Introduction to Artists' Hog Brushes - Oil Colour

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An Introduction to Artists' Hog Brushes - The Shapes and Uses

What is a Hog Brush?

These brushes are made with Hog Bristles. They are very different to hair. A hair, like Sable hair, have a single natural point, a belly and are soft. Hog bristles have multiple tips or split ends called flag. The thickness of the hog bristle increases towards the root and makes them stiffer and stronger. Hog bristles!!, yes from Hogs. Hog bristles are also called China Bristles or Chunking Bristles.

Why Hog Bristles?

Oil colours are very thick. Working with thick colour or applying an Impasto then Hog brushes are unrivalled. The stiff nature and the flagged tips of the bristles, provide brushes that wear well and carry considerable quantities of colour. For blending and glazing a softer harir brush is recommended.

Shapes and Uses of Artists Hog Brushes

The shapes and descriptions below are based upon Winsor & Newton's Artists' Hog brushes. The use of the shape will hold true for other brands as well, but there may be some differences.

Short Flat / Bright

These are very popular for controlling and manipulating oil colour which are very thick or of a buttery consistency. Produces a flat mark and are produced with shorter bristle length hence the name Short Flat.

Long Flat

These have a greater amount of spring than the Short Flats. Broad with flattened ferrules and straight edges. Usually their length should be 2.5 times the width. A good Flat brush has the ability to retain its shape under controlled pressure and not splay out at the corners like a broom. These have a greater colour carrying capacity and produce a flat mark.


This is the oldest shape in Oil Colour. Rounds are more suited to oil colour that are more fluid in consistency. Makes a linear mark and small sizes can be used for highlights.


These come in two forms Short Filbert and the Long Filbert. The short filbert allows for a greater control of colour. Also known as oval, due to the sahpe. The filberts make a linear mark with soft edges.


Shaped like a fan. This is a finishing brush. Used for creating stippling and graining effects in landscapes and portraiture. Ideal for delicate blending of colour.

Cleaning the Brush

Do not let oild colour or varnish dry on the brush. Once hardened they require cleaning with a paint remover and this shortens the life of the brush. Clean immediately after use with the appropriate solvent. The brush should be shaken or dried with a cloth. The brush then needs to be washed with warm water and common household soap. All traces of the soap should be washed away. The brush then needs to be shaken and thoroughly dried with a separate cloth.

Some artists carry a large amount of brushes, each for individual or most frequently used colours and separate brushes for varnishes. This does not disrupt the painitng process by trying to clean the brushes in the middle and makes colour matching easier. It makes continuous colour blending quicker.

Also see my related guide on Artists Sable Brushes.
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