Paintbrushes For Oil Painting

This page will help you choose the right paintbrushes for oil painting.
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Paintbrushes For Oil Painting

This page will help you choose the right paintbrushes for oil painting.


As oil painting is almost always done at an easel, most brushes have a long handle to allow the artist to step back from the painting.

The consistency of oil paint is that of a thick paste and requires a stiff-bristled brush to drag it across the canvas without bending the bristles. Hog bristle brushes are the most popular choice, as their robustness makes them ideal for working with thick paint. There are different quality grades of hog bristle brushes on the market depending on the source of the bristles and the brush manufacturer.

Soft brushes are used with a more diluted paint to add fine details, finishes or glazes. Soft brushes should be avoided for washes as they wear out more quickly due to the hard and rough surface of the canvas.

Thinner and more flexible, synthetic bristles or natural bristles (such as sable hair) can also be used for fine details when the oil paint is diluted.


1- The round soft bristle paintbrush

is useful for sketching details or drawing delicate lines, whereas the round stiff bristle brush can make wider strokes with thicker paint and is also useful for dabbing paint. (W&N) (Raphael) (R&L, Zen) (DeSerres)


2- Bright brushes are square-end short-haired flat brushes 

that can cover large areas and create texture with clear outlines. Use them on their edge to create lines. Long flat brushes have similar uses but more flexibility. The angular brush is a variation of the flat square brush and allows you to create similar effects.

Spalter brushes are large flat brushes used primarily for covering surfaces or applying gesso. (W&N) (R&L, Zen) (Raphael)


3- The "cat's tongue" (also called filbert or domed brush)

is a flat brush with a rounded end. It is sometimes referred to as the oval brush because of the length and curvature of its tip. It is a good choice for artists who wish to create curved lines or long touches of colour, as the brush is ideal for long, controlled strokes. (W&N) (Raphael) (R&L, Zen)


4- The liner brush (also called outliner, rigger, highliner)

is a round and fine brush with flexible and very long bristles. It is mainly used to make very fine lines with relatively runny colours. It takes some practice to master handling a liner, but it allows for long continuous strokes and intricate details that no other brush can match! It’s also ideal for lettering and signing. (Raphael) (DeSerres) (Nobel set)


5- The fan brush

primarily serves for smoothing and soft blending strokes. Load the brush with multiple colours and blend them subtly onto the canvas. Keep the brush parallel to the colours. (W&N) (R&L, Zen) (Princeton)


The choice of shape depends on the artist’s preferences, as different brushes achieve different effects. Flat, square-end brushes, for example, are ideal for covering surfaces, while round brushes are better suited for detail work. Fan brushes are useful for soft blending and creating subtle textural effects.


TIP : Cleaning oil paintbrushes

Brushes used with oil colours should be cleaned with great care. Paintbrush manufacturers recommend rinsing the brush with solvent, wiping it with a cloth, then cleaning it with soap and water, lathering it in the palm of your hand. Once the paint is removed, rinse the brush, shape its bristles, and let it air dry, handle down.