Brushes For Acrylic & Oil Painting

Written by Jill Saur 10/16

The best brushes are the brushes that work best for you. Don’t just depend on your instructor’s supply list. Experiment. I do.

One thing I always recommend is using good quality brushes. There are so many different types of brushes. A brush in the hand of one artist will behave differently in the hands of another artist. Painting is a dance. The artist is the composer and the brush is the instrument.

Brushes used for acrylic painting have a long handle. This enables you to paint further away from the canvas. When you hold the brush closer to the end of the handle, you can paint more freely. When you hold the brush closer to the ferrule, it’s easier to paint details.

Acrylic brushes are made with synthetics or bristles.  Synthetic brushes are softer than bristle brushes. There's a careful balance that I look for in a synthetic brush. I don't like them to be too soft because the paint won't brush well onto the canvas. So, I look for synthetic brushes that are firm.  I find bristle brushes to be too stiff for my personal liking.  Each artist must find the brushes that work best for him or her.  Acrylic brushes can be used for oil painting but oil painting brushes should not be used for painting in acrylic.

The number on the brush lets you know the width of the bristles. The brush should be labeled with the brand and the type of bristles.

The following brushes below are the basic brushes that artists use. 

Flat Brushes - These brushes have longer bristles at the end. The combined bristles on the brush form the shape of a rectangle. This brush allows you to load a considerable amount of paint, make long strokes, and it has more spring to it.

Flat brush for acrylic painting - Jill Saur

Bright Flat Brushes - These brushes form a square shape with the bristles. They won’t allow you to load a lot of paint, but they give you the ability to firmly apply the paint into the crevices of the canvas. This brush doesn’t have as much spring to it as the regular flat brush.

bright flat brush for acrylics - Jill Saur


Below, you can see the difference between a flat brush and a flat bright brush.

difference between bright and regular flat brush


Round Brushes - These brushes are round and the tips come to more of a point. This is a good all-round brush to have.  They're good for making general lines and also for blending.

round brushes for acrylic painting - Jill Saur


A filbert brush has an oval end on the tip of the bristles. This brush is good for blending.

filbert brushes for acrylic painting - Jill Saur


A fan brush is mostly used for watercolor painting. However, it can be used in acrylic and oil painting. This brush is good for creating texture.

fan brush for acrylic painting


The liner brush is good for creating controlled lines. It doesn’t hold a lot of paint at one time.

liner brush for acrylic painting - Jill Saur


I recommend that you experiment with any brushes that you find interesting.  You just might develop a style of your own using something that's different!



Up until now, I've been using a popular brush soap to clean my brushes.  I read an article about this Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer and decided to give it a try.  

I took eighteen brushes that I had cleaned with brush soap for the duration of their use.  Over a period of time, the paint at the base of the brush (that my brush soap didn't remove) hardened the bristles.  I soaked them in Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer.  This product is for brushes that have been used with acrylic and oil paint.  Look at the color of the restorer brush liquid that was dislodged from the brushes!  

This $17.00 bottle of cleaner and restorer has saved approximately $800.00 worth of brushes!  Amazing!  Be sure to read the directions on the back of the bottle to determine how long you'll need to soak your brushes.

winsor & newton brush cleaner - Jill Saur

   Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer


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