A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tools of the Trade: Brushes, Painting Knives and other useful stuff

Interesting to see your experiences using black. To make greys/ dark neutrals  you  mix varying levels of complimentary colours together or all 3 primaries   ( we did this on a Jo Budd workshop, -who knew greys could be so interesting!) . One reliable combination I use often is Phthalo Green and Permanent rose; for threatening storm clouds it's French Ultramarine with Burnt Umber  
Acrylic  paints are quite tough on brushes ( I wouldn't use your best sable !) as although paint can be washed out with water rather than the solvents used with oil paints, that's very difficult once it dries! What brush you use depends partly on the marks you want to make. While I started out using cheap bristle varnish brushes I found they had a tendency to moult so my preference now   for general paint application is Liquitex paddle brushes  1" and 2". These  have strong synthetic fibres which will stand up to a bit of scrubbing ( you sometimes have to work quite hard to work the paint into fabric)  and the short stubby handles help with that too. I did invest in the longer handled equivalent which are quite fun for looser expressive work. I have a collection of smaller brushes, flat and round ,  bristle and synthetic , which I use for details 

I use painting knives a lot to scrape paint across stitched fabric.  In the picture above , the knife on the left is a palette knife- the blade comes out straight  from the handle and is used for mixing paint or cleaning your palette only. The knives on the right are painting knives -  the blade is more flexible and  a bend in the handle  stops you getting your knuckles in the  paint! They come in lots of shapes and sizes  and you can have a lot of fun making different marks with them.  The 3 above are the ones I use most.  

Other bits  of   painting equipment I  use are tiling scrapers, paint /printing rollers, toothbrush (for splatters) and other mark making utensils
Old yogourt pots etc make good water containers - you need 2 at any one time, one for mixing, one for cleaning brushes. It's a good idea to keep a piece of paper towel or cloth next to your water pot and blot your brushes every time you rinse them . This prevents water drops running down the ferrule and onto your painting. Wet wipes are great  for getting paint off your hands and you'll have noticed from my photos that I have a piece of thick plastic sheet on my work table!
I've already showed you  my stay-wet palette  but I tend to do my actual mixing of paints on a tear-off disposable palette 


 I stretch fabric onto boards secured with masking tape for painting. It helps if they're propped up rather than flat. I have a full size easel but my small box easel  has seen a lot of service and can actually take quite large boards ( as well as stowing a lot of stuff). Other useful bit and bobs you might need I'll  suggest as I  demonstrate particular techniques.


  1. If you're not into rags for brush cleaning, etc., may I suggest Viva paper towels. I do china painting and we use them to blot our brushes on as well as cleaning because they do not give off any lint like so many other paper towels do. They are so easy to use particularly when you get the ones that are perforated into smaller sections. We tear off one section, fold it over and it resides next to our palette for easy blotting.

  2. Great tips and info. Thanks again for another brilliant post.


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