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Oil Brushes are the most robust of all brushes, for a number of reasons. Oil painting tends to be larger scale than watercolour, and often is more gestural. Both oil and acrylic brushes have a longer handle so that one can work with a greater distance from the canvas, making it easier to see the progression of the picture as a whole. Watercolour painting tends to demand more control, and is usually worked with on a smaller scale. Shorter handles are more comfortable for working with this approach in mind.

The second factor is the hair used in the brushes. Conventionally oil paint is applied with a thicker consistency which means that brushes used with oil tend to require more thorough cleaning after use if the brush’s lifespan is to be prolonged and the condition of the brush is to be maintained. Oil brush hairs are coarser than watercolour brush hairs to withstand the thicker paint. Many artists that use oils like to work with impasto paint, and the coarser hair brushes allow brush marks to show.
The most commonly used natural hair used in oil brushes is hog hair. In watercolour painting the generous liquid holding capacity of a fine haired brush is often sought after so that large washes of colour can be applied to paper in a single stroke. Oil brushes do not rely on the capillary action that is the basis of watercolour brushes, they are primarily pushing implements, in some cases with the flexibility and bounce not dissimilar to a palette knife.

Glazing and fine detail in oil requires a variation in approach and this is where softer more pliable brushes are useful, traditionally sable, mongoose and badger was used but there are now very high quality engineered synthetic brushes on the market, badgerlon and mangusta, which are excellent alternatives

Synthetic hair brushes are available for all painting, and these tend to replicate the qualities of the best natural hair brushes available. Generally synthetic hair tends to have more spring or ‘snap’ (when one pushes the head of hair to one side and then release, the hairs ‘ping’ back into place more quickly than most natural hair brushes), which is sometimes favoured by artists because the marks one can achieve with a springy brush tend to be more expressive and punchy. Because they are not natural the hair tends to also have a greater lifespan. All brushes, if looked after, can last a very long time with careful cleaning and storing and care.

Because there are no absolutes in art, Da Vinci also offer sable hair brushes for oil and acrylic, which are ideal for thin applications of colour, and really, with the right care, watercolour brushes can be used with oil and acrylic paint as oil and acrylic brushes could be used with watercolour paint. We do advise however that you separate the brushes you use for specific media from one another, as this will avoid any compromises in the performance of your brush.
For more information click on the link below to see some notes on brushes