By Winsor and Newton
When choosing a brush, the wide selection of hair types, head shapes and handle lengths mean that there are many words used to describe the characteristics of each one.
The glossary below provides a guide to terms used when talking about brushes:
Acrylic brush - synthetic brushes, the mix of hair is specially made for use with acrylic colour.
Balance - the correct weight and shape of a handle in relationship to the weight of the brush head.
Belly - the mid-section and thickest part of the brush head, or the individual hair filament itself. Sable filaments have excellent bellies, which result in well shaped round brushes.
Blunt - a hair which is missing its natural tip. Finest quality brushes, do not contain blunts or trimmed hairs.
Bright- often Short flat, a chisel ended, square headed bristle brush. Bright was a painter.
Bristle - hog hair. Coarse, strong hair, suited to thick brushwork in oil, alkyd and acrylic painting. Different qualities of hog brushes are available, the most expensive ones carry the most colour and retain their shape best when wet.
Camel - is a pseudonym for a mixture of miscellaneous hairs of low quality.
Crimp- the compressed section of the ferrule which holds the handle to the brush head.
Designers’ - an elongated round sable, most common for illustration work.
Egbert - an extra long filbert.
Fan- a flat fan, used for blending, available in both bristle and soft hair.
Ferrule- the metal tube which supports the hair and joins it to the handle.
Filbert- flat brushes with oval shaped heads, available in both bristle and soft hair.
Flag - the natural, split tip of each bristle. Flags carry more colour and are evident on the highest quality hog brushes.
Flat- usually Long flat; flat hog brushes with a chisel end.
Goat - makes good mop wash brushes.
Gummed - newly made brushes are pointed with gum in order to protect them in transit.
Interlocked - bristle brushes whose hairs curve inward towards the centre of the brush.
Kolinsky - the highest quality sable hair.
Length out- the length of hair, exposed from the ferrule to the tip.
Lettering- very thin, long, chisel ending sables, traditionally used for lines and letters in signwriting.
Liners- see Lettering.
Long flat - see Flat.
Mop- large, round, domed brushes, often goat or squirrel, used primarily to cover whole areas in water colour.
One Stroke- a flat soft hair brush which allows an area to be covered in one stroke, traditionally used in signwriting for block letters.
Ox - ear hair is used for flat wash brushes.
Pencil- see Spotter.
Polyester - Synthetic hair is made of polyester; different diameter filaments, varying tapers, different colours and different coatings result in as many possible variations in synthetic brushes as in those made from natural hair.
Pony- is a low cost cylindrical hair, ie. lacking a point, often used for childrens’ brushes.
Quill- bird quills were originally used for ferrules prior to the development of seamless metal ferrules. Still used in some squirrel brushes.
Rigger - very thin, long round sable, traditionally used for painting rigging in marine pictures.
Round- available in both bristle and soft hair, the latter having different types of rounds.
Sable - produces the best soft hair brushes, particularly for water colour. The conical shape and scaled surface of each hair provide a brush with an unrivalled point, responsiveness and colour carrying capacity. There are different qualities, the finest being taper-dressed Kolinsky [Winsor & Newton Series 7].
Short flat - see Bright.
Snap- see Spring.
Solid-dressed - sable which is sorted in bundles of equal length prior to brushmaking. Resultant brushes are not as responsive as taper-dressed sables.
Spotter- extra short and small sable rounds, used for retouching photographs and other high detail work.
Spring - the degree of resilience of the hair and its ability to return to a point. Sable displays excellent spring.
Squirrel- hair makes good mop brushes but does not hold its belly or point well.
Stripers- see Lettering.
Taper-dressed- Kolinsky sable which is sorted into different lengths prior to brushmaking. Resultant brushes have wider bellies and finer points.
Wash - large flat soft hair brushes, used primarily for flat washes in water colour.