Before we dive into the ins and outs of oil painting brushes, let’s take a closer look at oil paints. For centuries, oil paint has been a popular medium for painting on canvas and wood, originating from Europe and spreading worldwide.

Famous oil paintings include Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, amongst many other notable works. Oil paint has a slow drying time because of the oil binding agent, which means that the paint can be manipulated over an extended period of time. 

Oil paint is a very thick medium, thanks to the density of the oils. Acrylic and watercolour paint can be mixed with water to be thinner or thicker. Oil paints can be diluted using a solvent like turpentine or white paint. The viscosity of the thick paint gives a unique range of varied finishes and effects, colour range, and depth. But the question becomes, what paintbrush should I use for oil painting? 

There isn’t a ‘wrong’ paintbrush to use in oil painting. You can use any paintbrush for oil painting, but there are better brush choices than others. There is a wide range of paintbrushes to choose from that deliver different effects. Before purchasing any paintbrush, you should know your options and their finishes.

Natural Paintbrushes

Because of the viscosity of oil paint, some brushes are better to use than others. A good-quality hog brush is an excellent way to absorb the pigment effectively and deliver large strokes.

A hog bristle brush is made from pig hair and effectively gets the paint to grip the fibres of the canvas fabric. These paintbrushes gather a lot of paint and can spread the medium effectively. A hog hair brush is excellent for large details and can come in various shapes from which to choose.

Synthetic Brushes For Oil Painting

A synthetic brush can give you clean and smooth lines for more refined details on any oil painting.

Synthetic brushes are made with nylon or polyester bristles and provide a smooth finish. The strands have a smooth texture and springiness that delivers straight lines with the paint. They retain their shape with the paint pickup because of the softness of the bristles. Synthetic fibre paintbrushes are a popular choice for painting fine details in oil. 

What Brushes Should I Choose For Oil Painting?

Walking into any art supply store looking for a paintbrush can be overwhelming. There are so many to choose from! But never fear, with a bit of knowledge and understanding about the products you need, you can make some easy choices on the best paint brushes for oil painting. We’ve already discussed synthetic and natural fibre brushes, but the quality is another important factor to remember while shopping for oil painting brushes. You don’t need professional-level paintbrushes, but aiming for a few quality paintbrushes will make painting with oils much more effortless. Using name brands and price as quality indicators can be helpful when choosing a paintbrush.

Further factors that influence selecting a paintbrush should be shape and springiness. Checking for springiness can be done by giving your hand a stroke with a paintbrush before you buy. There should be a little give, but not too much. A higher-quality brush should hold its shape well, without the fibres spreading too much.

Paintbrush shapes to look out for when choosing oil painting brushes are fan shapes, rounds, filberts, flats, and bright. Size depends on what size of canvas you want to paint with. A palette knife can be useful when oil painting. Choose a few paintbrushes to begin with and build your oil painting brush supplies from a small collection.

The quality of the paintbrushes you choose can make them last longer than cheaper versions. And with proper care, they will last even longer. Here are some tips:

  1. After use, clean the paintbrush off with a rag and rinse away the pigment with a spirit or brush cleaner.
  2. Lather the brush with a bit of soap and rinse with warm water.
  3. Store them with the bristles standing up or in an air-tight container once they are entirely residue-free.

The right oil painting brush can add to the depth and creativity of your oil painting. There is nothing special about an oil painting brush except for what you can do with it. Price, quality, shape, and bristle type are essential factors to consider when choosing the right paintbrush for your oil-based artwork.

Good luck!

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