Category / Oil Painting

Basics Oil Painting

TOOLS: Choosing Brushes (oil paint)

Oil Paint Brush Guide- Which Brushes to Use


A paint brush is to an oil painter, what a magic wand is to a wizard.  That is to say that it is a tool that makes all the difference to the practitioner.  A good brush is well worth the investment and will get better once it is broken in.

Traditionally, brushes used for oil painting are made out of hog’s hair (bristle) and sable. Increasingly, synthetic brushes made from materials such as nylon, are becoming more and more popular. A good brush will hold its shape, in paint and on canvas, bouncing back to its original shape. The bristles should be firm, neither overly limp or to springy.

Oil painting brushes have 2 handle sizes- long wooden handle and which is up to 12 inches and short- meant for detail.

Long handle brushes are used in a horizontal position with the painting surface vertical.The long handle serves to balance the brush in your hand, centering the brush so the paint will flow better.

The size of the brush by the brush head with No. 1 being the finest and No.12/14 the broadest.


The three most important shapes for oil painting brushes are- flat, round and filbert.


flat: these have a wedge-shaped square tip. Flat brushes are primarily used for blocking in large areas of color, in the painting’s early stage.

round: these brushes taper at the tip. Round brushes are used to create a more linear/straight brush stroke.

filbert: these brushes resemble a finger tip. Filbert brushes are used to apply color broadly. Used on its side, a filbert gives a thin line; used on it’s broad side (flat) it produces a heavy thick brush stroke.


Sable: also known as “soft” brushes, and are used for finer detail.

Bristle: also known as hog’s hair. These are a stiffer bristle, and are therefore better for larger brushes.


If your looking at filling in the of your oil painting basic brush collection for oil painting, we recommend getting the following brushes:

Flats: #12,#4-8 and #2
Filberts: #12,#4-8 and #2
Rounds: #2 or #3

If you are looking to get the most value for money, we would suggest investing in a complete set of brushes rather than buying each one individually. Brush sets, contain most of the brushes that you need in addition to a few extra’s that are just nice to have. These sets generally tend to be a good deal.

Most major brands have great sets, but we would suggest checking out the following sets:

Set of Oil Paint Brushes

Visit Blick Art Materials, to see a comprehensive selection of brushes. Selection can be found here:


In order to maintain a long lasting relationship with your brush it is good practice to clean your brushes after each session. Integrate this extra step into your painting regime and this will drastically help prolong the life of each brush.

1. Solvent as a Cleaner
For oil paint use mineral spirits, or terpenoid.
-Start by wiping excess paint on a rag, removing extra paint will make the job much easier.
-Rinse brush in mineral solvent, it’s okay to use the used solvent from your painting session. Try to get all the paint off the bristles.
-Use RAG to remove solvent and paint on bristles.
-Rinse brush under running water.
-Once brush is clean, remove excess liquid from bristles and shape into correct form. Store upright in container to dry.

2. Dish Soap
-Wipe excess paint on a rag, removing extra paint will make the job much easier.
-Squeeze liquid dish soap into the palm of your hand. With water running work soap into brush bristles until. Work through, rinse and repeat until there is no more paint remaining.
-Reshape brush, and let it dry completely.
3. Fabric Softener
-Wipe excess paint on a rag, removing extra paint will make the job much easier.
-Mix together a gallon of warm water and 1/2 cup fabric softener.
-Swirl brush in solution, paint should begin to come off in the mixture. Shake off and rinse any remaining solution.
-Reshape brush into correct shape and let dry.
4. Vinegar
-Soak the brush in vinegar for an hour.
-Place the brush in an old pot and cover it with vinegar. You want the bristles to be completely covered with vinegar
-Bring the vinegar to a slow simmer on the stove. Simmer vinegar with the paintbrushes for a few minutes.
-Remove brushes, let them cool.
-Comb bristles, working paint out of the bristles.
-Rise and shape brush.


We have become huge fans of this type of brush cleaner. This metal brush cleaner features a grate at the bottom of the cleaning chamber that allows paint sediment from your brushes to fall to the bottom of the outer pot. This helps keep the fluid fresh for the next use, saving you time and preserving your solvent. The lid has a built-in gasket that forms an air tight, leak proof seal, preventing the smells and harsh fumes of solvents from escaping, and keeping solvents from spilling out.

Less expensive versions are made from glass and contain a metal grate at the bottom, and is also sealable.


