As far as brushes are concerned at least purchase student grade brushes or even better if you can. If the bristles are falling out when you are painting then you have a cheap brush and they are not worth painting with! I know brushes can be expensive, go to an art store vs. a nationwide store if you can. I know now a days these Mom ans Pop stores are hard to come by but you can get a better price if you are buying several really good brushes at one time. The Art Store in Kutztown, Pa. is a good place to start and Dave is also on-line:
The Art Store, Inc., 462 West Main Street, Kutztown, Pa. 19530. 610-683-9123 www.TheArtStoreInc.com
There are several types and material used to make brushes; the bristles can be made from Ox, Hog bristle or hair, Squirrel/blue squirrel, Camel, Sable, Badger, Horse and other natural hairs. Synthetic brushes are man-made from different materials. I like white synthetic brushes for their ability to hold water and long-range which means I can get a fairly long stroke of consistent color.
Red sable brushes are on the top of the list as far as quality is concerned and will last a long time, one maker is Kolinsky brushes from Siberia. Red sable has bristles that have a nice sharp point-tip, ultimate softness, flexibility and are resilient in spring or hold their shape under pressure. They are absorbent or hold a fair amount of pigment.
The Blue squirrel brushes are from Russian blue squirrels and are known for a quality brush and cheaper than sable brushes. Their bristles are soft with a little bit of spring. The larger squirrel brush you have the more support the brush will have.
Brushes made from hog hair are the ultimate hard bristle brush, made from the back of the pig’s body. The brushes are strong and springy usually found with split end bristles; they are designed this way to be able to hold more oil paint.
Camel hair brushes are not made from camel-hair, the hair of a camel is too wooly or wiry. Not exactly sure what they use to make camel brushes.
Ox brushes have long bristles and are springy. Goat brushes lack spring but at the same time the hairs come to a nice point. Mostly used for calligraphy and Chinese techniques in painting.
Brushes come in so many sizes, lengths, tips and styles. In general brushes with longer handles are used for easel painting or standing up canvas painting; oils and acrylic paint. Watercolor brushes usually have a shorter handle. I look at the brush’s tip and how the bristles are formed. I generally do not care the length of the handle; but in general the oil, acrylic brushes are stronger to be able to push around a thicker paint. Think about it oil and acrylic paints are thicker in pigment compared to watercolor.
Brushes range in sizes from 000 to 24, ranging from thinnest to thick pointed with length and flat bristles usually starting at 1/2 inch, one inch and so on. Brushes that come to a point in varies lengths or rigger/liner/drags are used for applying a consistent line of color, details, tight areas with control of pigment. I love a number 6 drag brush because I can pretty much paint an entire painting with this one brush. I like the control of pigment with this brush and the brushes have a large range of size regarding length of bristles, the size and they have a sharp point. I usually buy synthetic fiber brushes because I like the way they hold paint. The only downfall is I need to buy two compared to a natural bristle brush. The synthetic bristle does wear out after several paintings and becomes frayed at the tips.
Flat tip brushes are used for a wide area to cover and even strokes of color. A Filbert is a brush that is flat but does not come to a shape point, the end is more rounded. The larger number Filbert is good for covering a large area. A Fan brush is in the fan shape and comes in varies sizes; good for landscape, creating human hair and multiple lines. Keep in mind when using a fan brush that the color pigment on the center bristles usually come across wider and heavier with pigment when painting because these center bristles hit the paper or come in contact with the paper before the side bristles.
There are Bamboo brushes that are sometimes called Mop brushes because they are uneven and just look like a mop of bristles put together with-out order. These are used for wide coverage, glazes, glues, stains and large amounts of paint at one time.
Cleaning your brushes; I like to make a lather of gentle soap like ivory liquid in the palm of my hand. Then clean or roll the brushes around under water. Never scrub the bristles directly in soap on their tips, this will bend and break the bristles. Flick the excess water out and store straight up or on their side lying flat on a paper towel/cotton rag. If you don’t flick the excess water out and store the brushes with the excess water will or can damage the Ferrule of the brush; the part which holds all the bristles together. Never store brushes bristles down! Make sure to take all the paint out of them before washing and reshape them, plus never soak brushes; rinse if not using and then wash with the others at the end. If you leave the brush with paint until your finished the paint will dry and the brush is no longer good. The picture at the top is a great way to hold brushes, on post 8-7-12 there you can read about the holder. Just put in search and it should come up.