Get To Know Your Supplies: Brushes

One of the most important things I use in my daily art practice is paint brushes.  I have hundreds of them, all different brands, types and for different media.  Here’s a breakdown on brushes.

First, a paint brush is made up of parts.  These parts have a name.  There is the handle, which you use to hold the brush.  The crimp is next, which is the part of the ferrule that attaches to the handle.  The ferrule is the metal piece which holds both the bristles and the handle together.  Where the bristles leave the ferrule is called the heel.  The middle part of the bristles is called the belly and the tip is called the toe.  The part you paint with is called the brush head or tuft (or bristles, hair or filament which refers to the actual material which makes up the brush head).  The bristles are made up of different materials.  The type of bristle you need depends upon the type of paint you’re using.  The bristles may be natural hair, synthetic, or a combination of both.

Natural bristles are made from some sort of animal hair.  That could be hog, badger, or even Kolinsky sable (which is actually from the tail of a specific type of mink).  These brushes are wonderful for watercolor and oil painting.  The rougher, stronger natural bristles work well for oils and the softer, more pliable bristles are perfect for watercolors.   There are some who feel the use of animal hair is unethical and for them synthetic filament is the best choice.  I will tell you, if you take care of your watercolor brushes they will last a lifetime.  The better quality ones will last more than your life time and can be passed down to the next generation.

Hog hair bristle brushes are used for both oil and acrylics.  The reason you need firm brushes is because both oil and acrylic paints are dense and heavy to move around on your canvas.  They can be thinned, of course, and often are.  Nevertheless, I find for my own acrylic painting, I prefer the firmest filament I can get.

Synthetic brushes, whether nylon or polyester, are my preferred choice for acrylic painting.  Again, I use the firmest brushes I can get.  The synthetic bristles hold up better to solvents and paint, they clean up easier than natural filament brushes, they are stronger and have less breakage of the bristles.  If you are an acrylic painter, consider your brushes a consumable.  No matter how well you clean them and take care of them, they will wear out.  You cannot prevent this because it is the nature of the paint itself.  The paint actually turns into a plastic once dry, which means your brushes are subjected to some pretty intense stuff.  My favorite brushes for acrylic painting are the Simply Simmons Extra-Firm.  They are inexpensive, last a long time, and give me great results.

Now on to brush types:

  1. Round.  This is a brush which should come to a fine point.  You can use it to make both thick and thin lines.  The ferrule is round.
  2. Detail Round.  Best for precise strokes and details.  Fine tip on round brush.
  3. Script Liner.  The length of the bristles is long which gives you great control for scrolls, letters, lines, etc.  It holds more paint than a liner brush.  Long, pointed tip.
  4. Liner.  Used for details, continuous curves and straight lines. Fine, pointed tip.
  5. Flat/Shader.  Used for blocking in color, shading, blending, highlighting, and stroke work. Square tip.
  6. Bright.  My most used paint brush by far.  This is a brush with bristles like a flat, only shorter.  I use this brush for everything when I am using acrylics and love it.  I have many brights in all sizes.
  7. Angled Flat/Shader.  This is a bristle which is cut on an angle.  Great for painting petals of flowers, tight shading, and curving strokes.  I also use angles quite a bit.
  8. Filbert.  I find this brush to be one of the most versatile brushes I have.  I can do just about anything with a filbert.  It is a flat brush with an arched tip.  Very useful for me in my art practice.
  9. Spotter.  Used for fine details.  Small, pointed round brush.
  10. Fan brush.  This brush looks like a fan at the end of your ferrule.  I use mine for spattering in night skys, for creating texture and foliage in watercolors, but little else.  And to be honest I could do all those things without a fan brush at all.  I rarely use this one.
  11. Rigger or Dagger.  This is a flat brush which has a curved angle, unlike the angled brush which is a straight across the top of the bristles angle.  It looks like the blade of a dagger-hence the name.  I have one and I really like it.  It produces consistent lines with little effort.  I have been considering purchasing more of these brushes in various sizes.
  12. Wash or Mop.  This brush is essential for watercolors.  I also use the larger wash brushes in acrylic painting for covering large areas and for my backgrounds.
  13. Tight Spot brush.  This is a fine point round on a bent ferrule.  This works for getting your brush into tight spots.  I have two and have only used one once.
  14. Cat’s Tongue.  Very versatile brush.  Can behave as three brushes in one.  You have curved-to-the-center point which is great for lines and details, the sides for medium strokes similar to a flat or bright, and the width of the bristles for washes and filling in larger areas of color.  I have a cat’s tongue in my watercolor brushes and I love it!

