Choosing Oil Painting Brushes

Hog hair

Hog hair is the traditional hair for oil painting brushes and still the most commonly used. Its strength, stiffness and durability allows it to manipulate thick oil paint and withstand the course surfaces that oil is usually applied to and has the benefit of suffering from split ends! It is these split ends that help to grip onto the paint. In fact, the very best hog hair comes from hogs that have been kept outdoors where the hair needs to grow rougher and longer to protect the animal from the elements.

The very best quality hog hair also wears down gradually, maintaining its shape as it gets smaller, meaning that the brush can be expected to have a long, useful life.

Jyukeis and Chung King Hog are considered to be the best hog hair and so these are widely used by various brands. For example, the Pro Arte Series A is made from  Jykeis and the Escoda Olive or Sash Brush range uses the Chung King.

Hogs are particularly good for more vigourous, expressive styles of painting as they can be ‘scrubbed’ into the surface to cover large areas quickly and with bold strokes and will leave prominent brush marks in the paint if a more textured finish is required.

However, even the smallest hog brush is not going to be great for very fine detail. Artists have usually turned to a variety of other tools to add detail including feathers, sticks, the end of the brush and other hair types.

Sable is often used but great care must be taken to clean and condition sable when used with oil. A better alternative is one of the vast range of synthetic fibre brushes that are now available.

Synthetic Fibres, in the form of Taklon or Nylon, offer a great alternative to hog especially for use with thinned oil or for highly detailed work. Taklon, is a polyester fibre which is extruded and tapered to a fine point and made in a number of thicknesses.

The diameter affects the stiffness or softness of the brush and, therefore, the stiff Taklons are the better type for oil. Taklon is available in white, brown or gold colours with White Taklon being considered the most pure form and usually displaying qualities superior to dyed Taklon.

White Taklon

Gold Takon

Nylon is a smoother fibre so, whilst it can still withstand being used with a thick paint like oil, it allows the paint to slip off it without leaving brush marks for a smooth finish. A good quality synthetic will hold its shape as well and small sizes can achieve a fine point for details.

At Curtisward, we offer a comprehensive range of synthetic brushes that are great for oil such as Pro Arte’s Sterling and Sterling Acrylix, Curtisward Ivory Taklon and Winsor and Newton’s Foundation White.