Friday, December 20, 2013

It is time for you to stop using your 3/0 brush

This is one of those posts that occur to you while painting.  I mean this genuinely.  It is time for you to stop using those micro-brushes.

I've never used the insane detail or 5/0 brush.

JJ typing, before I get to the meat and potatoes of this post I want to be clear what I mean by 3/0 brushes or micro-brushes.  I consider micro-brushes any brush that is smaller than 0.

Why?  Because you are better than that.  You have potential.  If you paint models you're half way there.  Yes this is a pep talk.

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way before I hit you with one-two punch that I feel will have the greatest impact.  Some people maybe familiar with link: James Wappel and those who remember me raving about Andrew Martin, they are tremendously awesome painters.  James uses size 2 brushes and extremely large brushes that aren't usually ideal to paint on a 28mm model.  Andrew uses script brushes.  The kind with the almost foot long handle with 2' long bristles.  If I remember correctly Master Justin paints eyes with size 0 raphael kolinksy sable brushes.  I've stopped using my micro-brushes.  Smallest brush I use now is size 0.  Even use size 0 for painting spiritstones.

Now that is out of the way we are here to talk about your painting ability.  Yes, you.  The painter that has issues with getting that even white finish.  He/she who gets frustrated with yellow and blots red on models so it appears solid.  You need to stop using smaller than size 0 brushes.  I believe size 0 should be the smallest size brush you should use.  Yes that means size 0 for line highlighting, free handing, painting eyes, that third even smaller line highlight inside two slightly larger line highlights.  Does this mean you have to buy 10$ sable brushes?  No.  Hell you can pick up 1.50$ size 0 green princeton round brushes from Blicks.  This post is about your ability not breaking the bank.  Please note I said your ability not soon-to-be ability.  Your ability.

Painted these designs with size 0 brush.

What is your ability?  Let's face the noise.  You paint models.  You have the drive and demand to paint better models.  Why do I know this?  Because you paint models.  There's something about you that is different than other modellers.  That je ne sais quoi is the defining trait that makes you unlike the table top players that just base spray paint their models.

Now you may be asking 'why should I stop using those small brushes?' or 'where's the relevance?'  Both great questions.  You want a challenge.  You want to save money.  Use your resources more effectively.  Instead of spending 10$ to buy four brushes in various sizes from 5/0 to 0.  You'll buy four size 0 brushes for the same amount.  The challenge of learning to paint fine detail with 0 is something you can disseminate to your own clique of painters.  While teaching others how to paint you'll learn new ways of painting you've never considered.  Let's talk about the reasons for multiple size 0 brushes than one size 5/0 and/or 3/0.  Say something bad happens to your micro-brush.  Suddenly your painting comes to a grinding halt.  You don't have a spare micro-brush.  You can't finish that final detail on the model.  Yeah you can purchase back ups and be a prepared boy scout.  Do you really enjoy the tip dry at the end of your micro-brush?  I know I don't.  Now say you have four size 0 brushes.  You have a surplus of back up brushes should something unthinkable happen to the first one.

Yes you can't paint like James or Andrew, even Dave Taylor.  Yet I'm willing wager good money that you've said out loud to others or your computer screen that you would love to be able to paint like them.  People have said the same about link: Zab.  It is time you decided to take steps to do so.  There are more than a few people that want to possess link: Mordian7th's ability.

Here's the one-two knock out punch to send this message home.  You paint.  You don't spray paint base coat and stop.  You look for and read painting tips online and with friends.  You want to paint like the people mentioned above.  You look at the first models you painted and then at your most recent and you see growth.  You want to grow.  You want to feel that ego boost when someone walking by your gaming table stops and ooo's and ahh's at your models.  You desire that best painted trophy at an event.  You work on your current models far more than your first because you strive to become more.  You want to be better.  Not for other people and their constantly adoring praise.  You do it for yourself.  When you think about it you spend more time staring at your models than anyone else does.  You scrutinize your work and know where you made mistakes and where you can be better.  You love that one part of the model that you want to see on the entire model.  Allow me to rephrase something.  Yes you can't paint like James, Andrew, Dave, Zab or Mordian7th, today.  You will end up painting like them if not better someday.  Imagine the day when your painting garners one of their eyes and they make a comment about it.  Doubt any kite will fly higher than you'll be on that day.

What really drives you are those times when a fellow painter asks questions how you painted this model or made that effect.  While learning how to paint a better model you've unwittingly become the teacher.  If you're unfortunately you'll experience that feeling while answering the eager student's question.  If you're fortunate you'll never feel that moment of ego and passionately converse with a fellow painter.  Guess it comes down to a question: Do you want to talk about your painting techniques to anyone who asks?  The answer to that question is the reason why you want to be a better painter and stop using brushes smaller than size 0.  When people learn you don't use those smaller brushes your models will be that much more awe inspiring.

slainte mhath


  1. As someone who is most definitely not a painter, I have to say I've enjoyed this and the previous post very much. It has encouraged me, despite my feelings of "I can never paint better than a 5-year-old on Valium", to give painting a try.....with size 0 brushes.

    1. TK Ghost, great to hear you've enjoyed the last two posts and are encouraged to test your painting skills further. I'd like to see the results.

  2. Thanks for the shout out and the link! Meg maples runs a great blog and she had something similar to say about the size of your brush and how you use it here:

    It's something a lot of people don't know but stumble into after years of painting. They usually just kind of stray away from their size 2/0. Now you and Meg need to stop sharing all our secrets or The Sect Of The Gilded Bristle is going to come after you o_O Not really, there is no sect I'm just kidding. Or am I ? MUWAHAHAhahahahahaaaaaaaa.... (disappears in a swipe of the brush)!

    1. You're welcome, Zab.

      Thanks for the link. It was a fun read.

      Yeah, this is the second time my hand has been slapped by The Sect of the Gilded Bristle. Next time they said they would step on all my toys.


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