Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!

About Brushes


Brushes are something that most artists cannot do without, and I am no exception.

I admit to being a brush junkie… a really bad one.  I can’t walk by a display of artists brushes without buying at least one… usually two or three… or ten…  And if Michael’s is having a sale (and they always are) I HAVE to buy a bunch!

I don’t stick to any particular brand  (as you can tell from the photos below!) My favourite brush was a Winsor & Newton “Cirrus” Kolinsky Sable Round #4 or #6 which cost around $32 EACH… but I can’t find them locally anymore.  So I pick brushes out of the display by the look of them… if they are the right size and shape I grab them.  If they are on sale, even better.  I like natural fibre (hair) better in rounds and acrylic or manmade fibres for flat and filberts.

I never want to run out so I always have a lot of back-ups on the shelf, just in case (note: these are just my face painting brushes… I also have make-up brushes, art brushes, craft brushes…)

I have a preference for #4 and #6 round sables, but will use just about anything.

I like filberts a lot and they are very versatile – small ones called cat’s tongues are fantastic for applying eyeliner  and for very fine line work, and the super large ones are the best for freeform body painting.

There are lots of choices available – all have their good points.  Some are versatile, others are very specialized.  And figuring out which ones you like to use is going to be a matter of trial and error.  Angles or shaders, flat, washes, filberts, rounds, liners, riggers, daggers, deerfoot, wisps, rakes, the list is really long!

Brushes can be expensive.  And most of the time you get what you pay for – better quality does cost more.  There are some gems that you may run across on sale or very cheaply priced but, in my experience, the more expensive brushes tend to work better and last longer with proper care.  Cheap brushes start to deteriorate almost immediately – hairs fall out, they won’t hold their shape and start to splay, the handles break down and flake, etc.

One tip that I have for preserving your wooden handles is nail polish.  If the paint is starting to flake or crack, simply paint over it with nail polish!  It will completely seal the handle and lasts forever.

You can also cut down long handled brushes and paint the ends with the nail polish to seal the wood.  I usually sharpen the wooden end in a pencil sharpener before painting with the nail polish – there is a brush I did this to in the third photo from the top, the second brush down.  I find the pointy end comes in handy.

Nail polish can also be used to personalize or mark your brushes for ease of identification.

Taking care of your brushes means:

– Storing them upright or flat without bending or crushing the hairs/bristles (technically called the loofe).  I carry mine in a plastic bin which is transported standing on end so that the brushes are always upright.

– Cleaning them well and reshaping while wet to allow them to retain their shape, and allowing them to air dry while lying flat (I usually lay them along the edge of the counter so that there is no pressure on the loofe.)  You can sometimes rescue a brush by reshaping with a touch of soap, hair gel or starch to hold the fibres in position until they dry into their desired position.

– Never letting them sit in water to soak as it will cause wooden handles to swell and can loosen the glue holding them together.

– Treating them well when using them!  Don’t smash, scrub, poke with the loofe as you can damage the fibres.

Pretty much use common sense… treat them gently and with care and they will last longer and work better.

When I am working I put all my clean brushes in a small acrylic vase, and as they are being cleaned while I work they stand in the holes of my water well until dry.  This is the only time I stand them up like that to dry – simply for expediency.

And, if I pick up a brush that is shedding hairs I throw it out.  And if I pick up one that is splaying and won’t hold a point or edge, I toss them too.  I have others.

Brushes DO NOT last forever unfortunately.  And a good brush is your best friend as a face painter or make-up artist.  Take care of your brushes and they will take care of you.

Author: Shannon Fennell

Multidisciplinary artist, world traveller, make-up artist, and cheese lover. I follow a low carb lifestyle to keep my diabetes in remission. Canadian expat in the UK.

2 thoughts on “About Brushes

  1. Wow thanks for the brush 101!

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