Brushes, Brushes Everywhere: Shape and Size

We’re back! 

It’s been a while so here is the first anatomy post to refresh your memory.

Now let’s break the general anatomy of the bristles down a little more starting with shapes. While there are tons of shapes, I’m only going to go over the ones that I find myself using most often to save some time. 


  • Round:

Round brushes are very versatile. They are made up of hairs that come to a sharp point. They can be used for almost, in my experience, any application. However, rounds are often used for detail painting. 

  • Flat:

Flats are used when you want to get paint over larger surfaces and doing washes. While small flats are made I find myself using larger ones. I have found that flats are harder to keep in shape so they usually end up being my go to when I need to do something that is particularly rough on them. 

  • Bright:

Brights are flats but considerably shorter. They are generally made with stiffer bristles than other shapes. They are helpful when I’m painting something like a cloak. It gets into crevices and covers broad areas well. In my experience, these hold their shape a little better than the flats. 

  • Filbert:

Filberts are flat brushes that have rounded tips. These are also very good at getting into small places and covering larger areas. They can also be used for some detail work. These are also ideal when doing blending.

  • Angle:

Angled brushes are flats with a tip that is angular. I like these even better than filberts and brights for getting into small places. However, like the flats they don’t seem to hold their shape as well as other shapes. 

Now for sizes. This is where it gets complicated.

“Why is this the complicated part?”
Brush sizing is complicated because it directly affects working time. Combined with the fact that there is no international standardization amongst sizes. So something that is labeled a 1 could very well be a 0 or 2 in a different brand.

It is important to mention, the size of the paintbrush will be printed on the handle. Sometimes it will also include the company name and/or brush shape. 

The general sizing starts at the smallest being a 20/0 (brushes of 30/0 sizes are made but are not common) to the largest being a 30.The most common sizes are 000 through 20. For miniature painting I have heard of people using up to a size 4 at most. 

Brushes from a size 2 down to a size 000

Brushes that are X/0 are very small and as the number X gets bigger the smaller the brush gets. For example a 30/0 is a smaller brush than a 20/0. However, once you get to a size 0 the sizes then continue in sequential order as would be expected (0,1,2,3,etc.) getting larger the higher the number is. 

This not only can be confusing but it makes it hard to recommend brushes in specific sizes. Like I said previously, the only brush that is “right” is the one that works for you. So play around with sizes as well as shapes and when comparing brands, in person, take a look at how the length and width of the bristles compared to one another. After a while you will get a general sense of what makes something a 0 for example. 

“How does all this affect my working time?”

The widest part of the bristles is called the belly. Essentially, the larger the belly, or bigger the size, the more paint the brush will hold. It is important to know when you need a bigger brush. Larger brushes are good when you are doing large areas. The brush holds more paint so you need to go to your palette less. 

These are both size 0 paint brushes from two different manufacturers. You can tell the slight differences in the handle length, bristle length, and belly sizes.

This can be a confusing topic, I know it is for me. However, I’m hoping I’ve shed some light on how shapes and sizes affect your painting. 

Next up: when and when not to wreck your brushes.

Happy painting, 

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