Brushes! Brushes! Brushes!

My order came from Jerry’s today.  I have 33 or 34 new, pristine paint brushes for acrylic painting.  It feels like Christmas!

I had removed the popped, misshapen and destroyed brushes earlier this week and now I have a collection of new, firm bristled brushes in all types and sizes.  One of my small frustrations with brushes is there is no industry standard for size.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

A  #10 bright in Simply Simmons X-tra firm is 3/4th of an inch wide and an inch from ferrule to toe (the tip of the brush).  In another brand of brush, a  #10 bright is 3/8ths of an inch wide and a 1/2 inch from ferrule to toe.  In the Simply Simmons line that same sized brush is a #4.  A #8 round in another well-known brand is a #4 round in Simply Simmons.  A #16 round in yet another brand is a #6 round in Simply Simmons.

I mention this because we don’t all have access to the same brands of materials.  Clearly Simply Simmons has larger sizes than several other brands.  Normally in my art practice I just grab whatever brush I need and pay little, to no, attention to the size of that brush.  My focus is more on the type of brush I need for the results I want.  But should you come across any of my tutorials which mentions a specific size, that is based upon the brand of brush in my hand and not the industry standard.

I’ve actually spent some time searching for the sizes of the brushes made by the various companies.  I found a chart from Dick Blick which shows the sizes for their rounds and a mixture of other types.  The #10 round in Simply Simmons appears to be the same as a #18 round in the Dick Blick brand.  Maybe this should be a project for me.  To make a list of the actual sizes of the paint brushes in the various brands and what their listed size is. That might be helpful for those who have access to different brands in their area of the world.



Some Common Painting Terms and Their Meanings

Earlier I posted about my favorite brand of acrylic paint brushes, Simply Simmons X-Firm filament long handled brushes.  There are a couple reasons I really like these brushes.  I have never had bristles fall out of these brushes, they are inexpensive when compared to other brands which preform the same way, they are easy to find in most big box stores.  And I like their authority.

  1. Authority.  Which means the firmness of the bristles are “the boss of” my paint.
    1. Because I use professional heavy body acrylic paints, they are thick.  With soft bristles you need to over thin acrylic paints, either with a medium like Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid or water.  (Use to much water and you’ll have underbinding.)  Either way, your paint is thinned and becomes a glaze.  Since I want my paint thicker, I need a brush which can handle it.
  1. Underbinding.  This is when the paint is thinned to much with water.  It becomes unstable on your canvas which means your work may not last.
    1. Acrylic paint uses a polymer emulsion as it’s binder.  Which means it dries to, what is essentially, a plastic.  Add to much water and you effect the binder properties.  Which means it’s possible your paint will actually fall off the canvas at a later date.  Or perhaps it will bubble and blister.  Change its lightfastness.  Something may happen which is unexpected and not your desired result.
    2. I have been delighted with Golden’s Acrylic Glazing Liquid.  It thins my paint effectively, prevents it from drying out to quickly and has become an essential in my painting practice.  Other brands with similar names are not the same product.  Be aware of that and read the labels before you make your purchase.
  2. Drag.  This is the ease in which the paint leaves your brush and applies to your canvas.  Artists have their own preferences for paints and part of that preference is based on the paints drag.
  3. Paint Grade.  This refers to the amount of pigment, the types and quality of pigment and the quality of binders used in the production of the paint.  You have two basic grades of paint:  Professional and Student Grades.
    1. Professional paints have higher pigment loads.  This means there’s more color and less binder within the tube of paint.
    2. Some pigments are expensive which is why professional paints are divided into levels.  Here is a post explaining how to read a tube of paint.
    3. Student grade paints are, generally speaking, non-toxic for normal use.  They often use hues (substitutes for the actual pigments) which are both less costly and safer for beginner/student use. (Obviously wash your hands, don’t eat paint, don’t sand dried paint and breathe it into your lungs-you know, common sense stuff.)
    4. Student grade paint has pretty much the same tinting strength across the board, while the tinting strength of professional paints varies tremendously.
    5. You will need less paint for good coverage with professional paints than you will with student grade paints.  I have found I often need to go over an area of a painting several times with student grade paints to achieve the coverage I want.  This is because of the pigment amount within the paint.
    6. I find transparency is much different between student grand and professional grade paints.  While there are transparent professional paints, and your paint tube will tell you that, I find student grade paints to be-in general-transparent.  This can be very helpful if you are wanting to create paintings using glazing.  Glazing is accomplished through transparent application of color, over top of each other to develop depth.  Glazing is also another way to blend your paints.

The reality of painting is this:  if you are enjoying your experience and your results, you have the materials you need to be using.  If you’re struggling in some area, you might want to consider your materials.  Surprisingly enough, poor results are often the result of the products used rather than the talent of the artist.  Unfortunately most people blame themselves first, rather than investigating the other possibilities.