There are other brushes for other types of painting.  For example there are Sumi brushes, decorative painting brushes, stencil brushes, lettering brushes, water brushes…pretty much every type of art has it’s own type of brushes.

If you paint with more than one medium, keep your brushes separate.  My watercolor brushes are kept apart from my acrylic brushes.  Acrylic paints are going to destroy your brushes, no matter what, so don’t use your watercolor brushes with them.  If you do, that brush has become an acrylic paint brush from that point onward.  You can use your acrylic paintbrushes with your watercolors, but not the other way around.  Watercolor will not damage an acrylic paint brush.

I am willing to spend some money on watercolor brushes-because they will last a lifetime- I am careful to take care of them.  They have their own storage container, and the expensive ones have their own, more protected, storage.  My best watercolor brushes are Mimik Kolinsky and Silver Black Velvet brushes.  But there are others I like as well, which are not nearly as expensive.  I really like the Master’s Touch from Hobby Lobby, the Zen brushes from Royal and Langnickle, and the Princeton Neptune brushes.

Think about the type of handle your brush has.  I find resin handles don’t wear but wood handles can.  And if you tend to leave your brushes in water for any length of time (a no-no!) you need the resin handles.  Wood handled brushes will be shot very quickly if left in water.

To clean your brushes, use a good quality brush cleaner.  I use The Masters brush cleaner and preserver.  I have had this tub of cleaner for a couple of years.  I wet the acrylic brush ( after rinsing it as clean as possible) and swirl it in the cleaner-which is a hard cake.  Then I work the soap carefully into the bristles, lathering them up well.  I rinse the brush in clean water and reshape the bristles to their original shape.  I let my brushes dry flat on a fake chamois cloth from Dollar Tree.  (Later I will explain how to repair a “popped” brush.)  You can use brush cleaner on your watercolor brushes if you choose, but I don’t.  It’s watercolor and I rinse them out very well after each use.




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Get To Know Your Supplies: Hardboard

Did you know hardboard is a great substrate for your paintings?  You can find this at your usual home improvement stores like Menard’s and Loews.  Often I find smaller sizes already cut.  You can purchase 4′ by 8′ sheets and cut your own to size if you prefer.

You can also occasionally pick up discontinued paneling samples, which have the smooth hardboard on the back side, and use those.  These are absolutely wonderful to have in your workroom.

I have used hardboard to attach my watercolor paper to while I paint, cut up and used as small travel boards in my Plein Air kit, as the “canvas” for my acrylic paintings, as paint palettes, and for stretching watercolor paper.  (Lindsay the Frugal Crafter’s tutorial is, as always, brilliant.  This is the one I used to learn to stretch my paper.)  Since the board is thin, it is easy to store.  I have several sizes, because I never know what size paper I might want to stretch.  And they will last for years and years.

The reason you stretch watercolor paper is simple:  to help prevent buckling.  By stretching your paper, you can use less expensive, lighter-weight paper and have it behave like the more expensive heavy-weight papers.  This can save you a lot of money.  You can also purchase the rolls of watercolor paper and cut it to whatever size you want, rather than having to purchase the offered sizes.  Again, giving you more options for your art work.

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Get To Know Your Supplies: Crayons

Crayons are something most of us have.  These are a very inexpensive, easily found art material.  Used most often by children, they are not always thought of as an art material for adult use.  I will share a few ideas for ways to use crayons in your art practice.

