Old Masters Academy

Oil painting essential materials: Bristle and Sable BRUSHES

Oil painting essential materials: Bristle and Sable BRUSHES

Oil painting essential materials:

Bristle and Sable BRUSHES


Bristle and Sable.—The brushes suitable for oil painting are of two kinds,—bristle and sable hair. Of the latter, red sable are the only ones you should get. They are expensive, but they have a spring and firmness that the black sable does not have. Camel’s hair is out of the question. Don’t get any, if you can only have camel’s hair. It is soft and flabby when used in oil and you can’t work well with such brushes. The same is true of the black sable. But though the red sablesare expensive, you do not need many of them, nor large ones, so the cost of those you will need is slight.


Red sables



The only sables which are in any degree indispensable to you are the smaller sizes of riggers. These are thin, long brushes which are useful for outlining, and all sorts of fine, sharp touches.

You use them to go over a drawing with paint in laying in a picture, and for branches, twigs, etc. As their name implies, you must have them for the rigging of vessels in marine painting also. The three sizes shown are those you should have, and if you get two of each, you will find them useful in all sorts of places. When you buy them, see that they are elastic and firm, that they come naturally and easily to a good point, without any scraggy hairs. Test them by moistening them, and then pressing the point on the thumb-nail. They should bend evenly through the whole length of the hair. Reject any which seem “weak in the back.” If it lays flat toward the point and bends all in one place near the ferrule, it is a poor brush.



These three larger and thicker sizes come in very useful often and it would be well if you were to have these too. Sometimes a thick, long sable brush will serve better than another for heavy lines, etc.

All these brushes are round. One largish  like this it would be well to have; but these are all the sables necessary.




Bristle brushes

Bristle Brushes.—The sable brush or pencil is often necessary; but oil painting is practically always done with the bristle, or “hog hair,” brush. These are the ones which will make up the variety of kinds in your six dozen. A good bristle brush is not to be bought merely by taking the first which comes to hand. Good brushes have very definite qualities, and you should have no trouble in picking them out. Nevertheless, you will take the trouble to select them, if you care to have any satisfaction in using them.

The Bristle.—You want your brush to be made of the hair just as it grew on the hog. All hair, in its natural state, has what is called the “flag.” That is the fine, smooth taper towards the natural end of it, and generally the division into two parts. This gives the bristle, no matter how thick it may be, a silky fineness towards the end; and when this part only of the bristle is used in the brush, you will have all the firmness and elasticity of the bristle, and also a delicacy and smoothness and softness quite equal to a sable. But this, in the short hair of an artist’s brush, wastes all the rest of the length of the hair; for it is only by cutting off the “flag,” and using that, which is only an inch or so long, that you can make the brush. Yet the bristle may be several inches long, and all this is sacrificed for that little inch of “flag.” Naturally the “flag” is expensive, and naturally also the manufacturer uses the rest of the hair for inferior brushes. These latter you should avoid. These inferior brushes are made from the part of the bristle remaining, by sandpapering, or otherwise making the ends fine again after they are cut off. But it is impossible to make a brush which has the right quality in this way.

Categorized: Art Materials , News
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Post Has 1 Comment

Leave A Reply