Brushes & Brush Care

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Brushes & Brush Care

PostAdded by LEAF Bot » December 30th, 2009, 19:15

Brushes and Brush Care

We all use them, yet not many of us really take that much of an interest in their manufacture or maintenance. I am of course talking about brushes. They are THE most important thing in a miniature painter's arsenal, good brush care gives results! I will apologise in advance if this article covers issues that you either already know or aren't concerned with, I am, unfortunately for you dear reader, a particularly anal person when it comes to care of my painting equipment so once again i'll apologise if you feel this is too exhaustive.

Most folk most probably use GW brushes as they are relatively hard wearing & relatively inexpensive, However, please don't think that these are the only brushes suitable to painting miniatures, all good art shops should carry ranges of many different brushes of different bristle materials, shapes and sizes, a great deal of these are perfectly viable for miniature painting as long as you can get the shape in a useful size.

1. Brush Choice
    The most common shapes are these:


      # Round: Long closely arranged bristles for detail
      # Flat: For spreading paint quickly and evenly over a surface. They will have longer hairs than their Bright counterpart.
      # Bright: Flat brushes with short stiff bristles, good for drybrushing and large area coverage
      # Filbert: Flat brushes with domed ends. They allow good coverage and the ability to perform some detail work.
      # Fan: Not hugely useful in miniature painting but for the application of weathering pigments & powders they are occasionally pretty useful
      # Angle: Like the Filbert, these are versatile and can be applied in both general painting application as well as some detail work.
      # Mop: A large brush with a rounded edge for broad thin glazes over existing drying layers of paint without damaging lower layers. Also useful for dusting models that have been on the shelf too long!
      # Rigger: Round brushes with longish hairs, traditionally used for painting the rigging in pictures of ships. They are useful for fine lines.

    Brushes are usually given numbered sizes, although there is no exact standard for their physical dimensions. From smallest to largest, the sizes are:
    10/0, 7/0 (also written 0000000), 6/0, 5/0, 4/0, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30.

    Brushes as fine as 30/0 are manufactured by some companies, but are not common. Sizes 000 to 20 are most common. With 000 roughly equating to a GW fine detail brush. Artists' brushes are most commonly categorized by both type and by shape so it shouldn't be too hard to find what you want!

    Types include:
      # Watercolour brushes, which are usually made of sable, synthetic sable or nylon.
      # Oil brushes, which are usually made of sable or bristle
      # Acrylic brushes, which are almost entirely nylon or synthetic
      # Natural hair brushes, using hairs from squirrel, badger or sable are used by watercolorists due to their superior ability to absorb and hold water. These are your best bet as a miniature painter.

    Bristles may be natural; either soft hair, hog bristle or synthetic. Soft hair brushes are made from Kolinsky Sable or ox hair (sabeline); or more rarely, squirrel, pony, goat, mongoose or badger. Cheaper hair is sometimes called camel hair, although oddly enough, it does not come from camels. Hog bristle is stiffer and stronger than soft hair. It may be bleached or unbleached. Synthetic bristles are made of special multi-diameter extruded nylon filament.

    Handles are commonly wooden but can also be made of moulded plastic. Many mass-produced handles are made of unfinished raw wood; better quality handles are of seasoned hardwood. The wood is sealed and lacquered to give the handle a high-gloss, waterproof finish that reduces soiling and swelling. Metal ferrules may be of aluminium, nickel, copper, or nickel-plated steel. Quill ferrules are also found: these give a different "feel" to the brush. The top of the range brushes, however, usually have ferrules made from transparent plastic tightened in place by thin wire.

2. Brush Care
    A natural hair brush utilized in one medium (oil paint, acrylic, watercolor, etc, you never know what you might end up using!) should not be used again in a different medium. Using brushes across media can cause them to age prematurely. This does not apply to synthetic hair brushes.

    Paint and solvent, be that water, thinners, turps etc. should be cleaned from brushes after use. After removing most of the paint from the bristles manually with an appropriate solvent, detergent and water should be used to clean the brush further. After a thorough cleaning, natural hair brushes really benefit from using a brush conditioner on the hairs to restore the natural oils found in all hairs. A conditioner can be worked into the bristles which can then be shaped to a point and left to dry. Before the next painting session, the conditioner should be removed with water.

    Brushes should never be left bristle-end down in solvent for a prolonged period. Doing so will cause the brush to slacken and may cause the bristles to splay out and lose their shape. Methods of suspending brushes in solvent include a metal spring, a mesh or a clamp. These grip brush handles and do not allow the bristles of the brush to touch the bottom of the solvent container. Also, leaving brushes in solvent for a prolonged period can cause damage to the bristles themselves by stripping oils and swelling, to the ferrule, to the adhesive used to hold bristles in place and to the wooden handle.

    If a brush does start to lose its shape then a good way to recover it is to run it under a hot tap while holding it vertically in the water stream, this "relaxes" the hairs and allows them to regain the shape that they were bundled in during manufacture. Unfortunately this does not work for synthetic brushes but it is possible (although very tricky) to reshape them slightly by rolling the bristles on a hot lightbulb to heat bend the synthetic fibres back into shape, however, as I say, this is VERY tricky and you can risk killing the brush entirely. For the less adventurous/more sensible of you once a synthetic brush starts to lose its shape then it's probably best to retire it to either drybrush status or as a palette mixing brush.

    An environmentally friendly and cheap way of removing oil paint from brushes while paint is wet is to immerse the brush in a container containing vegetable oil. The oil will naturally cleanse away the oil paint.

    You may wonder why I've included oils as if they're something you should use in this article but in reality many of the top painters in the world use oils on miniatures, especially for flesh tones where the extended working period given by oil paints makes blending subtle graded tones far far simpler than the same effect with acrylic. Also for weathering models, very thinned down oil washes called "filters" are commonplace in the military modelling world.

    One word of advice though, If you intend to use both oils and acrylics on the same model then please remember you will need to seal the model before swapping medium. I find the best thing to use in this is Johnsons Clear Floor polish. Thin it down 1 part polish to 2 parts water, and then spray your model to seal/varnish it. I've not used this stuff with a brush before , I always airbrush it on (airbrushing being the subject of a future LEAF article I'm planning) so I'd either invest in an airbrush or at least a GW spray gun to get this stuff on your models.

    One final point is this. Transferring paint from pot to palette, with Vallejo paints & oil tubes its easy, you can squeeze them out directly onto your palette, however, with GW paints or coat d'arms, it's best to transfer a little with either an old brush or a spare, also you should use this brush to thin & mix your paint before application. This saves you overloading the brush you intend to work with. I personally like using an acrylic flat angle brush, you can buy packs of 5 or 6 from places like "The Works" here in the UK for about a pound, as for other countries, just do a bit of shopping around! Wargames shows are great for picking up cheap brushes of all sorts of quality. I have a lovely set of sable Vallejo brushes bought from a show for next to nothing.

Well, I think that's about all for now. If there's anything else you'd like to know or I could help you with then please PM me. The Meadow of Arts is also a great resource for any questions or queries.

I hope you found this useful.

Written by: Elplebian

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