  1. I often use a white crayon on my watercolors as a resist.  I draw the image or space I wish to leave white and then paint my picture with watercolors.  Because the crayon won’t let the paint adhere to that space it produces an area of highlight or focus.  This works for sunlit spots on flowers, for example, to provide an area with details like grasses and branches, for use in water and waves, night skies.
  2. You can remove the paper from the crayon and use the entire crayon to produce rubbings.  Have a piece of something-sand paper, plastic mesh, a stencil, doilies, burlap, something with a pattern or texture-beneath your paper and rub the crayon over top.  It produces a unique background on which to build.
  3. Cut designs into your crayon and rub on the paper.  You can make all sorts of triangles, lines, circles, patterns on the crayon with the paper removed.   The design will show up as you rub the length of the crayon on the paper.
  4. Batik Fabric with crayons.  This is a project that takes some time and is a bit fiddly, but the results are quite amazing.  I have seen this done for art journal covers, pillows, quilts.  The possibilities are endless, really, and it’s inexpensive to do.  I plan to make this fabric for spirit dolls.
  5. Crayon Cloisonne.  This is a great way to use up broken crayons.
  6. Paint a pumpkin and dribble melted crayons over top.  Makes a really unique fall decoration.
  7. We’ve all seen the paintings done with melted crayons.
  8. Make crayon wreaths and ornaments for your tree.  I’ve also made larger letters using crayons which spelled out Leah’s name for her bedroom wall.  I made the letters from foam core and glued the crayons onto them.  Other ideas:  picture frames and magnets for your fridge.
  9. Tape several crayons together and use to make interesting background images and designs.  You can heat the colored-on paper to let your colors move around a bit for some really striking results.
  10. Here is another melted crayon painting, and one I really loved.  By softening the crayon before applying to your canvas, the wax melts easier and you have more control.  The key to success is to have enough “tooth” on your canvas to ensure the wax crayon adheres to the canvas.
  11. You can make a resist with tape on a canvas and used melted crayons as your paint.  Just paint the background in any way you choose and remove the taped image once the wax is dry.  You will have an image that shows up beautifully against the colorful crayon background.  Use very inexpensive brushes as you will want to toss them when you’re finished.
  12. Of course you can actually color with your crayons.  You can use them (as you would colored pencils) for adult coloring.  To blend without baby oil, use the rule of thirds for blending color in your picture.  You begin with the lightest color and color the entire image (petal of a flower, leaf, whatever you’re blending).  Then use the second color for the mid tones (coloring 2/3rds of the image), then add the darkest color (coloring 1/3rd of the image).  Once you have these three colors in the areas you want, take your lightest color and go over the entire image to blend them together.  (You can also use baby oil and a q-tip to blend your color.)  In the example of the flower petal you would color the lightest color first, then use the mid-toned color on the lower 2/3rds of the petal closest to the flower center.  The darkest 1/3rd color would be at the inside of the petal, nearest the center.  Because the light would hit the outside of the petals first, the petal would become darker toward the center.  So your color choices might be peach, a mid-toned orange and a dark orange/red.  These would blend beautifully together.  Or a pale pink, a mid-toned pink and a dark burgandy.  Or yellow, orange and red.  Use three colors in the same color family or next to each other on the color wheel.

Crayons are a versatile media.   And one we often dismiss out of hand.

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Techniques Tags or Cards

I mentioned using tags for the techniques using distress oxides. This is a great idea for using any of your media.  Simply do samples of techniques on the tags and create your own book.  Here’s how:

I cut the tags from inexpensive white card stock.  The size is 7 3/4″ by 3 1/2″.  I cut close to 50 tags at once.  I could get three tags from one sheet 8 1/2″ by 11″ card stock.  Make your cards 8 1/2″ in length and you won’t have to trim.  (Wish I had done that now…)  I cut the pattern for the tags from the card stock and stacked them neatly beside my work area.  Since I had cut so many out before hand I didn’t need to stop and make more while playing with the distress oxides.  I also cut several from both black and khaki colored card stock.

I have 22 tags with distress oxide techniques on them.  I wrote how I did the technique and what colors I used on the backs of each tag.  There is plenty of room for that with the larger tags.  It is also very nice to have a large sample of the technique to look at.

I punched a hole in each tag with my hole punch and used a 1 1/2″ metal album ring to hold them together.  By keeping them all together on the ring, which I can easily add to as needed, I can flip through all of the techniques for that particular material.  I can do this with all my media, giving me techniques books for each type.  I can even make techniques books using the same techniques in different brands of the same media for comparison purposes.

You can hang these techniques books from your peg board hooks or find (or make) a box to hold them all in.  These books give you a variety technique options, in every medium, for your art practice.  When you’re stumped for an idea, flip through the books to give you some inspiration.

Making these books also provides you with an opportunity to use older supplies you may have fallen out of love with or forgotten about.  Remind yourself of what those supplies can do too.  You stuff should all work together to give you the most options in your art practice.

Play with a few materials together and see what happens.  How do they interact with each other?  By combining this one and that one, do you get any interesting effects?  What happens if you add this one, that one, and then that one over there?  You see where I’m going here?  Make tags showing the results of each of your experiments, write down what you did on the back so you can duplicate it again.  Even keep the “failures” and document those too.  Who knows what that might inspire later on.

One of the great frustrations people have is they go out and buy all sorts of supplies and materials, but don’t know how to use them.  So the stuff just sits there.  This is a waste of money and space.  Purchase an art material and get to know it completely.  Stretch the limits to see how far the media will take you.  Once you become very comfortable with that item, move on to the next one.  But keep incorporating the older stuff.  You will never be sorry you did.

