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Digital Subscriptions > Leisure Painter > Nov-19 > Know your brushes

Know your brushes

Make your brushes your best friends as you recognise how, when and why to use six essential types,


Increase your understanding of brush behaviour

Widen your repertoire of marks

The purpose of this article is to explore the ways in which common brush types can be used to produce a range of effects and support a variety of techniques. This is a personal view; we all have our foibles, and our methods have been shaped by our individual circumstances. I hope the following will be useful in your own working practice.

I have used synthetic brushes throughout my watercolour career, not for any ethical reasons, but simply because that was my starting point. Since those early days, I have become accustomed to the additional resistance they have over semi-synthetic and natural hair brushes. They may carry less liquid than their sable counterparts, but I’ve come to understand their reaction to the pressure and movements I apply, and appreciate how they keep their shape, particularly their point, over a long period.

The Round

Let’s begin with the most familiar and the most versatile of brushes. My Round of choice is a well-pointing No. 12, as my paintings are often quite small – 12x16in. (30.5x40.5cm) is usual – or occasionally a No. 14 if I’m working in a larger format, such as in a demo to a larger audience, where good visibility of the stroke and the mark is important. Wherever possible I use my Round for both broad and fine marks. I’m a great believer in making one brush size work hard for me, because changing midflow interrupts the painting process and shows in the rhythm of the finished piece. I also paint a great deal en plein air in sketchbooks so keeping the kit to a minimum is important. The Round brush does most of the leg work in most of the illustrations in this article.

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the November issue of Leisure Painter. Every month Leisure Painter is packed with practical advice, tutorials and demonstrations aimed at developing the skills and confidence of beginners and amateur painters. We begin this issue with David Bellamy , who talks about travelling and painting – and the inspiration behind some of his iconic scenes. There are painting projects in line and wash, watercolour, pastels, oils and acrylics, from landscapes and still lifes to flowers, animals, buildings and more. Pick up tips on developing successful compositions, working with essential brushes, colour mixing and painting sunsets, and be inspired to use your ideas for producing mugs, cards and and other practical items. Enjoy your month of painting with Leisure Painter.