Calligraphy Brushes: Types, Selection Rules and Application Advice

Calligraphy is beautiful and ornate handwriting. There can be many tools for such writing, but today we’re going to talk about brushes. Calligraphy is said to have originated in China, that’s why let’s study the peculiarities of Chinese brushes.

Peculiarities of Chinese brushes

Specialists prefer to use a certain brush for every performance technique. According to some sources, there are about 200 different kinds of brushes. For the convenience of users on the handle of the tool with markers write information about the type of characters or stylistic direction for which it is intended, as well as what exactly the brush is made of.

How to choose?

Before choosing a tool, one should know that all Chinese writing brushes should be made of natural fur. The reason for that is the ability of this material to absorb the ink and the ink better and to provide more comfortable gliding on the paper than brushes made of synthetic material. Calligraphy brushes can be used not only for writing but also for some kinds of painting.

There are several classifications of calligraphic brushes. Let’s study them all.

  1. According to their size there are different kinds of brushes: large, very large, medium and small.
  2. According to the length of hair of the working part there are short, medium and long hair. The longer the hair, the more graceful the line can be. However, the more difficult it is to work with such a tool.

There are brushes divided by hardness.

  1. Yankhao are soft brushes. They are usually made of goat hair. Usually they are good and comfortable to use; one’s hand is not strained and does not get tired. Soft fibers absorb more moisture so they give better quality of picture.
  2. Lanhao are the hard brushes. A literal translation of the word means “yellow wolf”, that’s why they are often called “wolf brushes”. In fact, they are made of dog hair. Horse hair, bear, deer and badger fur is considered of higher quality. Such specimens are more expensive. They are designed to draw a fine outline, as well as a clearer pattern of fine details.
  3. Jianhao is a combined version. Such tools can be made of different animal hairs with different degrees of hardness, such as rabbit and dog fur or goat and badger fur. Combination brushes allow creating clear, regular lines and hold the ink well.

For making calligraphy brushes one can use fur of different animals. Here are the most popular varieties.

  1. Goat fur is soft and docile, the brushes are ideal as a first working tool, they have long nap, medium or big size.
  2. Kolonok – harder fur, tools made of it can be any size, suitable for detailed drawing of details, recommended for more experienced specialists.
  3. Hare fur brushes have stiff fur, small hair size and are suitable for writing small size characters. It is a rare and expensive specimen.
  4. Brushes made of chicken or swan down in pure form are extremely rare, and are most often combined with the fur of a column. Rather complicated in their application.
  5. Horsehair is also seldom used for calligraphy, it is usually faked with goat’s fur or other long pile.
  6. The pig bristle is a very tough material, that’s why bristles are split in a special way to make brushes. But it is not so soft that it is very inconvenient to use such instruments for writing.
  7. Vegetable fibers are bamboo, cane or other trees’ fibers that are pre-shredded and give some softness. However, such brushes are not soft. They are used only for writing large characters.

How are they made?

The peculiarity of Chinese brushes is that it is impossible to completely modernize the entire process of their production. Some stages of their production are very specific and cannot be mechanized. For example, the hair part of the tool is made only by hand. Handles of economical models are made of bamboo or other wood. The hair of such brushes is impregnated with a starch solution beforehand, so that it is not damaged during transportation.

Before first use, they should be soaked in water so that the starch is dissolved. For the more expensive versions of Chinese calligraphy brushes, porcelain, animal bones and other valuable materials can be used. Some of the brushes are inlaid with rhinestones and precious stones. Such items are often real works of art, and their value is very high. They are not processed in starch, and they are immediately ready for use. There are entire gift sets on sale, consisting of brushes of different sizes with different handles. Very special chic are the items made of nephrite as this stone is very popular in China.

Some of these brushes can have a water or paint reservoir built in. This is especially good if you want to take it with you on the road. You don’t have to take a bottle with liquid that can be spilled.

Calligraphy Brushes

How to Care?

After each use, the writing tool should be thoroughly washed in warm water to wash away traces of ink or paint. After washing, excess moisture from the hairs should be gently squeezed out with your fingers and leave the brush to dry completely. Writing instruments should be dried in a hanging position, with the hair down. A brush should be hung on a special stand with hooks by the loop – it should be on the right device. If the writing instrument is supposed to be often transported it is recommended to buy a special case to avoid possible damages.

Like a felt-tip pen, a calligraphy brush should have a protective cap. Only while the former has a protective cap to prevent the rod from drying out, in case of a brush it is quite the opposite – until the brush dries out you should not put the cap on it.