Material & Techniques

Artist brushes are made of four parts: hair/bristles, ferrule, crimp, and handle. Bristles are the hair. The handle is a holder made of wood or acrylic. The ferrule is the metal bit that connects hair to the handle. Crimp fastens the ferrule to the handle.

Artist brushes come in long and short handles; they also can be made of natural or synthetic hairs (sometimes a combination of the two). Longer handles allow for more gestural work and shorter handles are more suited to detail work. Natural hair brushes are most commonly made using ox, hog, sable, and squirrel hair. Acrylic and oil brushes tend to have longer handles and require stiff coarse hair (usually hog hair) to spread thick layers of paint. Watercolour brushes tend to have shorter handles and require fine hair (usually sable and squirrel) for holding liquid and doing washes. Synthetic hair brushes come in stiff and soft varieties that are made of nylon or polyester and can be used with acrylics or watercolour.

The eight common artist brushes are flat, bright, round, rigger, angle, filbert, fan, and mop. The following is the common usage:

Bright—good for impasto work

Flat—good for bold strokes and coverage

Mop—good for blending and glazing

Round—good for outlining and detail work

Angle—good for curved strokes and filling corners

Filbert—good for blending and detail work

Fan—good for blending, smoothing, and feathering

Rigger—good for fine lines

Pastels are a dry drawing medium that comes in finger-size sticks and has the appearance of chalk. Pastels tend to have a higher pigment concentration than any other artist medium because of the pigment to filler ratio. They come in a variety of shapes: round or square and thick or thin. Pastels come in three different types: hard pastels, soft pastels, and pastel pencils encased in wood. Each of these pastels has different qualities and attributes.

Pastels are made by mixing pure powdered pigments with non-greasy inert binders, such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth, or methylcellulose. The amount of binder determines hardness or softness. Hard pastels have more binder and less pigment, and soft pastels are the other way around. Soft pastels have intense colours, but they crumble easily. Hard pastels tend to hold their shape, but the colours are less intense.

Hard pastels usually come in a square or rectangular shape; they are good for clean lines and detail work. Soft pastels come in round shapes and are good for coverage and blending. Pastel pencil allows more control and is a cleaner alternative to soft pastels.

Colour theory encompasses colour mixing, harmony, and context. A colour wheel is a mixing tool consisting of primary, secondary, and tertiary colours arranged in a circle that looks like a wheel. The colour wheel is also divided into two halves of cool and warm colours.

The three primary colours are red, yellow, and blue. The three secondary colours are orange, green, and purple; they are derived from mixing two primaries. The six tertiary colours on the wheel are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, and red-purple; they are produced by mixing one primary and one secondary colour.

Colour harmony simply means a structured, balanced, and orderly arrangement of colours that is pleasing to the eye. Colour harmony can be achieved using the tried and tested colour schemes or by looking at colour combinations in nature. Nature provides colour combinations that show different colours that work well together even if they depart from the popular colour schemes. Sometimes, unusual colour combinations in nature show up in perfect harmony.

The three most common colour schemes are analogous, complementary, and triadic colours. Analogous colours refer to any three colours that are side by side on the wheel. Complementary colours refer to any two directly opposing colours. Triadic refers to three colours that form a triangle on the wheel.