There are various types of brushes and stroke techniques that artists use to create different effects with acrylic paint!
If you are the absolute beginner to acrylic painting, this post is meant to help you build some basic skills when it comes to selecting the right brush and its purpose.
Practice these techniques in your sketchbook! Use this as a reference when you are painting!
The above graphic is by no means an inclusive list of all the brushes that exist! I left out the filbert brush which is like a flat but has a rounded tip. A palette knife can be used as a brush to apply thick “impasto” strokes. There’s even odd shaped brushes like zig-zag edged and v-shaped!
Also note that these are all synthetic brushes! When I am shopping for brushes, I make sure the label says they are meant for acrylic paint but also that they are synthetic. Why? The bristles are soft, which make it ideal for painting with acrylic paint. Also, the synthetic material can withstand the acrylic paint and allow for easy cleaning.
How are brushes labeled? Sometimes it depends on the brand. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if brushes were called fun names like “Harry” and “Louie”? That way we’d all know exactly which one! Oh well.
Brushes are typically labeled with names like “flat” or “round” or “bright” and a number. Usually the smaller the number, the smaller the brush! Everyday objects like old toothbrushes can be used too!
- Basecoat: Basecoat brushes can be used for painting an entire canvas with gesso or varnish. It can also be used to paint an extremely large area or if you want to paint the entire canvas one color like black!
- Flat or Bright: Flat brushes are used to get a sharp edge or if you want to paint a large area. They vary in sizes and usually are labeled with a number or how many inches wide they are (1″, 3/4″, etc.). Often times we hear “bright” used. A bright is also a flat brush but the bristles are shorter.
- Angle: An angle brush has many uses! I like to use this when I want my paint strokes to come to a fine point (like tree branches). It’s also perfect for “cutting in” sharp edges or creating zig-zag strokes and double loading for a blended look!
- Round: Round brushes are typically labeled with a number. The smaller the number, the smaller the brush. Use round brushes for filling in small areas. Also use them for fine details and tiny stokes!
- Fan Brush: A fan brush is fun to experiment with! I don’t use it often but they are great for painting palm tree branches, pine trees, waterfalls, etc.
- Everyday Objects: Use an old tooth brush for a splatter paint effect! This is great for painting stars in a night sky. A lot of everyday objects can also be used as a brush: Q-Tips, sticks, feathers, fingers…
Now here is a list of different techniques you can try with your brushes! This is not an inclusive list at all as there are many!
- Dry Brush
- Round Brush
- Angle Brush
- Flat Brush
- Double And Triple Loading
- Splatter Painting
- Painting a Wash
Dry brushing is a technique used by artists to make the paint look “feathery” or “dry”. Any brush can be used for this technique.
When you do a dry brush stroke, use a clean brush with no water on it. Dry it with a paper towel.
Load just the tip with a little bit of paint. You only need to get paint on the tip! If you load too much paint, wipe some off with a paper towel.
Then lightly apply the paint on the canvas! The strokes always remind me of a crayola marker that is running out of ink. It looks translucent and you can see the texture of the canvas or the color underneath.
Some examples of instances when a dry brush technique would look great are: sunset clouds, grass, water, wood texture and more!
Typically, you use a round brush for small strokes and filling in smaller areas. Round brushes come in several different sizes and most brush brands label them with a number. The smaller the number, the smaller the brush.
Use a size 0 brush to paint tiny strokes. There are brushes that are smaller than size 0! You may see them labeled with a number like 5/0. In my tutorials, I usually refer to it as a “tiny detail brush”.
Use a larger number if you are filling in a medium to larger area (such as a silhouette). Or, use it to create medium rounded “free-style looking” strokes.
An angle brush is a handy brush to grab if you are painting trees or want to achieve a nice zig-zag stroke! I like to grab it when I want to “cut in” when painting a large object.
When you use an angle brush, try experimenting with the pressure of how you are holding it. See what happens when you press hard verses if you press light!
Experiment with turning your hand at different angles. The line will get thicker and then thinner when you turn your hand.
Try using the very tip (highest corner point in the angle) to paint fine lines. When I painted the smaller tree branches above, I pressed lightly only using the highest bristles of the brush!
You can also use an angle brush for double loading! I will be demonstrating how to double and triple load next in this guide!
When you double load a brush, you are essentially adding two different colors to the brush without them mixing together.
You can use a flat brush or an angle brush for a double load. Actually, I’ve even used round brushes for this!
First dip one corner of the bristles in one color. Then dip the other corner in the other color.
When you paint a stroke, the two colors will naturally blend together!
Try experimenting with this a bit! I like to double load when I’m painting a sunset. The colors will mix together on the canvas!
See what happens when you use an angle brush for double load! One side will be thicker than the other.
Experiment with different lines, curves, zig-zags, etc.!
One of my favorite ways to blend acrylic paint is letting them just mesh together right on the canvas (or paper)! Adding three colors to the tip of a flat brush is one way to do this.
When you triple load a brush, dip the entire tip in one color first. Then, like a double load, dip each corner in a different color!
Try experimenting with three colors you think will mesh well together! I like using a triple load for the base of a lot of my paintings! The above graphic is a triple loaded brush with black, white and turquoise painted with all up and down strokes.
Imagine the possibilities. Rainy day painting maybe?
Flat brushes are such a versatile brush. Use one when you are filling up large spaces such as sky or water. I will demonstrate two of my favorite ways I use the flat brush!
Painting a sky
I like to use flat brushes for blending colors directly on the canvas when I’m painting a sky. In the graphic you see below, I used the flat brush two different ways. Horizontal strokes and “X” strokes.
Another technique I like to use with flat brushes is painting leaves, grass and other plants. As demonstrated in the graphics below, to paint a tropical looking leaf, I first pressed firm on the bristles. Then I twisted my brush as I stroked up. This made the leaf stroke get thinner. Then I used the very tip of the brush to make the leaf form a fine line.
Try doing the same thing but with a double load! In the graphic below, I double loaded a flat brush with white and green.
There is something called “one stroke” painting. It’s a style of painting developed by artist Donna Dewberry. It’s a technique I haven’t really mastered, however, if you like the double loaded look of paint and how it blends together in, essentially, “one stroke”, you might want to check it out!
Flat Vs. Bright
Is there a difference between a flat and a bright? Kind of. I grab them interchangeably. Bright brushes have slightly shorter bristles which allow for better control. If you’re a beginner, then bright brushes are your best friend! Flat brushes have longer bristles which could hold more paint, making them great for painting skies and filling in large areas!
Next week I will be including a section about blending so check back soon!
Check Back Frequently Because I will be Adding More Techniques To This Post!
In the meantime, you can navigate back home to see what tutorials are available!
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