I am the most vocal advocate of respecting your budget, and I will stick with that.  However, you can respect your budget and still get materials you will be happy with.  In my opinion, it is better to purchase higher quality materials if you’re unhappy with your current results.

In watercolor painting, spend your money on good quality paper over your paints and brushes.  In acrylic painting, in my opinion, it’s better to buy six tubes of professional grade paint-a warm and cool of red, yellow and blue along with a quality Titanium white rather than spend the same amount for 40 tubes of student grade paint.  You can mix all kinds of colors with an expanded color palette.  This will improve your color mixing skills and make you a better artist.  It will also save you a ton of money in the long run.

If you are struggling with your canvases, purchase a quality gesso and prime them before you use them.  Even if it says they are pre-primed canvases.  This has become my standard before I use any of my canvases as I was frustrated with my results without this step.  If this doesn’t work, switch to a different brand of canvases.

There are many ways to create art and many materials with which to do it.  With my paintings, I want predictable results every time.  I don’t want to wonder if my paint will stick to my canvas, leave my brush or won’t cover well.  I don’t want to wonder if my painting will fall off the canvas in six months or if my brush bristles will shed all over my work.  This is why I carefully spend my money on supplies that preform well for me and give me the results I want.

Jerry’s Artarama Brush Sale!

Edited to add:  This sale is over.  Jerry’s always has really great sales going on though.  Don’t forget to check out Retail Me Not for any coupon codes to further save money on your order.

My acrylic paint brushes are old and well used.  After Scott noticed my frustration with my trashed brushes, he told me to get whatever I wanted.

His suggestion sent me searching for my favorite brushes at the cheapest price and that’s when I found the sale at Jerry’s.  Here is the link to my preferred brushes.

Obviously I ordered the minimum I needed to create my work.  Even a terrific sale can be expensive if you’re not careful.  I ordered one of each and two or three of my most used.  With the coupon code, WELCOME10J, my final order was significant but reasonable.

Unfortunately, the sale ends today.  Sorry about the short notice.  I wasn’t aware of the sale until yesterday when I placed my brush order.  Nevertheless, if you need great acrylic brushes at the best price I’ve found, check out Jerry’s sale.

Daily Art Challenge: September 30

Our challenge today is skin tones.

Cinnamon Cooney, the Art Sherpa, has given three very simple recipes for mixing light, medium and dark skin tones.  She also has a quick tutorial on how to mix these skin tones.  Here is a second helpful tutorial from Cinnamon.

Here are the colors used to mix:

Light Skin Tones:

  1. Titanium White
  2. Yellow Ochre
  3. Quinacridone Magenta

Shadow colors:

  1. Burnt Umber
  2. Ultramarine Blue

Highlight colors:

  1. Naples yellow
  2. Titanium white

Medium Skin Tones:

  1.  Raw Sienna
  2. Yellow Ochre
  3. Cadmium Orange

Shadow colors:

  1.  Burnt Umber
  2. Ultramarine Blue

Highlight colors:

  1. Naples yellow
  2. Titanium White

Dark Skin Tones:  Do Not Use White with Dark Skin Tones!!

  1. Burnt Umber
  2. Cadmium Orange
  3. Yellow Ochre
  4. Burnt Sienna

Shadow colors:

  1. Ultramarine Blue
  2. Alizarin Crimson (hue)

Highlight colors:

  1. Naples Yellow

The first thing we do when mixing up skin tones is to mix an amount of the base color, called the Master Recipe.  You can write the formulation for your Master Recipe down on index cards or in your color mixing book.  If you like your base colors, you’ll want to know how to reproduce them again for future paintings.  It’s also helpful to be able to duplicate the color should you ever need to repair or touch up your paintings in the future.

Always mix more paint then you think you’ll need.  Once you have the master mix, you’ll pull out some to make the shadow color and another pile to make the highlight color.

It takes time to mix skin tones.  Expect that and moisten your paints on your palette as needed.  Using Golden’s liquid glazing medium is also tremendously helpful in keeping acrylic paint from skinning and for increasing its flow.

Which brings me to another point:  consistency.

Consistency means a couple different things in your paintings.  It can mean you use the same colors for shadows and highlights with each painting.  Some artists do that.  They have standard mixes they use over and over again.  This is helpful because they know what colors they used should they need to touch up or repair damage.

Another way consistency matters is when you’re mixing paint recipes.  Be sure to use the same amount for one “part” every time.  If you get in the habit of using the same size bead of paint as one part for your recipes, you’ll be more likely to duplicate the colors later on. Write down the paints used and the measurements for easy duplication later.

