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Make Your Mark in Oils

Making Your Mark - How to Select and Get the Most Out of Your Oil Brushes

Oil painting is an ever evolving intersection of inspiration, skill and the discovery of more perfect instruments to channel your expression. Reaching out to new tools, however, can be daunting.

With so many brush shapes, sizes and materials available to the oil colorist, finding that combination that just "feels right" necessarily comes through trial. Yet, by treating yourself to a broader selection, you may find a new brush that offers the unique expressive gestures your work has been craving.

Below, we have outlined various marks and strokes and recommend the brushes or knifes best suited to the task. When you are selecting a new brush, be sure to focus on the quality, in addition to the utility. Quality tools are one of the best investments in your enjoyment!

"Oil painting is an ever evolving intersection of inspiration, skill and the discovery"

impasto texture

Impasto and Textures
Few paints allow the artist to be as daring with texture as oil. To create thick and sculptural marks use paint straight from the tube or add a thickening medium such as Dorland's Wax Medium. It is strong and stiff yet flexible, perfect for moving large amounts of color, making bold, expressive strokes and working with thickening mediums. DANIEL SMITH Impasto brushes have seamless nickel-plated brass ferrules, are rust-resistant and the ergonomic handles are carefully shaped to reduce hand fatigue during painting. Hog bristle brushes work well for handling thick paint, as well as the following list of special brushes and tools.

Try these:

Series 56-01 Impasto Brush
Constructed of the thickest synthetic fibers to create bold and expressive marks.

Painting Knives for Oil and Alkyds
Available in a variety of sizes and shapes to create a range of marks directly on your painting surface.

Colour Shapers
Rubber composite tips in a variety of shapes make these tools great for shaping and carving into wet paint as well as building impasto marks.

smoothstrokes - glazing

Smooth Strokes and Glazing
Soft brushes can create smooth, flat strokes when used with oil paint that has been thinned with painting medium or a small amount of mineral spirits or turpentine. For glazing, use a soft natural or synthetic brush, a transparent pigment and painting medium (DANIEL SMITH Painting Medium for Oil and Alkyds is wonderful for glazing techniques).

Try these:

Autograph Series 55 Kolinsky Sable Oil Brush Bright and Filbert
The finest, silkiest hair for superb control in strokes and glazing.

Autograph Series 46 Black Sable Oil Brush Bright and Filbert
Slightly stiffer and stronger bristles than Kolinsky Sable make this a resilient yet smooth all-purpose brush.

Series 55 Ox Hair Brush Bright and Filbert
With slightly stiffer hair, the lower price makes this brush an economical choice for oil painters.

Platinum Series 40 Taklon Multi-Media Brushes
A smooth and springy all purpose brush best used with thinner paints.

Platinum Series 11 Faux Mongoose Brush Bright and Filbert
Very natural feeling bristles make this brush a great alternative to Black Sable or Kolinsky Sable oil brushes.

Fineline - detail

Fine Line and Detail Brushes
The secret to painting smooth and even lines in oil is to use a soft, springy brush with thin, brushable paint. Thin and flowing linework and signatures are made with small round brushes charged with a mixture of oil paint, painting medium and a small amount of solvent. Larger rounds create painterly lines and give additional variation in the width of the brush mark.

Try these:

Series 44-04 and 44-07 Kolinsky Sable Detailing Brush
A short handled brush used with small amounts of thin paint for tiny details and retouch work.

Autograph Series 55-01 Kolinsky Sable Round
Our finest sable for creating lines, signing paintings and achieving detail in oil.

Autograph Series 46-01 Black Sable Round
Slightly stiffer than Kolinsky sable, this all-purpose brush has an excellent point.

Series 55-50 Ox Hair Brush Round
Light ox hair creates a springy, slightly stiff brush for painterly lines.

Platinum Series 40-8 Taklon Multi-Media Round
Provides great control and a tapered point.

Platinum Series 11-1 Faux Mongoose Brush Round
This synthetic performs like a natural hair brush with great spring and resilience.

Loose Strokes

Creating Loose Brush Strokes
Painters who work with thick oil paint straight from the tube or enjoy a looser style of painting appreciate the stiffness of hog bristle brushes. Strong and resilient, hog bristles can move large volumes of paint on the canvas and create interesting textured marks. Take advantage of these brushes for filling in large areas, creating spontaneous strokes and scrubbing paint into the canvas they have excellent shape retention and can take abuse.

Try these:

Platinum Series 10 Hog Bristle Flat, Bright and Filbert Brush
Twice the size of typical brushes, these incredible brushes move large amounts of paint. Use flats on background areas for maximum carrying capacity.

Red Boar Series 35 Hog Bristle Flat, Bright and Filbert Brush
The workhorse of our brush line, densely packed with interlocked bristles and extremely tough.

Series 33-33 Big Flat Bristle Brush
Constructed with an extra long handle for those who like to create long strokes or move back from their work. Mural painters love this brush.

Special Shapes - Strokes

Special Shapes and Strokes
Unique brush shapes are often the solution for creating a specific mark or exploring a new technique. From ultra-loose sketching in oil to tight and detailed architectural rendering, specialty brush shapes give artists a new approach to painting.

Try these:

Use the round shape of filbert brushes to create smooth and organic shapes in oil. Portrait and still life artists appreciate their ability to make a gentle and smooth mark without hard edges.

Series 40-6 and 10-70 Short Filberts
Shorter bristles give painters ultimate control with these stiff filberts.

Series 10-80 Long Filbert
Step back from your painting and enjoy loose and spontaneous sketching with long flexible filberts.

Series 11-7 Faux Mongoose Angular Brushes
Softer natural and synthetic angles are wonderful for architecture and straight lines. Turned on their edge they give a long and crisp line.

Series 10-90 and 35-16 Angular Hog Brushes
Favorites of plein aire and landscape painters for their great variety of line work and mark making.

Blending - Smoothing

Blending and Smoothing
A variety of natural and synthetic hair brushes are used to create smooth color transitions, blend colors together on the canvas and eliminate brush strokes in oil painting. For thick paint or large areas, use a stiff brush such as hog bristle. For smaller areas or to achieve an extremely smooth surface, the softest natural hair brushes are used.

Try these:

Autograph Series 80-01 Pure Badger Fan Brush
The ultimate in refining large passages and color transitions.

Autograph Series 85-01 Smooth Oil Blender
Delicately blends colors for flawless color transitions and a uniform surface.

Autograph Series 46-03 Black Sable Thick Filbert
A great all purpose blending and painting brush for oil.

Platinum Series 11-8 Faux Mongoose Fan
Our most natural feeling synthetic blender.

Platinum Series 10-95 Hog Bristle Fan
A stiff, strong blender great for large areas.

Platinum Series 40-7 White Taklon Multi-Media Fan
A soft and delicate fan for oil or acrylic.

Red Boar Series 35-15 Fan
A great workhorse for large areas and thick oil paint.