Long Flat Brushes - Clean, Geometric and Precise
Long Flat (also known as One Stroke brushes) are a square ended, long bristle brush ideal for precise, geometric marks. The synthetic bristled Taklon varieties are reasonably priced, hold plenty of paint and last for many years.
For me, the contrast between the precision of these brushes and the loose, unpredictable marks made with a half inch bristle brush give a painting interest and excitement.
Long Flat brushes come in a range of sizes starting at ⅛ inch and extending up to around 2 inches. I find the ½ and ¼ inch long flats are my most used sizes then, for very fine detail, the ⅛ inch.
⅛ , ¼, and ½ inch Long flat brushes. There are also shorter bristled square taklon brushes the same width as these, but they don't hold the same amount of paint and are not as good to work with.
Holding the long flat brush almost perpendicular to the paper produces a clean, square beginning and end to the stroke. Laying the brush too far over makes a rounded finish to the stroke
The first stroke here was done with the brush perpendicular to the paper. The second stroke shows the rounded mark made by the heel of the brush if it is used at too steep an angle.
Adjustments in scale can be made using different sized brushes and by changing the stroke direction. These bricks are being painted with a ½ inch one stroke applied in a horizontal direction.
The same ½ inch one stroke brush is used here, but this time a much smaller brick results from a short vertical stroke
For really fine marks the ⅛ inch one stroke can produce almost microscopic textures. Shown here using a vertical stroke making ⅛ inch long bricks
These bricks are a slightly larger scale using the 1/8th inch brush horizontally.
Any of the one stroke brushes can be adjusted by slightly compressing the bristles to make a narrower stroke. This can be very handy when painting windows that vary slightly in size.
This painting shows the contrast between the loose, casual marks made with a ½ inch bristle brush and the precise, geometric marks produced with various long flat brushes. The various geometric shapes were made by adjusting the width of a ½ inch and ¼ inch long flat brush.
The interest in this painting comes from the contrast between the soft organic shapes of the boat hulls, sky and water washes and the precise geometric marks in the cabins and jetty. A ¼ inch long flat brush was squeezed and adjusted to produce the various sized windows, port holes and cabin features.
A ½ inch bristle brush was used here to apply the larger washes. Once the washes had dried the same brush was used for the dark shapes inside the and under the shed and the loose trunks and fronds of the banana palms. A ½ inch long flat brush was used to apply the shadow under the eve, the geometric wall patches, window and, with tinted gouache, highlight details in the banana fronds. The contrast between the loose bristle marks and the formal geometric shapes are what bring the painting to life.
All the larger shapes here ( buildings, boat hulls, sky and water ) were roughed in with a ½ inch bristle brush. The rough shapes were clarified and refined with rigger and ink lines then detail was built up with various long flat brushes. Doors and windows in the boats and buildings were carefully applied with a ½ and a ¼ inch long flat brush. Bricks, fishing paraphernalia and detail along the jetty were painted with a ⅛ inch long flat brush.
It is the apparent square edged precision produced by the long flat brushes that create the impression of architectural accuracy in this painting.
If your style of painting incorporates a lot of cutting in or you are interested in subjects with geometric shapes, pick up a couple of Taklon fibre long flat brushes next time you are in your art supply store - You’ll wonder how you got along without them.
If the Taklon fibres become bent or distorted, carefully hold them in the steam of a boiling kettle for a few seconds. They will quickly return to their original shape. Occasionally washing the brush with mild soap will stop the bristles separating.