I also recommend using a palette knife for mixing.  Mixing with your brushes tends to force the paint upward into the base (or heel) of the bristles and into the ferrule.  This is not good for brushes and will damage them, no matter how well you clean them out afterward.  You simply cannot get every bit of acrylic paint from the bristles when it’s been forced into the ferrule.

There are books with hundreds of color mix recipes available.  Walter Fosters books are easy for beginner paint mixers to understand and to follow.  I have these three:

  1. Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits
  2. Color Mixing Tecipes for Landscapes
  3. 1500 Color Mixing Recipes for oil, acrylic and watercolor

The first two books have over 500 recipes per book.  Obviously the third has 1500 recipes.

I have formulas for hundreds and hundreds of colors I can duplicate at will.  My color recipe books are consistent, easy for me to understand, laid out in a user-friendly way and treasured in my art practice.  The reason we’re using Cinnamon’s color mixes today is because she has given very simple and straight-forward mixes anyone can duplicate.  My own color formulas for skin tones are much more challenging for anyone unfamiliar with my measuring methods to duplicate.

And Cinnamon has a you-tube video showing exactly how she does it.  Which is incredibly helpful for those who are not familiar with color mixing.

Now, where were we before I fell down the rabbit hole?  Oh yes, mixing skin tones:

Once you mix your Master Recipe for your chosen skin tone, you’re ready to go.  You’ll mix the shadow color and the highlight color as well. Darker colors tend to be a bit transparent. You may need to go over your darker skin tones a couple times to get good coverage. It is also important to remember, with dark skin tones we do not use titanium white for lightening up the highlight color.  White will provide an ashy-grayish unhealthy look in dark skin tones.  Not the result we want.

I never use black when mixing skin tones.  (Honestly, I rarely use black for anything other than when I want to paint on a black background.)  I find black deadens a painting, which is why my blacks are chromatic blacks arrived at by mixing colors together to make a rich, lively “black”.

Now, since our challenge today is to create skin tones, let’s get to it.  You can use the above recipes or you can create your own.  But do try to take some time to explore mixing your own skin tones.  The vibrancy and richness of color mixed skin tones simply outshines any purchased tube of “flesh tone” paint you can find.  (That stuff is truly horrific.  I had a couple tubes of skin tone paint which came in much larger paint sets.  I can usually make any color better by mixing others with it, but the color of these “skin tones” were so unnatural and disturbing I threw away the tubes of paint.  I didn’t want that stuff in my work space.)

Grab your color recipe book and make some additions.  Write down the colors and the amounts (parts) used to create your skin tones, shadows and highlights.  Having recipes available to mix for portraits is a real advantage to any artist.


Leisure Arts Watercolor Pencils, a Review

As I prepare for the upcoming bible journaling class, Ive been looking for some inexpensive, readily available watercolor pencils.  Preferably decent quality.  I found a set last night at Walmart.

The Leisure Arts watercolor pencils are 9.97 per set of 30.  They are pre-sharpened and include a brush in the box.  I’ve used them on a couple pages.  So far, I’m pleased with the results.  While the color isn’t nearly as vibrant as more expensive pencils, they are acceptable for the purpose of journaling.  There is a nice selection of colors and they liquify easily with a damp brush.

Since nearly everywhere in the US has a Walmart, they’re easy to find.  My plan is to keep them in my travel kit, which I’ve filled with inexpensive supplies.  If you’re looking for a set of beginner watercolor pencils, the Leisure Arts set may be for you.

Daily Art Challenge: August 3

Our challenge today is to use paint pens.

Posca is my favorite brand of paint pens, although I have several less expensive brands as well.  My Posca pens are in white and black, in several different widths.  The colors I have are all the less expensive, off-brands.  The reason I like the Posca pens the best is I haven’t had any paint gush from the nibs.  Others can leave a random blotch of paint when you only wanted a line.  I get around that by adding the paint from the pen to my craft mat and dipping the nib into it.  Somewhat inconvenient, but it does work.

Paint pens are terrific for use in art journaling.  They work well for details and highlights, doodles, writing, anything you might want to do with a pen you can do with a paint pen.  I use mine primarily for outlining images on my page or canvas.

My Essentials List, Painting

What is essential greatly depends upon the type of artwork you make.  Since I make many different types of art my essentials list will be more diverse.  So I’ve separated them into the type of art work I do, as well as a general list of essentials for arts and crafts.

