Jackson’s Synthetic Brushes are made by some of the world’s leading brushmakers and chosen by our in house team of experienced painters. The range includes brushes to use with oil, acrylic and watercolour: from mottlers and watercolour brushes to synthetic mops and fine-detail brushes. All these synthetic brushes must perform in different ways depending on the needs of each medium. In this post, I take a closer look at the different characteristics of the brush fibres and how they complement a range of painting approaches.
Our synthetic brushes are all made using one type of fibre that is treated or manipulated differently. Each type of treatment results in different surface textures. The different surface textures are referred to as Shiny, Dull, and Full-Dull. They are also treated with a special process that frees the micro-synthetic fibres of any static electricity, which makes brush fibres stick together. This enables the hairs to smoothly and precisely react to any kind of stroke, whether delicate or rough.
The synthetic fibre used is made of the compound PBT (polybutylene terephthalate). PBT is common in everyday products – it can be found in anything from swimwear and toothbrushes to false eyelashes and the keycaps of computer keyboards. It is particularly useful as a synthetic hair replacement because it is strong, has excellent stain resistance and good machining characteristics. This allows the fibres to be easily manipulated and helps in the treatment process.
Brush Fibre Treatments:
Shiny – The smoothest and slickest fibre surface used in our brushes.
Dull – A mid-way point between Shiny and Full-Dull. More micro-craters and therefore a greater surface area than Shiny fibres, but smoother than Full-Dull.
Full-Dull – Covered in tiny micro-craters, brushes with Full-Dull fibres have a greater holding capacity than the others because of their increased surface area.
U-Shaped Fibres – As the name suggests, U-Shaped fibres are shaped to hold more paint all the way from the root to the tip.
Crimped Fibres – Crimped fibres have a wave in the filament which causes them to flare out more at the tips, giving the feeling of a more densely filled brush. Some fibres may have a more significant wave than others, depending on how the brush is designed to perform.
The surface of these fibres is the smoothest we offer. They are smoother than Dull and considerably smoother then Full-Dull. The smoothness of these fibres reduces the surface area of the fibre, which means the hairs are super glossy. This helps achieve smooth and fresh brush marks.
Jackson’s Shinku Brushes are made up solely of the Shiny fibre type. Shinku is the only Jackson’s brush range which has non-mixed fibres – all other ranges of synthetic brushes are made up of a combination of different fibre types. As a result of using these fibres, the Shinku range has good spring with a lot of snap. They are softer than hog and the very glossy fibre means the brushes glide through the paint, giving your work a very smooth and clean look. They are particularly good for blending and glazing with oil paints.
Jackson’s Akoya, Procryl and Onyx are all examples of mixed fibre brushes, Each one uses a blend of Shiny fibres with either Dull or Full-Dull fibres which helps to replicate the natural variation of real hair.
Dull brush fibres offer a midway point between Shiny and Full-Dull. Jackson’s Procryl Brushes use a combination of Dull and Shiny fibres which results in a natural and moderately springing feeling. They are nicely absorbent, while the softness of the hairs makes this a great choice for soft blending. It is very responsive and capable of blending to a very high standard, as well as producing fluid washes. The combination means brush strokes feel soft but firm – the edge holds its tight shape while loaded with paint, producing a clean, chiselled edge where necessary.
What also makes the Procryl unique is that it is the only range to use a mix of Crimped Fibres. The crimped fibres have a wave in the filament which causes them to flare out more at the bristle tips, giving the feeling of a more densely filled brush. This is important for certain applications and enhances the softness while removing some of the ‘slickness’ felt in the Shinku range. Procryl Brushes are designed for professional oil and acrylic painters because of this versatility.
Dull Fibres are also used in our Icon Quill and Raven Brushes alongside Full-Dull fibres. This pairing helps to increase the surface area of the fibres and results in greater colour holding than the Shinku, for example. Retaining the use of Dull Fibres mean these brushes still retain a good amount of springiness. As you would expect from these types of brushes, the mixture results in excellent take-up and release of water. They hold a lot of water and paint which enables watercolourists to produce colourful washes and long, flowing strokes.
Our Akoya, Icon, Raven and Onyx all have Full-Dull fibres, in combination with other fibres. There are a number of challenges when trying to replicate the benefits produced by natural hair brushes. An artist is looking for various facets in a brush, some of the most important of which is the paint/water holding and release. For example, Kolinsky is the only natural hair that manages to do all this well due to the unique structure of the hair. It has very fine cuticles along the follicle which controls the pick-up and release of paint. Full-Dull fibres aim to replicate this scaled texture, as the below image shows. The surface is covered in micro-craters which each hold a great deal more paint than the smooth, unvaried surface of the Shiny fibres.
Our Akoya and Onyx brushes both combine this micro-cratered surface with Shiny fibres, helping to create brushes with excellent spring and also world-class colour holding and releasing abilities.
The Akoya is developed as a ‘vegan hog’ and delivers on stiffness and spring. Unlike watercolour brushes such as a sable, which has soft hair as its main component, hog brushes have bristles which allow artists to paint with oil colours which are much thicker. Our synthetic alternative keeps its shape very well and stands up to tough applications of paint. Because of the combination of fibres and its resilience, the Akoya is useful for thick, impasto techniques in oil or acrylic.
The Onyx combines these unique characteristics but with one key difference – the range uses a mix of U-Shaped Fibres. As the image below shows, the U-Shaped fibre goes from the root to the tip and holds paint in that part. This gives the Onyx range an added dimension which enhances its colour holding and releasing abilities. The result of combining these fibres is a stiff-haired brush which has a great spring, holds its shape incredibly well and has excellent colour holding capacity. This makes it well suited to both fluid and heavy-body paints, enabling continuous lines to go even further without compromising on strength and spring.
Whatever medium you’re working in, it is worth taking the time to consider what brush and fibre are best for your style. Some will enable you to work with thicker or more vigorous brushstrokes, whereas others are better suited for soft blending or broad colour washes in watercolour. Through our range we have sought to cover all bases, meaning artists can work with brushes that best suit their own working methods.
You can browse our range of brushes, including those mentioned in this article, by clicking here.