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How to Correctly Use a Paint Brush

Updated on February 17, 2013

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The Correct Way to Hold a Paintbrush

There are a number of different ways to hold a paint brush, but the “correct way, is the way which is most comfortable to you. Holding the brush in different ways will inevitably produce different effects. This obviously varies between people. However, as a general rule, the closer you hold the brush to the ferrule, the bit closest to the bristles, the more control you will have over the brush and the more detail you can put into the work. If you move your hand further down the brush, toward the end, you will have less control and produce more fluid, loose marks.

The pencil grip

Most people instinctively hold a paint brush in the same way as one would hold a pencil. While holding the brush in this way feels like you have more control over what the brush is doing, holding it like this all the time may not be appropriate for all of the art that you make.

Some artists only hold the brush in this way when they are putting in fine details at the end of a painting. A mahl stick can be used to keep your hand from touching the canvas and messing up your neat paint work. How tightly you grip the brush handle can also have an effect on the results achieved.

The tighter you hold the brush and the closer your hand is to the bristles, the tighter and more stiff the result. By holding the brush a bit more gently, while still holding it in the pencil grip, you can still produce detailed results, but they will appear more fluid and free.

If you move your hand a little further away from the bristles, loosen your grip a little and point the tip of the brush directly at the canvas, you can create a more marks with a more sketchy, painterly appearance.

The Bat grip

Rest assured, bat grip is NOT a technical term! Imagine you are picking up a baseball bat and wrap your hand around the brush, in the middle to the end of the handle, with your thumb at the top and your fingers wrapped around and under the handle.

It may feel strange when you do this for the first time, but this way of holding the brush can actually loosen up your style and inject energy into your work. It allows you to use your whole arm and shoulder to paint, rather than just your wrist.

Notice how the marks change and become more loose when you move your hand further down the brush toward the end. The further your fingers are from the bristles of the brush, the lighter and more free the strokes become.

Conclusion

At art school, you may be told to hold your brush this way or that way. The truth is that everyone is different. The best way to learn how to hold a paint brush “correctly,” is simply to try holding it in different ways and see which ways create the marks which are most pleasing to you. Restricting yourself to holding the brush in one way or another can only serve to limit your style and the kind of marks that you end up producing. Practice holding the brush in different ways and note the effects you get with each different type of grip. With practice, you will instinctively know what brush grip produces the effect you want in a painting. No thinking required.

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