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Get To Know Your Supplies: Distress Oxides

I have been playing with distress oxides all day.  I have several techniques I can share with you.  I will update as I discover more ways to use this very unique material.

  1. Embossing.  You can use this ink as it is, because it’s wet enough, for embossing.  Stamp your image with distress oxides and sprinkle with embossing powder.  Use heat embosser to melt the embossing powder.
  2. Smear the distress oxide pad onto a craft mat.  Spritz with water.  Drag your tag through the color.  Partially dry the paper with a blow dryer.  Flick water over the tag and blow dry.  Really cool oxidized effect.
  3. Use a blending tool and rub onto the tag in a circular motion.  Makes a nice soft blended background.  Spatter water over it and blow dry for some oxidization.
  4. Using three different colors, smear on your mat and spritz with water.  Drag and dip your tag into the colors.  Partially blow dry.  Spritz or spatter water over top and blow dry completely.  Do it a second time with the same colors, or add others and go over top of the dried background.  Really beautiful depth of colors can be built up this way.
  5. Smear ink pad directly onto paper or tag.  Use a wet paintbrush and move the color over the tag.  You get some lovely variation of the same color for depth.  Spatter water over partially dried tag for further oxidization.
  6. Smear ink pad onto tag and use baby wipe to move ink around.
  7. Smear ink pad onto tag, spatter with huge drops of water.  Let sit a moment and daub away water with paper towel.  Blow dry.
  8. Smear colors onto mat.  Spritz with water to activate.  Use a paint brush or tooth brush to pick up color.  Spatter all over your tag.  Blow dry between colors to prevent running together and causing the mud color.
  9. Lay stencil on tag or page and go over it with distress oxides.  You can use more than one ink pad for this technique.
  10. Take the inked stencil and lay it on another paper or tag.  Use blending tool to smear color into stencil.  Lovely soft colors.
  11. Use damp paintbrush on ink pad and paint the ink onto a stamp.  Use on tag.  Spritz with water and use again and again until ink goes away.
  12. Make a background with distress oxides.  Use a stencil and rub the ink into the stencil to make a focal point.
  13. Make a background and lay stencil over top.  Use baby wipe to remove the color through the stencil.
  14.  Dip tag or paper into colors on mat and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  15. Really amazing color pops on dark or black backgrounds.
  16. Use an embossed image on your paper or tag.  After that’s dry, use the wet puddle of distress oxides from your mat and dip tag and image.  Dry.  The image will act as a resist.  Really cool effects.
  17. Stamp an image and use paint brush dipped in the puddles of color on your mat and paint in the images.
  18. Use gesso as your base and go over the dried gesso with the distress inks.
  19. The best thing about this stuff is it will always reactivate with water, and the more water you spatter over it the more oxidization occurs.  You dry and add more color to the tag, which gives you fantastic layers.  You can do this several times for some truly spectacular effects.
  20. You can also use distress inks on photo paper for some interesting effects.

Here are some observations:

The sponge ink pads I bought and filled with the re-inkers don’t work well.  The pink is already gone from the pad and I didn’t use it that much.  If you’re doing that, get a felt based ink pad and fill that with re-inker.  Or mix the re-inkers to make unique colors of your own. Just use the felt based pads.

Wet on wet blends, wet on dry layers.  It is possible to create mud with wet on wet blends, just like with any wet media.  If you dry the tag or page between adding colors, you will get some really stunning layers of color.  Gorgeous.  I love adding the drips of water to the tag or page to add that extra oxidization.

I can make most of these looks with my watercolor paints, but I’m not certain the average crafter could do that.  Some of them are sort of fussy to recreate, but it is mostly possible.  The oxidization, however, is unique to the medium.  That is something I haven’t played with because I just got these, but I’ll play around and see what I can come up with.  (The closest I found to that effect is the coarse salt sprinkled over wet watercolor paint, then let dry completely.  Brush salt from dried project.)

I found the blending of these inks with a make-up sponge from Dollar Tree was not very effective.  I’m going to play with this some more to discover whether it was the paper, the make-up sponge or the DIY ink pad.

Each technique was done on white card stock from Walmart.  It was inexpensive and I had plenty of it.  The removal of color through the stencil (#13) actually took some of the paper too, so I would use better quality card stock for that technique.  You can also use manila tags or prep your paper first with either clear gesso or actual gesso.

