Oil Painting Techniques #1: Brushes & Mark Making

Hey there! Leah here, from LeahDaviesArt.com. I was invited by Bianca to share a bit about how and what I paint with in oils. I'm hoping to share a little of the knowledge I have discovered along the way in my painting journey!


First, let's talk about brushes. As Bianca stated in her Watercolor Techniques #1: Favorite Tools post, I have found that the brand doesn't really matter! I have tried cheap brushes and, convinced I wan't a real artist until I used special expensive brushes, I have forked over dough for "nice" brushes. The verdict? It's whatever works for you!! My personal preference is Princeton Art & Brush Co, which is a cheap brush. I have tried many brushes over the years, and I have found these brushes to be as soft as I want, and they keep their shape if taken care of.

How to find a good brush:

Touch your brushes when shopping! Pull on the bristles. Do they fall out? It's not for you, put it down! The other trick I do while shopping for brushes, is I put the bristles in my mouth to wet them. Gross? Maybe. But then I can see how the point looks, and if it keeps it's shape

Brushes & Mark Making

#1 The Round Brush

Because I do fine details in my work, the tip of the round brush is vital to my work. The round brush is more versatile than you think. With pressure, you can create thick lines. Wipe off excess paint and get that tip super fine, and you can create delicate and intricate lines. Remove the paint and then fan it out on a paper towel: now you have a mini fan and you can use to shade two different colors together or blur lines to create out-of-focus details.


#2 The Rounded Filbert Brush

This brush can be used to just get paint onto the canvas. It comes in a wide assortment of widths, and comes rounded or flat. I prefer the rounded, because with those softer edges, it too can be used for soft blending. With the flat edge, you can create strong, straight lines.

#3 The Fluffy Mop

I use this brush dry. Always. In oils, a soft and fluffy mop can be used to eradicate paintbrush marks and smooth and blur. This is the tool that I would use to create the solid backgrounds behind my subjects. First I would load up my painting surface with a light layer of paint, and then, using my mop with the lightest pressure I can manage, I make small circles. Because the brush has such soft bristles, and you are barely touching the surface of your painting, brush strokes begin to melt away, and you are left with a solid and dreamy background.

#4 The Fan Brush

Again, I personally use this brush for blurring lines, or for shading two colors together. Because of it's shape, you can get more precise than you can with the mop. I also use this brush dry. However, this is a fun tool, and with practice can be used to make a variety of marks.

What's most important is to play with your materials! Have fun! And remember, each time you create something, you'll be learning along the way. Thanks for giving this a read! I hope you have discovered a new way to use your own brushes.

Do you have a favorite brush, or way of making marks in your painting?