Q & A: Brush sizes for feather painting?

I am often asked, “What is the smallest size brush you use for feather painting?”

Being that my feather paintings consist of miniature portraits packed with fine details, people often believe it is only a hairs width…which is not too far from the truth considering I only use the tip of a 20/0 spotter. So how small is that? Well….it’s about this small….

Yes, I could paint a pupil on good ol’ Abe’s eye if I needed too…

And yes, if they made anything smaller, I would probably buy it. ;-)   (And just a side note: If you go into your local art/craft supply store and ask for a 20/0 brush, you may get a raised eyebrow or two and be told they don’t make brushes that small – I am still told that on occasion even after using 20/0 brushes for a few years now. So yes, I can assure you – they exist!)

See! :-)

Ok, so by now you may be wondering what 20/0 means, and on that note – what is a spotter?

Next time you are at your local art supply/craft store, take a stroll down the fine art aisle and browse their paint brush display. You’ll notice that each brush has a number, for example 20/0, 10/0, 0, 1, 2, 10, and so on. The smaller the number (20/0), the smaller the brush, and conversely the large the number (10, 12, 16, and so on) the larger the brush. However, since brush sizes can slightly vary from brand to brand, you are better off just experimenting too see what brands and sizes work for you.

  • Smallest Brushes (Spotters and Liners) — 20/0 | 10/0 | 7/0 | 6/0 | 5/0 | 4/0 (0000)
  • Small Brushes (Spotters and Liners) — 000 | 00 | 0 | 1-5
  • Medium Brushes — 6-14
  • Large Brushes — 15-20
  • Largest Brushes — 21-30

I use brushes in the “Smallest Brushes” and “Small Brushes” range.

And a “spotter” is just a fancy name for a tiny, fine-pointed brush with short bristles. Spotters are exceptional at doing fine detail work, which is why they make up a large part of my paint brush inventory.

Keep in mind that when I first started feather painting, no one told me what brushes to use – and even if they had, I would probably have gone out and found a brush that was comfortable for me anyway. And if you are just beginning, don’t worry about expensive brand name brushes. The main thing right now – just focus on being comfortable and use what suits your painting style.

If you have any additional questions about paint brush sizing, please feel free to leave your question in the comment section below!

Happy Painting!

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