The spritzing with water, whether on your craft mat or on the actual project, really activates the color in the ink.  It becomes brighter and much more vibrant with the water.  I really liked the dribbling of water or spattering of water over the background because the oxidization is way cool.  You can daub the water off with a paper towel, too, but I liked the way it dried with the blow dryer better.

You can use these in conjunction with your other ink pads.  I find the backgrounds to be particularly delightful and then stamping an image with my permanent ink over top is really lovely.  Coloring the image with paint, markers, inks, colored pencils, even the distress oxides, all works with these inks.

I am enjoying these inks but I have to confess, I was hoping for more of a “wow!” than I felt.  I’m sure the longer I use them and play with them the better I will like them, but for now I am just okay with them.



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Today Laurie and I went to The Outlet.  It is a store which carries art supplies, craft items, fabric, studio tools, holiday items, books-all at huge discounts.  They receive the overstocks, damaged packaging, and discontinued items which were not sold in the stores.  I was able to purchase 4 distress oxide pads, 9 distress oxide re-inkers, 10 empty stamp pads, and a few stencils.  I also bought a NIV journaling bible, since mine is pretty much filled up.  The bible was $20 but I had a 50% off coupon and used it on that.  I got a journaling bible for 10 bucks!

The distress oxide stamp pads were something I wanted to try, but refused to pay that much for.  I am unable to come up with a DIY alternative because I have never used the real ones, don’t know what they do or how they work.  They were each 2.75.  The reinkers were each 2.50.  I had heard they will not be releasing the distress oxides in mini sizes because there is something in the chemistry of the oxides which won’t work in the smaller size.

Since I am all about trying new things, I bought the small stamp pads and used the reinkers to fill them.  Since I have four of the full sized oxide stamp pads I should be able to tell whether the small ones work like the larger ones.  If they don’t-I’m out a few bucks.  But if they do, this could be a less expensive option for distress oxides.  I now have 11 different distress oxides to play with.

I found several stencils which I purchased as well.  Two were french.  One is all words, the other is words and an image which is exactly what I wanted for my burlap tote.  I was thrilled.  Then I found a small butterfly stencil and a vintage-inspired woman stencil.  Apparently I left the Vincent VanGogh quote stencil in the store.


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My Prayers Are With

the people, victims of the shooting and those who have experienced the loss of loved ones, as well as the Las Vegas community during this horrific time.  Words cannot truly express my deepest sympathy and concern for all involved.

Even in the midst of senseless horror, the goodness in people comes through.  The police and first responders have behaved with absolute bravery, courage and selflessness as they ran into the crowded venue and toward the gunfire, shielding people from the spray of bullets.  Those within the crowd who were off-duty police, rescue and military personnel were invaluable in saving many, many lives in the midst of the chaos.  The brave concert goers who dragged people to safety and went back in for more…These people exemplify all that is good in humanity and in our country.

Terrorism, whether it is foreign or domestic, has the ability to harm us all.  We can become effected by the insidious fear of what could happen.  We can become suspicious and mistrusting of everyone in our lives.  Our very freedom to live life as we choose can become an issue because our fear prevents us from participating fully in life.  We can instill fear and mistrust in our children.

Or we can choose not to participate in that nonsense.

Instead of becoming fearful, we become fearless.  We do not let the thought of terrorism and what might happen worry us.  We face each day, living our lives fully and completely.  We can, instead of responding with anger and hostility to being cut off in traffic or to rude behavior, respond with kindness and compassion.  We can, instead of instilling fear into our children, show them that we will love others.  We will treat others with respect and dignity no matter the circumstance.  We will respond with love, compassion and kindness instead of mistrust, fear and anger.

If we become twisted up by what could happen, we lose sight of what life is supposed to be about:  Faith, family, then everything else.  We lose who we are as Americans and as a country if we politicize and criticize in the wake of horror.  No one could have predicted this nightmare because no one in their right mind would ever think of it…It is truly inconceivable.

Please, my dear friends, join in the healing of our nations wounds and not the poisonous political rhetoric which is sure to come.  Step away from all of that and live your life.  We all know the possibilities, but to live life anyway is an act of quiet bravery and courage.

Because we are Americans and that is what we do.


Here is the GoFundMe page for victims and their families, set up by Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas.  The sheriffs office is also asking for blood donations for those in the hospitals.  You can also donate money to the Southern Nevada chapter of the American Red Cross.  May God be with you and your families as we grieve, as a nation, this horrible, horrible experience.

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