A Few Words about Paintbrush Bristles
by Erika Mehlhaff
AUSTIN TX PAINTING
Paintbrushes have three main parts: the brush handle, the ferrule, and the bristles or filaments. The handle has a metal band attached to it; this is the ferrule. The ferrule is crimped and glued to the handle and the bristles or filaments to keep them bonded. The brush head is the tuft of natural bristles or synthetic filaments that holds the paint and is the most essential part of any paintbrush.
BREAKING DOWN BRISTLES
The brush head of a paintbrush is made from natural bristles, synthetic fibers, or a combination. The brush head can be soft or stiff; each is useful depending on the style of painting and type of paint an artist chooses to use. They come in different shapes and are used to create different effects; the most common of these shapes include fan, flat, and round brush heads.
Natural hair bristles are usually a type of animal hair (e.g., hog or kolinsky sable hair) that determines the quality of the paintbrush; the type of hair used for the bristles, in turn, determines the cost of the brush. Some artists work only with natural-bristle paintbrushes, but many have added synthetic-filament brushes.
Synthetic filaments are usually made from nylon or polyester; they can be used to create similar effects to brushes with natural hair bristles. Synthetic filaments tend to last longer than natural hair bristles, which is an economic advantage of working with them. Some paintbrush manufacturers blend natural and synthetic filaments to extend the life of the brushes.
Proper care and storage of your paintbrushes is essential for helping you to prolong their lifespan and avoid costly replacement. When you finish painting, it is important to clean your brushes before the paint dries on the bristles. Watercolor or acrylic paints can be cleaned from paintbrushes with dishwashing soap and water, and oil paints can be cleaned with solvents such as turpentine or mineral spirits. There are special solvents on the market that can be used as well, including some that have been developed specifically to clean and condition natural bristles.
Paintbrush storage is important as well. Your brushes should be gently reshaped with your fingers after cleaning and laid flat to dry; once dry, they should be stored standing upright with the brush heads pointing upwards, to keep them from bending and/or splaying irreversibly. Cleaning your paintbrushes after use and storing them properly will help you to maintain the shape of the brush heads, and preserve them so they can continue helping you create the painting effects you desire. Be sure to take care of your brushes to avoid ruining the bristles and having to replace them.
Art from the Streets is an Austin, Texas-based non-profit organization that serves people living in homelessness. The organization provides a location for transient artists to create and practice their artistic skills, as well as to develop a sense of stability. Art from the Streets (AFTS) provides opportunities for the artists to display and sell their art at events including the AFTS annual art show. If you would like more information about the AFTS program or to learn about ways you can support AFTS and its mission, please contact the organization at any time.
Purchasing artwork supports the artists directly.