Paint Brushes for Mini Painting: Parts and How They Are Made

The art of miniature painting requires the right tools for the job. It can be a very short list, but the paint brush will always be at the top. While you do not need a lot of expensive brushes like me, I will always recommend trying at least one high end artist brush.

Paint brushes used by artists are made from a wide range of materials, natural and synthetic. Which materials you use will affect the overall performance, durability, and versatility of a paintbrush.

I’ll go into terms like snap, tips, belly that will come into play. I’ll also go through the parts of the brush. Everything from handle and ferrule, to its bristles.

Understanding how artist paint brushes are made can help you appreciate the value of a quality brush. Knowing the parts of an artist paint brush will go a long way towards understanding why we pick the brushes we pick to paint with.

Materials Used in Artist Paint Brushes

What are artist paint brushes made of? Paint brushes are made from either natural or synthetic bristles, wood or plastic handles and a metal ferrule.  These components are assembled and arranged in different sizes and shapes.  Sizes range from 4/0 (or 0000) through 24.  Shapes include:  round, pointed round, flat, bright, filbert, angular flat, fan and detail round.

In Miniature Painting, we typically use round brushes, from size 0 through 4. We also use both synthetic and sable hair brushes. Other types of brushes, like flats or filberts, are sometimes used for specific techniques like dry brushing.

Natural Hair Bristles

Natural bristle brushes are made from various animal hairs, with the most common types being hog bristle and sable brushes. The vast majority of miniature painters use Sable brushes (and/or synthetics)

Hog bristle brushes are known for their stiffness and durability, making them suitable for heavy, thick paint applications like oil and acrylic.  Less common types include squirrel hair or camel hair brushes.

Sable brushes, on the other hand, are made from the hairs of the Kolinsky sable, a member of the weasel family. These brushes have a range of exceptional qualities, such as their resilience, soft hair, and ability to hold a fine point.

Sable hair brushes are perfect for acrylics because of their high water absorption capacity and their fine detail ability is great for miniature painting.

Snap: Snap is the property of a paint brush to quickly pop back into place after using it for a brush stroke. Although not unique to sables, they typically have excellent snap to them.

Synthetic Bristles

Synthetic brushes are made from man-made materials, typically nylon or polyester fibers. Nylon brushes are more resilient and springy than natural bristles, they tend to be what I use for miniature painting.

They work well with acrylics and do the job. Synthetic hair brushes are durable and easy to maintain. They’re also very inexpensive.

Polyester offers a similar feel to natural hair brush hair but with added longevity and resistance to wear. Synthetic bristle brushes offer a more affordable and animal-friendly alternative to natural hair brushes, while still providing quality performance to the artist.

Rosemary and Co Red Dot series is polyester as an example.

Paint Brush Construction


The handle of an artist paint brush is typically made from wood or plastic. These materials are pretty standard and hold up well.

Wooden handles are often preferred by artists due to their lightweight and natural feel. However, plastic handles have become more popular in recent years as they are more affordable and can be more resilient to the wear and tear.

Handles come in various lengths, shapes, and thicknesses to suit the preferences of individual artists.


Connecting the handle to the head of the paintbrush is the ferrule, which is typically made from metal or brass. The primary function of the ferrule is to hold the brush head in place and provide a strong connection between the handle and the bristles.

Metal ferrules are most common, with brass being a popular choice for its non-reactive nature and resistance to corrosion.

The ferrule may be attached to the handle using a crimp, which is a method of squeezing the metal around the handle to create a secure bond.

One tip I’ve always tried to adhere to is “don’t let paint get in the ferrule”. If it gets in there and dries, it will cause the bristles to flair out and split.


The head of a paintbrush consists of bristles or hair that are carefully arranged and held in place by the ferrule.

The construction of the head involves securing the bristles with wire and placing them into the base of the ferrule. This ensures that the bristles remain inside the ferrule, even when subjected to the constant pressure of painting.


The belly of the brush is the part of the bristles closest to the ferrule. It’s typically thicker than the tip. When you dip your brush into paint, this is where it’s stored.

Often times a fat belly and sharp tip is most useful in miniature painting. You can get a lot of paint in the belly, ideally it wont dry as quickly, and with proper consistency it flows through the tip onto your figures.

Types of Paint Brushes

When I buy synthetic brushes they typically come in sets that include all types of paint brushes. Some of these are used often in miniature painting, others are not.

I would say even the ones you dont use to paint can come in handy. You can use them to spread around glue or spread technical paints. There’s always something they can help with.

Round Brush

Round brushes are versatile and typically used for sketching, outlining, and creating detailed work.

They come in various sizes, and the brush size impacts the line thickness that can be produced. The pointy tip of a round brush makes them suitable for fine lines and precision work.

We use rounds for dry brushing or stippling in miniature painting.

Flat Brushes

Flat brushes have squared-off bristles that create sharp-edged strokes and straight lines. They’re ideal for applying broad strokes and filling in large areas of color, as well as achieving a smooth, even finish.

Flat brushes come in various widths, with larger brushes covering more surface area in a shorter amount of time.

Another version we use in dry brushing.

Filbert Brushes

Filbert brushes feature an oval-shaped head, blending the versatility of round brushes with the coverage ability of flat brushes.

They are excellent for creating soft, round strokes, blending colors, and producing feathery edges in a painting.

Fan Brushes

Fan brushes, as the name suggests, have bristles spread out in a fan shape. They are commonly used for blending and creating smooth transitions between colors, creating textured effects such as grass or foliage, and adding highlights to a painting.

I’ve never used these but I have some that came in a set.

Liner Brushes

Liner brushes, also known as script or rigger brushes, have long, thin bristles that allow for precise, controlled strokes. They are useful for creating fine lines and intricate details, such as lettering or delicate branches.

These might be great for panel lining, but I have never tried it.

Rigger Brushes

Rigger brushes, like liner brushes, have long and thin bristles designed for precision work. These brushes excel in creating long, continuous lines, and they are often used for painting rigging on ships, tree branches, or intricate patterns.

For miniature painting, you rarely need to do long lines. Maybe on terrain or tanks or large vehicles.

Techniques and Applications


Blending is a fundamental technique in oil painting, acrylic painting, and watercolor painting. It involves using artist paint brushes to combine different colors smoothly.

To effectively wet blend colors, artists load their brushes with two or more colors and apply gentle brush strokes, gradually mixing the colors into each other in a gradient.

Detail Work

Fine details in a painting can be achieved by using specialized brushes designed for detail work. These brushes typically have a pointed tip and are smaller in size compared to other brushes. Acrylic paint brushes and watercolour brushes are often used for sketching fine lines and edges in paintings. To create intricate details, artists carefully control the pressure they apply on the brush and use a combination of brush strokes and washes to achieve the desired effects.


Varnishing gives a protective layer that helps maintain the colors over time. I vastly prefer my airbrush for this, but you can also use any brush for varnishing.

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