1. What do the numbers and letters mean on the handle of a brush, example #12B or #12F?
The numbers refer to the size of the bristles on the brush. The letter B (bright) means shorter bristles and usually is preferred by oil artists. The letter F (flat) means longer bristles and is usually preferred by acrylic and watercolor artists. On your sable brushes, you will have a B or R. The B means bright or flat and the R means round. These brushes are used for oils and acrylics alike.
2. How do I clean my brushes?
You can use brush soap or Lava hand soap. Brush soap can be found in most art stores. Wipe any paint from the brush and rinse in the appropriate thinner (water for most paints; distilled solvent for oils). Rinse with water and work the brush gently on the soap to make a lather; rinse and repeat until clean. Dry with a clean towel and reshape the hairs. It is best to lay brushes flat until they dry.
3. What is the difference in a bristle brush and a sable brush? When do I use each?
A bristle brush is used mainly for your backgrounds and foregrounds, such as mountains, grass, etc. It can also be used for leafing your trees and scrubbing in your clouds. The sable brushes are used for details, such as tree limbs, fur on animals, feathers, and eye-stoppers (e.g., weeds). Bristle brushes are malleable and can stand a lot of punishment. Sable brushes are very delicate and need more care. They are also more expensive.
4. Can I use the same brushes for oils and acrylics?
Yes, but we recommend a separate set for each medium. Oil paints can leave a residue on your brush that can affect your acrylics.
5. Do you use the hake brush with oils?
No, the hake brush was designed to be used only with acrylic-based or water-based paints. Oil-based paints will ruin the glue used to attach the bristles.
6. Why am I unable to keep a chiseled edge when using my bristle brushes?
Bristle brushes are not designed to hold a true chiseled edge. They are designed for rough blocking work. The hake brush and sable brushes are designed to hold a sharp chisel. However, any brush will loose its edge if it has a build up of paint at the heel of the bristles. So, keep your brushes clean if you are not using them.
7. Do the numbers on the brush vary from brand to brand? For example, is a #10 bristle brush the same size in different brands of brushes?
Make sure you buy fine art brushes not craft brushes. Craft brushes will vary in the size of the bristles. Fine art brands include Robert Simmons, Winsor & Newton, Grumbacher, Langnickel, and Loew Cornell. Fine art bristle brushes will remain the same in size and sable brushes may vary. The handles may vary in length and size but the bristle size will remain the same.
8. My hake brush is behaving strangely - it splits into small sections. I cannot use it to make a smooth wash or blending. What am I doing wrong?
This is a very common, but very simple, problem to fix. It is not the brush. The hake brush works beautifully if you use enough water to hold the bristles together. It is not designed for dry brush painting. You will need to use more paint and water than you think you should. Practice and you will get used to it.
9. I try fluffing out my bristle brush by hammering it on a hard surface, but it immediately regains its chiseled edge. I cannot get the feathery edge to leaf a tree. What am I doing wrong?
It could be the brush. However, it is usually the touch. Even if the bristles reform to a semi-chiseled edge you can, with the right amount of pressure and practice, create beautiful tree leaves. Keep working with the brush and eventually it will form like you want.
10. I am having a horrible time using the #4 script brush! How can I get more branches out of one load? I am lucky to get two or three and they are ALWAYS too heavy. Is it possible that I am using a poor quality brush?
This is a common problem with the script brush. It is easy to solve. When you mix your color be sure the mixture is very thin, like ink. Then roll the brush around in the mixture several times until the brush forms a point. When you paint the limbs, keep the brush angled slightly downward so the paint will keep flowing to the tip. A poor quality brush will affect the outcome. Always use a sable, not a nylon or synthetic brush.
11. My brushes are so hard, I am having a difficult time using them. I have washed them several times, but the large one separates in the center. It is like the quick dry doesn't wash out.
It is too late to save these brushes to the point of making them soft again. The reason for any brush to separate is because there is dried paint embedded deep down near the metal ferrule. If you are working with water-miscible oils, it is critical that you clean your brushes very well immediately after each painting session with soap and water.