There’s so many brushes out there, how do you know which ones to use with gouache? The good news is that gouache is not that fussy, so there’s only a couple of things to keep in mind.
The first thing to remember is that because gouache is water-based and permanently water soluble, you never have to worry about ruining a brush! If you accidentally let it dry whilst caked in paint, you can still clean it up with some good old soapy water and be good to go. So don’t be scared to try out whatever brushes you have available- even makeup brushes can produce some great textures in gouache!
Secondly, because gouache is a thicker paint, some of the softer watercolor brushes can be difficult to handle for finer details. Since good quality watercolor brushes are often a little more expensive, this is great news for your wallet!
The Perfect Brushes for the Beginner
Gouache is easiest to control with a slightly stiffer brush, and any basic synthetic designed for watercolors or acrylics will do. I know I said you dont need the fancy watercolor brushes because they are soft, but often cheaper watercolor brushes are firmer and will work great!
If you are looking to buy a set of brushes to use with your gouache, a set with a few different shapes will stand you in good stead. Flat or angled shaders are great for covering large areas, and the angled shader will give you some fine details too. A filbert brush is good for painting larger areas and the rounded tip is useful for organic shapes such as clouds and trees. The brush you will likely turn to the most will be a basic round, so its useful to have this in a few sizes.
The kind of brush shape that will be most useful to you will depend on what you want to paint. It can be helpful to try out a small set to see which you prefer. A set designed for acrylic paints will work just fine.
What I Use
I have a lot of brushes that I have collected over the years, most of which I don’t use regularly.
My most used brushes are a small angled flat, rounds ranging from #1 to #11 and a small filbert brush. They are nearly all brushes I have bought from Amazon over the years and are inexpensive synthetic brushes. I have a couple of Princeton Heritage and Velvetouch rounds that are nice to work with for fine details.
Don’t struggle with bad brushes! If the tip doesn’t come to a nice point when wet, you may have a bad brush. This could be because it was poorly made or because paint has been forced into the ferrule (the metal bit that holds the bristles) at some point. Don’t throw these brushes away, they can often be used to create irregular textures that can look great in your paintings. But mark the handles with tape so you don’t use them accidentally.
The only brushes I throw in the trash are ones that keep shedding. A couple of hairs are ok when you first wash them, but if your brush is loosing hair regularly it will likely fall apart at some point, making a big mess on your painting!