FREE gift when you join SAA Membership JOIN TODAY

Get to know your Brush Shapes

Dive into the diverse world of artist paintbrush shapes! Discover the nuances of round, flat, and speciality brushes, each offering unique possibilities for your artistic expression. Our comprehensive guide explores various brush shapes, helping you navigate the art aisle with confidence. From versatile rounds to distinctive rakes, find the perfect brush shape to elevate your creative vision.

Brush Shapes


Round closely arranged bristles with pointed ends. Good for general use and is a versatile brush, ideal for washes and details. All the round brushes should be able to produce a fine point as well as being able to create a good wash. The brush sizes can range from very tiny fine detail brushes size 10/0 to a larger size 40.


These are broad, flat, square shaped brushes which are good for applying larger areas of colour. They can also be used the make linear brush marks using the end of the brush. The brush sizes can range from 1/8 inch (3mm) to 2 inches (5.1mm) wide. Some flat brushes have shorter hair and these are called Bright or Short flat - they look the same as a flat brush but with shorter bristles making them stiffer.


This is a flat brush with a domed end and allows for good coverage.

Rigger / Liner / Script Liner

This brush head consists of long narrow hairs. A rigger is usually used to create straight lines, as it maintains a fine tip throughout a long narrow brushstroke - this is sometimes called a writer or scribe. It is called a 'rigger' because they were developed to do rigging on boats in nautical paintings. These are available in varying sizes and can come in varying lengths. 


As the name suggests it is a fan shaped brush – used dry it is perfect for trees and grasses. Also good for blending colours or softening edges.


This is a large floppy version of the round brush. Due to the floppy nature of the brush it holds a lot of water and promotes loose and lively brushstrokes. Good for a wash and blending oil colours. These can come in a selection of shapes from a rounded tip for soft blending or flat wash to a shaped brush with a fine point.


These are also called mops, but they are shaped and have a fine pointed tip. They are constructed from sable, squirrel or synthetic fibres and are hand-tied with brass wires onto a wooden handle instead of inserted and crimped into a metal ferrule. These are excellent for wet washes as well as fine mark-making.


These are a little wider than a flat brush and are used to apply large washes. These can range from 1 inch (2.5mm) to quite large sizes. 


These are made of Hog Hair and are mostly used for very large washes. Made with a broad wooden handle and extremely fine soft hair, often goat’s hair. Ideal for washes. 

Chisel / Angle

These are a flat brush which is angled to one side.


A stiff brush which can be shaped with a flat top or angled. Used dry in a dabbing technique it can create textures akin to for grasses or hair.

Sword / Dagger

A brush shaped like a sword or a dagger. It can be used for painting grasses and reeds, and also for floral painting. For best results hold the brush with the blade away from you and the end of the brush pointing down and then flick upwards.  The dagger is a smaller version of the sword. 

Rake / Comb

These brushes have varied lengths of hair which are ideal for grasses and fur. 

Thin black line