Many painters get by interchanging a few different soft round and flat bristle brushes. But when you are trying to do something specific, like paint in ultra fine detail, these tools just don’t suffice.
The best paint brush for fine details will be relatively soft and taper to a point. I have a few brushes that I switch between when I’m painting fine detail, and they each have different jobs.
TIP: In order to paint in very fine detail, make sure your paint is the right viscosity. Your paint should be on the runny side to achieve ultra fine lines. Learn how to alter the consistency of your paint with mediums, if you’re working with oils.
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A round brush in a size 0 is the most commonly used tool for covering small areas of the surface.
My favourite range of brushes that from my experience outperform any other on a micro scale are the Da Vinci Red Sable brushes. They’re soft, resilient, taper to a point and hold a lot of colour. You can also get these in sharp round and liner varieties. Bear in mind that because the bristles are soft, you’ll have to make your paint runnier, so add a medium to reduce viscosity. The liner brushes go from a size 5/0.
The Monarch Round Brush made by Winsor and Newton is crafted from synthetic mongoose. The brush fibres are firm, springy and resistant to solvent, making them perfect for painting with oil. The smallest size available in the Monarch range is 0. It’s not the thinnest, but it’s the best for moving a large amount of paint in a small area. This brush also suited to working with slightly stiffer oil paint than the others on this list.
Another great round brush is the Escoda Modernista Tadami synthetic brush. It comes in a smaller size compared to the Monarch. The bristles are much softer so it’ll move paint more easily if the paint has been made less viscous. This brush is more suited to intricate details than the Monarch.
The Da Vinci sable liner brush in size 5/0 retains its pin sharp shape whilst working and despite the size, holds a decent amount of paint. Make your paint runny with a medium and watch as you create unbroken lines across your surface. I’ve found this brush works well for creating long thin tree branches, blades of grass and the details on leaves on trees. If you are a portrait artist, it would work well for painting thin strands of hair and similar details.
A liner is a smaller version of the rigger brush, you’ll see this brush in sizes 0, 00, 000 and anything from a 20/0 (which is the smallest).
The bristles of all liner brushes are soft, usually made from either sable or synthetic, long and taper to a needle point at the end. This is the best paint brush for fine details that offers the ability to create long, thin, even lines. Natural sable will hold its shape slightly better than synthetic fibre.
The length of the bristles are what makes this brush unique, they absorb the impact of any small unwanted shakes or movements from your hand. So you can feel comfortable that you won’t make mistakes. The brush applies paint with very little pressure (due to its long bristles).
The great thing about this brush is that, despite its thin tip, it holds a lot of paint in its long bristles. You can spread the paint far across the canvas without the line breaking, or having to go back to your palette time and time again to load your brush.
Here are two of my Da Vinci sable rigger brushes in sizes 2 and 0:
I find that the size 2 holds more paint in the bristles, whilst maintaining a needle sharp point. The size 0 works well for the finest details, but it doesn’t hold as much paint.
As brush fibres can degrade over time when cleaning them with solvent, I suggest cleaning them with a conditioning brush soap instead. A soap like the Master’s Brush Cleaner and Preserver will clean your brushes but help them retain that sharp point. Cleaning with solvent every session could cause the bristles to splay.
If you’re looking for a synthetic brush, this is one of the script liners I use. It’s synthetic sable, so it’s vegan friendly.
These handmade dagger striper brushes are synthetic sable, and provide interlocked durable bristles.
You can see they taper to a point, but are thicker closer to the ferule.
This means that the thickness you achieve with the brushes relies on the pressure you apply. You can get some very varied effects with lines ranging from fine to a medium thickness.
Dagger striper brushes are easy to control, but also give natural looking effects. They’re great for painting leaves, foliage, waves and ripples in water.
The bristles are soft and flexible. They’re suited to watercolour painting, but if you like to paint in glazes with oil, it’ll work brilliantly for this too.
Because the brushes are soft, and due to their unique shape, they hold a lot of paint in their bristles. Meaning you get an uninterrupted flow onto your surface.
This brush is brilliant for creating multiple thin lines at once.
When dipped in very fluid paint, the brush splays and bristles gather together. The problem with this is that although some of the grouped bristles will create thin lines, some will also create thicker lines. So a single stroke can create unpredictable results.
If you’re working on a very large landscape painting that involves painting lots of grass, or similar then this is a good tool to use so that you’re not painting it individually strand by strand. You can lay down the texture in no time, but you haven’t got as much control over the lines you create.
The Silver ultra mini brush sets include miniature synthetic brushes that are made at the size 20/0. They have really tiny tips. These are good for very fine detail and creating short crisp lines.
Spotter brushes are like extra small round brushes. They aren’t able to load as much paint into the bristles, however. So you’ll find that the line your painting will cut off pretty quickly.
The way to use this brush, is with a dotting action. So if you’re working on hyperrealistic portraits, you might use it to shade or highlight pores in the skin or light reflected on the lips. If you’re a landscape painter, you might use the brush to create tiny highlights in water or dot the leaves on trees in the distance.
If you’re just beginning on your oil painting journey and you’re not quite sure what supplies to get, start with this beginner’s guide. It’ll teach you about all the tools and materials you need to start oil painting and give you valuable advice on how to use the materials to get the best results.
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