Brushes should be chosen carefully if you want to paint loose. The goal with this lesson is for you to select the right brush for the job. By doing so you will eliminate some of the errors many artists make which is basically adding too many strokes to a painting.

Since I’m using watercolor as my medium for this class I will go over some of the common brushes used with this medium.

Hake brush - this is suited for painting loose because they are designed to put down a large area of paint with one stroke. The downside would be that they don’t hold a lot of pigment and lack ‘snap-back’. 

Mop brush - this is an ideal brush for painting expressively with watercolor for obvious reasons. They hold a lot of pigment and have the ability to cover a lot of surface with one stroke. They come in various sizes and it’s advantageous to have a small, medium and large if you paint on a variety of size papers.

Pointed rounds - a quality watercolor pointed round can hold a decent load but they’re really suited for details and refining shapes. This brush would be used sparingly in middle and late stages of a painting. It’s wise to have a few a medium and large on hand if you paint in a variety of sizes.

Kolinsky pointed round - this brush features very soft bristles which make softer edges compared to the previous pointed round. Great for softening edges and putting down small areas of paint but probably not wise to use until later stages.

Flats/Squares - Smaller flats with short bristles are not conducive for putting down a lot of paint at once. They are great for short choppy strokes and probably best used for details.

Medium flats are similar to smaller but obviously hold more pigment. But the bristles are still rather short so it’s not ideal for painting loosely. Perhaps you could opt for one if you are working on a small scale painting, or add some shorter strokes and details towards the end of a painting.

Larger flats are good for painting loose because it holds a lot of paint. The size of your canvas would determine how much you could use it but for medium and small works it does a good job.

Needle/Liners - These are best used for linear interest, lines, and adding certain details and highlights. Use it sparingly in most cases.

Fan - one of my favorite brushes for loose painting especially with acrylics. Fans hols a lot of pigment and are very versatile. Using a medium and large size fans are great for loose painting.

Tips On Holding The Brush

Be sure you hold your brush according to your desired intent. Back away from the ferrule to make loose strokes. Hold it near the bristles only when you are adding detail(s).


Choosing the right brushes in the beginning will eliminate many issues and you won’t have to spend time making decisions about which brush to choose. Keep the selection minimal! Choose only the right brushes for the desired size canvas. As you scale down you can go smaller. As the canvas size increases you need to go larger.

Larger brushes in general are better suited for painting loose. Smaller brushes typically trick the artist into painting small, detailed strokes even when they don’t want them.

Embracing Imperfection - The Art Of Painting Loose

The Ultimate Guide To Developing The Right Attitude & Techniques For Expressive Painting.

Already enrolled?
Sign in to continue learning.