If you like to work with different mediums then it’s only natural to wonder if you can swap your tools between them and if so, how well it is going to work or not. If you want to know ‘can I use my acrylc brushes for oil painting?’ then I’ve got some good news.
While you generally would not want to use your oil or watercolor brushes with acrylic paint, the opposite is a different story. Acrylic paintbrushes can be used with just about medium and oil is definitely included among those. I also encourage it highly, because you never know what you can produce when you play around with your artist’s tools.
I’m going to focus today’s article on the subject of brushes so that you can get a little better idea of their intended use, proper mediums, and we’ll also go into the differences between your oil and acrylic brushes as well.
Come with me and let’s have a little talk about the tools of the trade!
Can you use any brushes for oil painting?
Well, it’s really up to you. I’d mentioned that you can indeed use acrylic brushes on oil painting and that you should give it a try, but you might want to do it with newer brushes because acrylic paint is really hard on a brush and it might not be at it’s best by the time you get to oil painting.
Watercolor brushes aren’t considered the best choice for oil painting either, but you can certainly use them. Many of them are made with natural hair, although there are certainly synthetics out there and hybrid mixes of the two. Watercolor brushes also make good brush points for detail, they’ll hold a lot of paint, and they spring back nicely.
The best course of action is really just going to be trying it out to see what you think. Everyone has their own painting style, developed over time and also based on personal dexterity and preferences, and so ultimately the different-medium brushes will work – just how well they work for you is something you won’t know until you try.
What’s the difference between oil and acrylic brushes?
There are definitely a few differences between the two, though perhaps not as many as are expecting. Acrylic brushes tend to have long handles so you don’t have to be pressed right up against your work, though there are also some ultra-short ones for detail that you can use as well. The shapes are pretty much going to be the same standards – fan, pointed round, angular, and flat… so not a lot of difference there.
Which brings us to materials.
The biggest difference is cost and composition. Acrylic paints are rough on a brush and because of this, while you could get sable or other natural hairs for working with your acrylic, it wouldn’t be a great idea. The acrylic paint would break down your brush fairly quickly and you’d have to replace it.
So, acrylic brushes are most commonly made with synthetics these days. Not only are they better able to resist erosion from constant barrage of acrylic paint, but they are cheaper to produce than watercolor and oil brushes that tend to be made with more natural materials.
They’re also easier to clean, and amen to that! Let’s take a closer look at oil painting brushes just to give you a better idea of how they are made and this will help to drive the difference home.
What brushes do you use for oil painting?
First off, the two main brush types for oil are going to be sable and bristle. Sable brushes are super soft and often made with natural hair, from a sable, rabbit, a squirrel… you get the idea. You can also find synthetics and they are pretty good these days.
The bristle, however, is not so soft. It has thicker hog’s hair bristles that let you pile on the oil paint thickly or ensure that your brushstrokes get the attention that they deserve. The most popular shapes that your oil brushes will come in are fan, filberts, brights, rounds, and flats.
Fans are wide crescent-like brushes that are great for blending, while your filberts are flat brushes which sport rounded sides that are also great for blends and achieving soft edges. Brights have a shortened square-shape head and are good for adding textures and rounds are good detail brushes.
Finally, you’ve got your flats, which have rectangular brush-shapes and they are great for holding enough paint to make a smooth stroke or an edge.
It takes a little while, but you’ll learn your favorite very quickly!
In this article we’ve taken a closer look at brushes and what kind of mix and match you can do with them if you work with other mediums. You can definitely use acrylic brushes for oil painting if you like. The synthetic bristles required to work with acrylic are extremely durable and they will often work well with other mediums such as oil or watercolor, just don’t do it the other way around. Oil and watercolor brushes are often made with natural hair and if you use them with acrylics then they won’t be long for this world.
If you’d like to learn a little more about selecting the right brushes for your oil painting, then I’ve found a nice 3rd party article that you can view here. It will go into a little more detail on the types and options and might just help you to decide what you want in your next brushes.
Have fun with your oil painting, just keep your oil brushes away from that acrylic paint or you’ll be sorry!