Palette knives are mainly used for mixing and blending colors on a palette. Some artists use this tool as an instrument to paint with, although it generally is not recommended for most painting styles as it creates a heavy chunky stroke.

TIP: If you live in the United States, the best selection and prices come from Blick Art Materials, the most convenient and fast is Amazon.




-article compiled, photographed & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts

Basics Oil Painting

Prepping a Surface to Oil Paint On (canvas,panel,board)


A surface area (or support) is the name given to a supporting surface on which all (oil,acrylic,etc) paintings are created, or carried out.

The most popular surface or support’s to paint on are: canvas (stretched & board), wood panel, board (i.e. masonite, gessobord) and stretched linen. (see, Detailed Information section below)

Many artists prefer to use panel or board because the surface is rigid, smooth and not heavily textured and requires less prep-work and priming. Canvas is flexible and heavily textured and requires extra work to get a firm desirable surface for painting.


Primer is the first coat of paint applied to the support. One of the main purposes of a primer is to prevent the color pigment from absorbing into the surface. A white coat of primer or Gesso keeps the brilliance of the paint.

Gesso can be purchased ready made. It is similar in consistency to acrylic paint and comes in a multitude of colors. Gesso firms the surface, preventing the paint from soaking into the support; giving the veneer a little more texture or “tooth,” enabling the paint to stick better.

Adding primer to ALL surfaces is HIGHLY recommended- with an application of between 2-4 coats before actual pigment painting can begin.

Apply first coat with a vertical brush stroke and apply second coat with a horizontal stroke to fill in the groove. For each coat alternate and repeat, letting each coat dry thoroughly.


(full supply list in the tabbed section below)


Based on ease, quality and convenience- we recommend a gessobord with a 3/4 inch +(plus) cradle, meaning the support is attached and thicker widths can also function as a frame. Take into account what you want your finished product to be.

Application of a coat of gesso is still recommended, before painting, even on gessobord.

Check Blick Art Materials for the best selection of Gessobord panels, here.


complete information on prepping your surface to paint on

(expand sections below)

CANVAS: The traditional surface of the painter. Canvas comes in both a coarse and fine weave. The texture of a canvas is called the “tooth” of the canvas. The “tooth” when primed becomes very responsive to oil paint. A stretched canvas is easy and lightweight (easy to ship).

LINEN: Linen is the finest weave of canvas. Linen is less likely to shrink or loose its shape than regular canvas. Cotton canvas more inexpensive but is more prone to distortion. Linen is on the pricey side.

HARDBOARDS: Hardboard is made from compressed wood pulp. This type of surface area is largely favored by artists because it comes pre-made, it is lightweight, inexpensive and strong. Hardboard should be properly primed so that acid or oils do not leach in from the board which could result in yellowing of the painting. (This includes Gessobord and Masonite, which are both brands.)

WOOD PANELS: Hard woods are more suitable to use as panels, as softer woods are more likely to warp. It is believed that paintings on wood panel are likely to last longer. Panels can be should be cut from well seasoned wood and be free of knots, cracks and or defects. Painting on wood panels can create a heavy painting, and is therefore not recommended for shipping.

*best hard woods to paint on include: oak, cedar, birch, walnut, or mahogany.  

(Visit Blick Art Materials, for our recommended selection of pre-made hard wood panels)


The “drumlike” tautness of a canvas is achieved by stretching the canvas over a wooden frame called a stretcher. The stretcher is a mitered frame in which the beveled corners do not press against the stretched canvas. Ready made stretcher bars can be purchased here, and a list of full supplies below for stretching your linen or canvas.


(full supply list in the tabbed section below)


When considering what size you want your surface area to be, consider using standard framing sizes. If you plan on doing an framing you will be thanking yourself.

Below is the Standard Canvas Size chart in both inches and centimeters:





gesso brushes


We recommend gessobord, and if you live in the United States, the best selection and prices come from Blick Art Materials.



Blick Art Materials has the best selection for all supplies and materials listed above.

These were the resources that were used in the creation of this article:
BOOK: The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting- With Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters by Max Doerner
BOOK: The Complete Book of Painting & Drawing by Gerald Woods

If you require large quantities of Gesso, it can be made from scratch. Recipe to follow in a separate post.

Patron of the Arts- Creativity & Inspiration Crown

-article compiled, photographed & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts