Making Sense of Brush Choices

Featured Above: Large Flow Brush(Combination), Large Orchid Bamboo(Hard), Mountain Horse Medium(Specialty), Fine Soft Medium(Soft)

Three Systems for Organizing/Categorizing Brushes

Hard / Soft / Combination / Speciality:
This system was originally created and promoted by Oriental Art Supply and organizes brushes by the nature of their hairs.

Hard brushes had light brown colored hairs that were on the stiffer side. These brushes came to point easily and were excellent for painting lines and blades. A couple of the most common OAS brushes of this type are: Happy Dot and Orchid Bamboo.

Soft brushes had softer, white hairs and were inexpensive brushes used for painting rounder shapes. These brushes were largely replaced by Combination Brushes. A select few are used nowadays mostly as budget alternatives to combination brushes or for doing shading work for fine line painting. Commonly used soft brushes are Fine Soft Brushes which are used for shading work in Gong-bi or fine line style painting.

Combination Brushes have soft white hairs on the outside and stiffer dark hairs in the middle. These are the preferred brushes for making shape strokes like the ones used for larger flower petals and animal painting. Their unique mix of hairs allow the brush to painter full strokes while at the same time still starting and finishing with a point when so desired. The most commonly used OAS Combination brushes are Flow Brushes.

Finally brushes that don't fit into either of the above category are often called Specialty Brushes. These brushes can be quite varied. Here you will find the Mountain Horse Brushes (which are excellent stiff brushes for lines/blades and for textures like rocks and mountains) to flat brushes like Wash Brushes(which we use for background washes) to BIFF Brushes (which are the OAS "Secret Weapon" for perfect bamboo trunks).

Line, Shape, Textures/Wash:
More recently we've also created an alternative way to categorize brushes by their use. Hard brushes are good for painting lines, so we also call them Line brushes. Combinations brushes are good for painting shapes so we also call them Shape Brushes. Finally many of the brushes that are neither Line or Shape Brushes are used for Textures/Washes so we can think of them as Texture/Wash Brushes.


Featured Above: OAS Flow Brushes(Top Left), Orchid Bamboo Brushes(Top Right), Mountain Horse Brushes(Bottom Left), Fine Soft Brushes(Bottom Right)

How Do You Know If a Brush is a Quality Brush

No Hair Shedding:
One thing that people often complain about with poorer quality brush is hair shedding. It doesn't bother us if a new brush shed a few hairs at the beginning. However, if the brush is constantly losing hairs, something is wrong.

Comes to a Point Easily:
A quality brush of any type should come to a point easily and return to a point easily when loaded with sufficient moisture. Even the stiffer Mountain Horse Brushes when fully loaded with moisture paints excellent bamboo leaves. As Mountain Horse Brushes get drier, you will begin to see the tip split which is intentional for these types of brushes and is why we like to use them for textures. Drier brushes with split tips paint excellent textures like rocks and mountains. However, if you have Hard Brushes or Combination Brushes that, when properly loaded with moisture, have difficulty painting a stroke that begins or finishes in a point, then I would contact the store you purchased it from for assistance.

When damp, the brush hairs should come to a point. (See picture above)
Brush: Double Happiness Small

A good quality brush that is properly taken care can last decades and produce thousands of paintings. Of course, the character of these brushes changes as they age, but they still paint well. Ning Yeh has old Large Flow Brushes from OAS that are over 20 years old. He has reinforced the handles with masking tape but still relies on them to do his masterpieces and has a comfort and a fondness for them as he has produced so many masterpieces with these brushes over the years.

We are very confident in the long term durability of our Core Brushes. Brushes like the Flow Brushes and Happy Dot are exclusive to OAS and are made by a brush maker who we've been working with for over 30 years.

Good Brushes are Better with Good Service

Often times an issue that our customers are having with a brush has nothing to do with the quality of the brush. Of course we stand behind the quality of all of our OAS materials and have a generous return policy if our customers are unsatisfied for any reason.

However, we realize that what the customer and we want the most is for the materials to work for the customer and to be essential tools for them to experience the joy of Chinese Brush Painting and Calligraphy.

This is why we are willing to go the extra mile to answer questions about difficulties that people are having with any of our OAS materials especially our brushes. With the prominence of new tools like smart phones and Zoom, we often are exchanging photos/videos or having live video chats with our customers to help them resolve issues that come up.

Premium Artist Brush Set - $70.00 (reg. $86)

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Victoria Manning

Victoria Manning

in one of the videos Ning added some kind of glue to the water basin… what kind of glue is that and why was it used ?



Thank you as well! The OAS brushes are highly recommended and I love them from my first stroke. I mainly use the Flow Brush. Its tip is so excellent that, with a bit of practice, there is in fact no need for any smaller brush. I do love the happy dot though for dots, and small details. For landscape paintings I prefer the Mountain Horse in combination with the Flow Brush. Wonderful quality! Thanks for all the good you do :)

Nadine J Quan

Nadine J Quan

I just wanted to say thank you again! I have purchased a few brushes from OAS and upon your recommendation, I brought the Orchid Bamboo brush for calligraphy and I love it! I am essentially a beginner but within a few weeks, my strokes have improved so much because using a quality brush vs a junk brush has made such a difference. I love the biff brush, and am looking forward to using the mountain horse brushes that I just ordered. Look forward to future purchases from OAS. Thank you for your quality service and amazing delivery time!

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