The term brush refers to a variety of devices mainly
with bristles, wire or other filament of any possible material used
mainly for cleaning, grooming hair, painting, deburring and other
kinds of surface finishing, but also for many other purposes like
(but not limited to) seals, alternative traction systems and any
other use imaginable for this tool.
In the industry it is possible to find many configurations
such as twisted in wire (like the ones used to wash baby feeding
bottles), cylinders, disks (with bristles spread in one face or
radially) or in any other shape needed. There are many ways of setting
the bristle in the brush: the most common is the staple or anchor
set brush, in which the filament is forced with a staple by the
middle into a hole with a special driver and held there by the pressure
against the walls of the hole and the portions of the staple nailed
to the bottom of the hole. The staple can be substituted with a
kind of anchor, which is a piece of rectangular profile wire that,
instead of nailing itself to the bottom of hole, is anchored to
the wall of the hole, like in most toothbrushes. Another way to
set the bristles to the surface can be found in the fused brush,
in which instead of being inserted into a hole, a plastic fiber
is welded to another plastic surface, giving the additional advantage
of optionally using different diameters of tufts in the same brush,
and a considerably thinner surface (sometimes the bristles can be
set this way to the outer surface of a plastic bottle!).
See below for some other common kinds of brushes.
Brushes with rigid bristles are often used in hair care, to comb
human or animal hair. Brushes are more useful with longer hair,
while combs are typically used for shorter hair.
Brushes for cleaning
Brushes used for cleaning come in various forms and sizes, such
as very small brushes for cleaning a fine instrument, toothbrushes,
the larger household version that usually comes with a dustpan,
or the broomstick . Some brushes, usually used for professional
cleaning could be even bigger, like some hallbrooms, used for cleaning
wider areas. A very important usage of cleaning brushes can be found
in the industry. Thousands of different cleaning brushes can be
found in the food industry like brushes for cleaning vegetables,
washing glass, or even other special uses like finishing tiles or
even sanding doors for example. Those brushes are unique ones, made
specially for a given machine by the manufacturer of the machines
or a few special companies dedicated to make custom designs.
Paint brushes are used for applying ink or paint. These are usually
made by clamping the bristles to a handle with a ferrule.
Paintbrush may also refer to the digital equivalent
one would find in a bitmap graphics editor, i.e. a virtual brush
that can modify a digital picture.
Paintbrushes can have many shapes. Their names and styles may vary
slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, there are certain consistencies.
Traditionally, short handled brushes are for watercolor or ink painting
while the long handled brushes are for oil or acrylic paint. The
styles of brush tip seen most commonly are as follows:
1. Round: The long closely arranged bristles of these brushes make
them useful for detail
2. Flat: These are used for spreading paint quickly and evenly over
a surface. They will have longer hairs than their Bright counterpart.
3. Bright: These are flat brushes with short stiff bristles and
can be useful driving paint into the weave of a canvas in thinner
paint applications, as well as thicker painting styles like impasto
4. Filbert: Flat brushes with domed ends. They allow good coverage
and the ability to perform some detail work.
5. Fan: These are used for blending broad areas of paint.
6. Angle: These, like the Filbert, are versatile and can be applied
in both general painting application as well as some detail work.
7. Mop: A larger format brush with a rounded edge for broad soft
paint application as well as for getting thinner glazes over existing
drying layers of paint without damaging lower layers.
8. Rigger: Round brushes with longish hairs, traditionally used
for painting the rigging in pictures of ships. They are useful for
fine lines and are versatile in for both oils and watercolors.
Some other styles of brush which may be more specialized in their
1. Sumi: Similar in style to certain watercolor brushes, with a
generally thick wooden or bamboo handle and a broad soft hair brush
that when wetted should form a fine tip.
2. Hake: These are an Asian style of brush with a large broad wooden
handle and an extremely fine soft hair used in counterpoint to traditional
Sumi brushes for covering large areas.
3. Spotter: are round brushes with just a few short bristles.
The paintbrush has appeared as a charge in heraldry.
1. A brush utilized in one medium (oil piant, acrylic, etc.) may
not be used again in a different medium. The paints once applied
will alter the composition of the natural oils in the bristles of
the brush. Switching between solvents and mediums will not only
destroy these oils but will also damage the effectiveness of the
bristles eventually. Given that it is impossible to completely clean
a brush once it has been used, this process will be on going throughout
the life of the tool regardless of maintenance. Because of the nature
of these oils in the hairs of the brush, oil brushes will be the
longest lived of any brush type if properly cared for.
2. Paint must be cleaned from brushes immediately after use. This
is especially true for oil and acrylic paint because removing dry,
set residue can take bristles off or ruin a brush's shape.
3. Never leave brushes bristle-end down in a container of water,
turpentine, or any other solvent (if you want to clean them, do
it by hand or with a wet cloth). This is because the bristles of
the brush spread out against the bottom of the container and, will,
if left too long, set that way (like hair).
Sizes and materials
The sizes of brushes used for painting and decorating, usually given
in mm or inches, refer to the width of the head.
Bristles may be natural or synthetic. Natural bristles are preferred
for oil-based paints and varnishes, while synthetic brushes are
better for water-based paints as the bristles do not expand when
Handles may be wood or plastic; ferrules are metal (usually nickel-plated
Artists' brushes are usually given numbered sizes, although there
is no exact standard for their physical dimensions.
Sizes 000 to 20 are most common.
Artists' brushes are most commonly catagorized by type and by shape.
Types include watercolor which are usually sable, synthetic sable
or nylon, oil which are usually sable or bristle, and acrylic which
are almost entirely nylon or synthetic. Turpentines or thinners
used in oil painting can destroy synthetic brushes, so synthetics
are avoided by oil painters. Natural hair, squirrel, badger or sable
are used by watercolorists due to their superior ability to absorb
and hold water.
Shapes are quite varied and often watercolor brushes come in the
most variety of shapes. Rounds (pointed), flats, brights (shorter
than flats) and filbert are the most common. Other shapes include
stipplers (short, stubby rounds), deer-foot stipplers, liners (elongated
rounds), daggers, scripts (highly elonged rounds), eggberts, fans,
Bristles may be natural -- either soft hair or hog bristle -- or
1. Soft hair brushes are made from Kolinsky sable or ox hair (sabeline);
or more rarely, squirrel, pony, goat, or badger. Cheaper hair is
sometimes called camel hair... but doesn't come from camels.
2. Hog bristle (often called china bristle or Chunking bristle)
is stiffer and stronger than soft hair. It may be bleached or unbleached.
3. Synthetic bristles are made of special multi-diameter extruded
Artists' brush handles are commonly wooden, but the cheapest brushes
may have moulded plastic handles. Many mass-produced handles are
made of unfinished raw wood; better quality handles are of seasoned
hardwood. The wood is sealed and lacquered to give the handle a
high-gloss, waterproof finish that reduces soiling and swelling.
Metal ferrules may be of aluminum, nickel, copper, or nickel-plated
steel. Quill ferrules are also found: these give a different "feel"
to the brush.