For Painting:

  1.  Paints.  I prefer acrylics and watercolors.  Let’s begin with acrylics.  Here are my posts about acrylic painting.  If you’re just starting out you can purchase a set of student grade paints and have fun with them.  If you find you enjoy painting you can purchase better quality materials.  My preference for professional acrylic paints are:
    1. GoldenOutstanding paints.  Readily available in most areas. Golden will also answer any questions you may have regarding paints, paint additives, mediums, techniques and pretty much anything involving paint.  Outstanding, informative company.
    2. Liquitex.  Another easy to find acrylic paint.  I find the artist quality paints to be outstanding.
    3. Derivan Matisse.  Matisse is an Australian company and my favorite profession acrylic paints of all I’ve tried so far.  They are reasonably priced and outstanding quality.
    4. Student Grade Acrylic Paints:
      1. Daler Rowney Systems 3 acrylic paints.  These paints are very nice quality, and I know several professional artists who use these as their main acrylic paint for their art.  You can find them in most big box stores as well as arts and crafts specialty stores.
      2. Masters Touch acrylic paints from Hobby Lobby.  These are very reasonably priced and work well.
      3. Liquitex Basics.  From an outstanding company. I found these to be thinner than the others in this list.
      4. Grumbacher Academy acrylics.  This is probably my favorite of all student grade paints.  They are reasonably priced and thicker than other student grade paints.  I really enjoy these.
  2. Brushes.  You’ll need brushes to paint.  (The two links are all about brushes from my series Get to Know Your Supplies.  In them you’ll find everything you might want to know about paint brushes.)  There are other things you can use, but brushes are essential.  Acrylic paints are very hard on brushes and you should consider them a consumable.  The better you care for your brushes the longer they will last, but they will not last forever (unlike watercolor brushes-but we’ll get to those later).  Acrylic paint is also thick, so you need a firm brush to move the paint around.
    1. My favorite brushes for acrylic painting are Simply Simmons Extra Firm brushes.  They are inexpensive, well made and durable.  The long handles are the length of most short handled brushes, which is why I linked those.  I never use the truly long handled brushes, as the long handle serves no purpose for my type of art.  In fact, I know of no artist who actually stands away from their canvas, holding the end of the long handled brush and applies paint.  You have no control that way, and it makes no sense to me to pay more for the long handles.  I have purchased truly long handled brushes because they were on sale and cut the handles down to suit me.  I have several other types of brushes which I use on occasion, but my go to always is the Simply Simmons brushes.
    2. The type of brush you use depends upon you.  I have a huge collection of brushes-okay, this may be a “thing” for me.  Some women love shoes, I love paint brushes.  My most used are brights.  I have flats, angles, filberts, rounds, fans, liners, washes, cat’s tongue, etc.  They come in all sizes.
    3. You can buy sets of brushes with some of the most commonly used sizes and types.  My preference is always synthetic brushes for acrylics.  Occasionally I’ll use a very stiff synthetic blend or cheap hog bristle brush, but it’s rare.
    4. Watercolor brushes are entirely different in that you can have very soft bristles because there is no problem with the thickness of the paint.
      1. If you care for your watercolor brushes they will last your lifetime and the lifetimes of your children and grandchildren.  Seriously.  There are some very high quality brushes that are over one hundred years old and work perfectly well yet.
      2. My preference is synthetic bristles, if possible.  They are less expensive and work well.  I do have some natural hair brushes, which are delightful but they are cost prohibitive.
      3. My favorites are the Mimik Synthetic Kolinsky brushes.  They are expensive, however, so I have several others which are much more reasonably priced.
        1. Royal Langnickel Aqualon brushes are excellent.
        2. Creative Inspirations by Creative Mark are great too.
        3. Princeton Neptune series.
        4. Master’s Touch-found at Hobby Lobby
        5. I haven’t tried the Simply Simmons Watercolor brushes, but since I’m very pleased with their acrylic brushes I’d imagine these are very good too.
  3. Canvases and Paper.  You must have a surface to paint on.  I uses canvases for acrylics and watercolor paper for watercolors.
    1. For acrylics there are canvas boards and papers, stretched canvas, canvas rolls and gallery wrapped canvases.  I’ve used all of these.
      1. Gallery wrapped canvases are great because you don’t need a frame to go around it, unless you want one.
      2. Canvas rolls require you to build the frame upon which you stretch and attach the canvas.
      3. Stretched canvas already comes on the wood frame.  It comes in either gallery wrap or the traditional type and is usually gessoed.  You can purchase ungessoed stretched canvases if desired.  Stretched canvases often include “keys” so you can tighten the tension.
      4. Canvas boards are what I use for my classes.  I purchase these in packs of three at Walmart.  These are very inexpensive and you can purchase better quality canvas boards and papers if you choose.  The cheap ones serve my purpose very well.
      5. Here’s a post all about watercolor paints and papers to get you started in this wonderful art medium.
  4. Gesso.  Here is a post all about gesso.
  5. Palettes.  This is a palette review.
  6. Palette Knife.  Use to mix paints, mix paints into mediums, as a tool to apply paint to your substrate, to make branches, stems and trees.  I use mine all the time, but usually for paint mixing.
  7. Acrylic Mediums
  8. Easels
  9. Foam core boards to attach watercolor paper to for painting.

If I think of more paint essentials I’ll add them.