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What a brush can do for you.

What a brush can do for you.


A brush has three main jobs to do –

1. Load and Deliver.

2.Wet and Spread

3.Empty and Blend

Of course it can do many other things like mix paint, baste a turkey and muddle a Manhattan, but for now, we will focus on the initial three.

  1. The first job is to load with paint and deliver it to the painting surface. Always try and mix a little more paint than you think you’ll need. Watercolorists new to acrylics tend to prepare smaller amounts of paint as they anticipate it spreading far afield as watercolors do. So, mix more and deliver as much as is needed to cover the area you are painting.

Are you slathering on a background color? Load the brush with gobs of paint.

Are you dry-brushing over another color? Use paint sparsely on a drier brush.

Are you scraping color across texture? Load only one side of the brush and paint away!

  1. The brush is also used to spread paint across the canvas. If your brush is wet, it will dilute the paint with the water in it and cause the paint to spread. The result will be a thinner and more transparent version of the luscious, thick paint from the tube. This technique is used to glaze or tint the under-color or to create a water-color effect. It will not cover or hide what is under it as the opacity of the paint has been diluted.

Beginner acrylic painters often over-water their paint and get frustrated with it not covering the canvas as it should. The trick is to use more paint and less water on the brush. Paint should be more like whipping cream or whipped cream than milk consistency. Also, when trying to “fix” a color issue, it is best to wipe it off while wet, or allow it to dry before making the changes. Another common frustration is trying to fix a color while it is wet by adding more color over the top. This simply makes a larger puddle of a now greying color muck, instead of changing the color to its intended hue. I think of this as though trying to clean up red wine spilled on a white carpet by pouring water on it. It simply spreads the stain without cleaning anything up.

3.This brings us to the third job of empty and blend. If the brush is still loaded with paint, it is still in “deliver” mode. It will continue to deposit the paint onto the canvas until it is emptied. If you have enough paint on the canvas and now simply want to blend the color and get it to where it does the most good, you will need to wipe the excess paint back on to the palette or off onto a paper towel. This signals to the brush that it is now in blending mode. It may now be used to blend or move the paint that is on the canvas without muddying it with color from deep inside the bristles.

So, if you can remember these three functions of your brush, you will eliminate the frustration of a confused brush, which makes for some happy painting.