A Tiny Article on Paint Brush Sizes

As we all know, brushes come in a variety of materials, shapes, and sizes.Most brushes have a handle, a ferrule (the object holding the bristles), andbristles made of synthetic or natural materials.The bristles have a length (measured from the ferrule to the tip) and a width(measured where the bristles exit the ferrule),but what's the brush number?This article describes the brush size numbering system that oftenappears on the handle of paint brushes.

Basically, the numbering system is meant to order the sizes of brushes.The system begins at 0. Larger brushes are signified by increasing wholenumber values. Smaller brushes are signified by increasing the number ofzeros. The smaller sizes are often abbreviated with a slash notationending in "/0" and having a whole number for the number of zeros.Hence, the following two ordered ranges are equivalent:

   ..., 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, ...   ..., 3/0, 2/0, 0, 1, 2, ...

Close up of paint brushes
Winsor & Newton brushes. From left to right: 000, 0, 2, mini 2, mini 0, mini 00.
This photo shows a series of brushes from manufacturer Winsor & Newton(warning, this site requires the Flash 5 plugin).To the left of the U.S. penny are round sizes 000, 0, and 2.To the right is their "round miniature" brush sizes 2, 0, and 00.As you can see, similarly numbered brushes are about the same size atthe ferrule, but even two round shapes can have different bristle sizes.

There is no standard measurement system that the industry must follow.The comparison of round brushes to other shapes,and the introduction of metric and imperial measurementsmakes these numbers inconsistent between manufacturers.One site states that these measurements are roughly 1/32 of aninch, another site states 1/6 of an inch, and another states 1 mm.This table gives a common summary
SizeRound SizeFlat/Other Size
13/64" 2.7mm2/32" 5.3mm
22/32" 3.1mm3/32" 6mm
35/64" 4.2mm4/32" 6.5mm
43/32" 5.5mm5/32" 9.2mm
57/64" 6.3mm11/64" 10.1mm
64/32" 7mm6/32" 11mm

Some better suppliers perform their own brush size measurements.Blick Art Materials has somegreat reading material on brush sizes, shapes, and materials at:

Most miniature painters use a variety of brushes.The size of the brush generally determines how much paint you can loadand carry to your miniature, and how much paint is applied tothe miniature - the width and rate of paint application.For 15 and 28 mm miniatures, the brush sizes 000 through 2 are mostlikely the sizes you will use, with perhaps one or two other sizes forpriming and dry brushing and top coating.Be aware that the brush size notation is arcane and inconsistentfrom manufacturer to manufacturer.

More miniatures-related articles are atDan Becker's Miniatures and Models site.Thanks for stopping by and reading about my miniatures.

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Last modified: Thursday, 09-Jun-2011 12:55:21 MST.