How to Avoid Brush Marks when Painting

Some paint-works look great from afar – fresh paint, strong colors, sharp edges – but as you approach nearer, imperfections in the form of brush marks become obvious. It is a very common problem, and much more obvious on glossy surfaces than on satin or matt ones. This is because brush marks form undulating profiles that reflect light unevenly. If the paint used is glossy, the unevenness is exaggerated. So let’s talk a little about how to avoid brush marks when painting.

Basically, we need to watch 3 aspects of our painting – the brush, the paint, and technique.

The Brush
A bad brush in the hands of a professional and with the best paint will give mediocre results at best. It is always good to pay more for the brush. Not only does it give you a quality finish, but it also saves you time and a lot of frustration. Aside from the problem of brush marks, a low-quality brush tends to open up at its sides, making the painting of clean edges an impossibility. Then there’s the problem of bristles dropping and sticking onto the painting surface.

To avoid brush marks, always choose bristle that is relatively soft. The length of the bristle should preferably be at least 2 inches or longer. Short bristles tend to be harder at the ends and can cause brush marks easily. Now when you’ve turned a window shutter into a beautiful letter holder, use your brush and other painting techniques to make your creation look as genuine as possible. Use the appropriate brush and you’ll see you’ll be rewarded immensely!

The Paint
Choose paints that have a certain amount of “body”. In technical terms, we refer to this as volume solids. All else being equal, paint with higher volume solids tends to self-levels better, resulting in fewer brush marks. Another point to note about the paint is its ability to flow easily. If the “flow” is poor, brush strokes will not be smooth, again resulting in brush marks. This problem can usually be solved by thinning with the recommended thinner. Lastly, find out about the drying time of the paint. Extremely fast drying paint (dries in minutes) does not give us time to smooth out any brush marks. Many nitrocellulose-based paints fall into this category and are poor candidates for brushing on. The alternative is to spray on such paints.

Load the brush with enough paint. As mentioned in the earlier post, dip only 1/3 the length of the brush into the paint and lightly touch the inner side of the paint can to drain off some excess (but not too much). Apply and distribute the paint with horizontal strokes before smoothing it out with light long strokes, lifting off lightly at the end of the stroke. So if you have arranged your flowers for pressing, try as well to make a beautiful painting of your composition.

If all else fails, use a roller!


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