Find the Right Paintbrush

“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.” - Michelangelo

Sending an artist into an art store to pick out a paintbrush is like shoving a sweets-loving kid into a candy shop. Since there are a lot of choices out there, choosing the right paintbrush can be a tricky task for a new artist. What some beginners don’t realize is that the real art begins when you go “outside the box” to select your paintbrushes. If you allow yourself to be too strictly confined to picking the “right” brush, you may never paint in the way that’s right for you.

How does the new artist make a selection when they all look so good? First, it’s good to know some general background knowledge about paintbrushes. Most paintbrushes are either natural bristle brushes or synthetic bristle brushes. Although some may insist that the natural bristle brushes are better, it really depends on the artist’s preference and painting style.

Before your eyes overwhelm your brain with art store stimuli, decide on your medium.

There is a variety of brushes that are functional for different mediums. Some artists specialize in paintings that are created in oil and acrylic on canvas. If this is your specialty you can use the same type of brush for oil and acrylic.

When it comes to watercolor paint­ing, a completely different set of brushes may be used. Although the brushes may appear identical, the handles for watercolor are actually shorter. The backgrounds of paintings created on watercolor paper usually include a “watercolor wash.” This wash is generally created with a huge, fluffy paintbrush. This special watercolor brush will look very different than any of the other brushes in your collection. Take good care of your watercolor brushes. Once you decide which brushes you will use for your specific medium, try to keep them separated. This will help them stay in good condition longer.


If you’re just beginning your paintbrush supply, you may want to start with a pack that contains brushes of different shapes and sizes.

Try spicing up your supply with painting knives. If you like texture, then knives can help you create loads of it. You may discover that you enjoy painting with knives more than painting with brushes! 


Art has no hard and fast rules.

Every artist is different, so mix things up. Maybe watercolor brushes feel better to you in oil. Who says you can’t try it? If you have had enough of can­vases, then maybe you can try painting on wood or cloth. The im­portant thing is to decide what is right for you as an artist.

If you need painting supplies, head to your local picture framing, photo services, and art supply stores. These are your best sources, whether you are working on a watercolor painting, an oil painting, or anything else. Regardless of your choice of brush, remember Michelangelo’s admonition to “paint with your brain and not your hands.”