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What brush works best for detailed work?

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A few months ago I found a picture on-line (which I wish I had saved at the time, but didn't), where the painter had done some really fine details on. There was a close up of her face and her eyes had pupils, the coloured portion, the little lines that radiate out in the coloured portion, etc. I won't go so far as to say that they looked like real eyes, but they had all the details I'd expect to see in a real eye.


Obviously, this wasn't done with any brush that I own and I was wondering if anyone knew what brush would work best for such detail.


I've got one old brush that I use for detail that is basically a single bristle, the others having worn off from use, but even with that I'm limitted in what I can do.

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The question "which one works best" will get you a different answer from every person you ask. Brand preferences run the gamut mostly because painting styles are so varied. But one thing that I can gaurantee every experienced painter will agree on is this:


Paint with a bigger brush.


It might sound crazy at first, but using a larger brush makes it easier to handle bitzy details. The key is to get a good quality brush, one with a sharp tip. Master painters told me this secret many times and for years I stubbornly refused to accept it. It seemed so counter intuitive, how could it be true? I wish I had listened. :rolleyes:


A tiny brush holds so little paint that it dries before you can get it from the pallet to the surface of the mini. At the very least it gets thick and gummy and hence comes off the tip in globs. A fat brush with a tight point will hold more paint in the belly, and that keeps it moist longer and makes it easier to paint. I do my eyes with a size 1 brush, and I'm one of those crazy folks who do the colored iris, black pupil and the crazy white highlight!



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Any of the high-end kolinsky sable brushes (ie. Winsor & Newton Series 7 etc.) that you will read about around here would be your best choice. As long as it holds a good sharp point, it is probably good for most detail work. I use a W&N size 1 for almost everything, but I'd probably grab my size 0 from the same line for doing tiny details like you're talking about (if I even tried it at all). It took me years to wrap my head around the fact that buying the tiniest brush possible actually can work against you - All those 10/0, 20/0, etc. brushes (cheap ones, thank goodness) I have in my brush rack are problematic because they hold so little paint that it can actually begin to dry before you get it on the mini. So even if you get it to go right where you want, it's going to go on a bit lumpier than it really needs to. Plus you need to reload them so much more often. You've probably noticed that your single-haired brush doesn't hold a whole lot of paint already, right? It's that perfect point on a kolinsky sable brush that really counts, and allows you to use a bit bigger size to avoid those other problems. <edit> darn it, I just noticed that Midnight Lurker swooped in and addressed the brush size issue while I was drafting this. What she said. </edit>


Or you could go for a cheap and tiny brush if you want, but I really don't recommend this. Not only will they not work as well, causing you to struggle with the limitations of your brush rather than with improving your own skill level, but you'll spend more constantly replacing them in the long run, because they wear out much quicker. That's been my experience anyhow, and from what I've read I'm not the only one.


A quick note: You might see brushes made my W&N from their Cirrus line that say "kolinsky sable" on the handles at your local craft store, ie. Michael's. These are not the same quality, as (in my experience) they don't hold that same perfectly sharp point. They're not bad for basecoating etc., but don't be fooled into thinking they're as good as the Series 7 brushes, which can probably only be found at an artist's supply store or online. There are a few other brands of high-end kolinsky sable brushes out there that are supposed to be as good as or maybe even better than the W&N Series 7 line, but I have not tried them and am not 100% sure exactly which lines from the companies that make them would be the best, so you may want to search around the forums a bit to find those names if you want to shop around a bit more. Here is a recent (still active) thread about one of those other brands FYI.


Hope this helps,



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What they said. Use the largest premium Kolinsky sable brush that you can control and that has a really good point.


I use a Da Vinci Maestro #2 for painting detail on 15mm figures because it usually works better than a 0 or 000 brush for that task. The only time I reach for a smaller brush is when I'm trying to paint in recesses where I can't see past the belly of the #2.

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As others have said: Point point point.


Brushes with "one bristle" don't hold enough paint, or whatever paint they do hold dries before it gets on the miniature.


When I do my details, I also add more flow improver to my diluting mix, instead of just using water. That addition helps transfer the pigment to the miniature.


Good luck.

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