Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Paintbrush Tutorial for "Paint Your Own Canvas"

While painting things I have on order, I decided to go ahead and take pictures as I go, to explain things - pictures are clearer than words in these cases.

I've been amazed to see in several publications the advice to buy cheap paint brushes. This is faulty information, as cheap brushes are difficult to use, time consuming, and downright aggravating for painting on needlepoint canvas.. They wear out so fast one actually spends more in replacing them. I've even seen some that shed bristles!

I use, when I paint on needlepoint canvas with oils (my more serious and traditional designs require it) ONLY fine sable brights, which I purchase through my Dick Blick catalog. (a wonderful book for an artist to go through - I shop in this catalog like my daughters do in J. Crew) In these pictures, I'm using acrylic paint, which my sables don't like - but I'm out of the ones I use normally for painting with acrylics.

I'm illustrating here the fact that when using a good brush in really good condition, one can use a larger brush for several purposes, thereby cutting down on time in cleaning out one brush, putting it down and reaching for another, etc.

This is a #4 size sable bright (NEVER use "shaders" as the bristles are long, so are too soft and flexible to squish the paint well down into the canvas). The picture shows that the brush, well cared for, can actually paint a thin line on just one thread of canvas! Then, turned, it can paint the flat areas as well. - very convenient. As for the flat areas, I do one side in this manner, and then turn the canvas and put the "chisel" edge against the opposite side, as it makes a smooth, clean line against the adjacent area.

The last photo is the finished canvas. I used the Sakura Pen Touch fine line paint pen (gold) for outlining the "pearls." This was a great find for me, as it really cuts down on time spent painting gold outlines with paint and a brush. (and no brush to clean afterward)

This scallop shell is from a series of "Jeweled Sea Treasures" I designed about six years ago. I had discontinued these, but kept the patterns - which is fortunate, as I had an order for several of them from a nice customer whose shop was buying from me then.

The shells in the series were based on actual sea shells, anatomically correct, but I painted them in the bright pastel "Caribbean" colors, and added jewels, which were mostly stitched with Renaissance Shimmer and Sprinkles in smyrna cross and other "bump" stitches.

ADDENDUM: I do have a book on "Paint Your Own Canvas" - which is available in my web store, Elegant Whimsies. It's listed as an "e-book" in two chapters, which you may download and print out yourself at about half the price of the bound book also showing - Just click on "E-Books" under "Our Designs"

Be sure to also click on the "labels" below to see more canvas painting instruction - and also on the other blog, Possibilities, etc.


  1. Hi Judy,

    I agree, why use cheap brushes when they are such a bother! Sometimes cheaper is not the way to go. :-)

    I hate to try to pick off those bristles when they shed from the cheaper brushes. Sigh...

    Beautiful shell!

    Windy Meadow

  2. I love your shell. I use cheap brushes because I have found they wear out as quickly as good brushes. I paint on #14 with acrylic paint. Do you think it's just much rougher?

  3. needlepoint canvas chews up brushes fast - 14 mesh is coarser than 18, so of course is harder on brushes. The deal with the cheap brushes is that they won't hold that nice, sharp chisel edge and the firm resiliency like the better brushes - it slows one waaay down while painting, and is tedious and aggravating.

  4. I sometimes find the sable brushes are not firm enough so I tend to buy the acrylic ones - but, you're right, they wear out very quickly.
    I also use a straw to blow the holes out periodically as mine sometimes fill up with paint - although probably says more about my poor technique than anything else.

  5. I paint mostly in oils on my "better" canvases, and the sable brushes are superb for this. They are, as you say, too soft for painting on canvas with acrylics.