How is a brush made?

More than 30 people are involved in the making of a brush which requires on average three weeks preparation before the brush can be used. Its tuft is never cut, but made entirely by hand.
Extra-fine or fine bristles are conical and have a unique "flag": they are essential for all soft painting techniques. Hog's bristles are straight or "curved" and have multiple flags: they are the perfect brushes for Oils. Synthetic fibres, whether straight (like Kaerell) or curved
(like Sépia), are suitable for Acrylics.
Watch the video "The birth of a Raphaël brush"
What is the function of a brush?
A brush is an applicator tool used for transferring matter (colour, material, ink, etc.) onto the support, with a touch adapted to the force of the brush stroke...
A brush has 5 main functions:

  • Sweeping strokes.
  • Mixing.
  • Absorption.,
  • Retention or reserve.
  • Colour distribution.

The brush is an extension of the hand, between the creative mind and the support, which vibrates with each impulse like the string of an instrument.

  • Brush hair shape memory: by its responsiveness, its structure, handle length... .
  • The strength of the impulse soft, or... aggressive.
  • The nature of the support: flat or vertical, rigid or springy... .

What is a brush composed of?

A brush comprises :

  • A tuft of hairs/bristles : extra-fine (sable, squirrel) or fine hairs (polecat, mongoose, pony, goat), hog bristles and synthetic fibres (Kaërell, Sépia).
  • A ferrule : metal part that joins the tuft to the handle.
  • A handle or "Shaft" : for holding the brush.

What are the different types of fibres (or hairs)?

There are three categories of fibres, which differ in shape, diameter and flag (finest extremity of a hair as opposed to the root):

  • Hairs : hydrophilic and lipophilic. Conical and single flag. They also have a "belly": it begins at the centre of the hair length and then becomes gradually tighter. For fine and soft techniques. There are two categories of hair: Extra-Fine (red sable - Kolinsky or Visel -, Squirrel - Blue, Kazan or Golden -) and Fine (imitation sable, ox hair, polecat, pony, goat, etc.).
  • Hog bristles : hydrophilic and lipophilic. Straight or "curved", with multiple flags. For non-aggressive paste techniques (oil, gouache). There are three types of hog bristles: Semi-White, Fine-White, Extra Fine-White.
  • Synthetic fibres : hydrophobic. Up to 7 diameters are used. For 'aggressive' paints, such as acrylic. They can be straight or "curved".

How does a brush work?

A brush reacts differently according to its characteristics:

  • Elasticity, responsiveness, springiness… : these depend on the nature of the fibre and its "end" - apparent fibre length- and on the width/thickness: the shorter the fibre on/or thicker, the better the shape retention. The longer the fibre, the more supple the brush.
  • Capillarity : colour absorption capacity: the more slender the hair is, the more the brush's belly is accentuated, the better is its capillary retension and the more regular is the colour distribution: natural hairs have scales that guarantee this function, vital for liquid or semi-paste techniques. Synthetic colours let the colour slide off.
  • Retention or reserve : owing to properties inherent to each fibre, or by their length: outliners, letter brushes.

How do I choose a brush?

Each brush shape and size produces different touches and special effects. The choice is determined according to:

  • Technique of expression :"Soft", dilutable: Watercolour, Inks, Silk paints, Gouache, Pastels, on "soft" supports, or in Pastes: Oil, Acrylics... .
  • Colour : reversible, irreversible, slow or quick drying, aqueous or solvent-based …aggressive or diluted.
  • Support : soft or rough, smooth or abrasive, supple or rigid…paper, canvas, wood, porcelaine... prepared, primed or coated… absorbent, porous or non-absorbent... .
  • Style : impressionist, pointillist, realist... .
  • Size : miniature or giant, block or sheet... .
  • Paint application : impasto, washes, glazing, details, backgrounds, retouches... . A guide can be found in the catalogue to help you select a brush suitable to your needs.

What is a "Squirrel"?

This is the finest brush hair available. There are several types of hair under this generic term, all taken from squirrel's tails, of different colours, names
and qualities depending on the species of squirrel and the more or less cold environment in which it lives: Kazan (brown), Saccamina (or blue), Canadian
(or golden) and Grey are the most well-known.

These brushes have an exceptional quality of colour absorption, which gives them the longest lines on the paper, without having to recharge the brush with paint off the palette. The perfect complement to sable hair brushes, the Squirrel hair brush has a softer touch and is best used when it is well dipped in the paint and then gently wrung out on the side of the palette.

What is a "Kolinsky"? pA "Kolinsky" is a small rodent that originates from the Kola peninsula in North Siberia.

Its hair, whose price per ounce can exceed that of gold, has such exceptional qualities that it has no substitute. Its microscopically fine, natural "flag",
coupled with an extremely supple and lively structure, grant it the largely sought high precision for lines and response on the support. These same qualities associated with the curved shape of each hair attribute the brush high capillarity and equal colour distribution.

Raphaël is the only manufacturer in the world that offers a large choice of watercolour paintbrushes in red Kolinsky sable.

Which brush hair tuft is for which use?

Each tuft shape corresponds to a different use.

  • Square (squared-off brush), short flat (flat brush with width equal to length) and long flat (brush length twice as long as width): for backgrounds and details.
  • Worn rounded (which avoids "rounding") and round : for shaping, details, outlining. Pointed round : for retouching, finishing touches and details.
  • Pointed tip for colouring : high reserve, this brush is widely used for watercolours.
  • Sponge tipped : specific usage, graphic art.
  • Fan : long or short handle, for shading, blurring and glazing.

How do you clean these brushes?

Cleaning your brushes is essential to ensure their good condition and to prolong their working life. The cleaning method depends on the paint used and the nature of the hair and fibre. Here are a few useful pieces of advice:

  • Watercolour and gouache : Simply use tap water to clean watercolour brushes, in fine Kolinsky sable or Blue Squirrel hair.
  • Oil : Solvents, such as turpentine or white-spirit, are required for removing oil colours from bristle brushes or fine hairs such as Kevrin.
  • Acrylic : As acrylic colours cannot be removed after drying, it is important to be vigilant and clean synthetic fibre brushes, Kaerell or Sépia, immediately after each painting session.