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How are paintbrushes made?

Individual red sable hairs are gathered, arranged, and shaped with a starch and water solution. The bundle is wrapped in metal and attached to a paint-dipped wooden handle before it’s crimped into place. This is how paintbrushes are made by hand, a fascinating how-it’s-made Art Insider video.

brush hairs
gathered brush hairs

Sable hair paintbrushes like the one shown in the video are often made from tail hair of the male Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica), called a kolinsky or kolonok. The hairs are harvested in Siberia and the Far East, either from trapping or as a byproduct of farming. There is a small mammal called a sable, a species of marten, but it’s reportedly not harvested for the brushes that use its name.

Cruelty-free synthetic brushes, made from nylon or polyester, are more affordable, and according to Blick, “advancements in synthetic paintbrush technology have resulted in many synthetic oil paint brushes, watercolor brushes, acrylic brushes, and synthetic bristle brushes that perform as well or better than their natural counterparts.”

Watch these related videos on TKSST:
• Painting dragons with a single twisting brush stroke
• Watercolor, gouache, acrylics, a paint comparison
• Round hand & single stroke lettering demos by Glen Weisgerber

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