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Difference between Synthetic and Natural Fibers

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  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Somewhere near Chicago
Difference between Synthetic and Natural Fibers
Posted by Teenage Modeler on Saturday, October 2, 2021 5:51 PM

This is just a lingering question. What is the difference between synthetic and natural brush fibers? Do they have their strengths and weaknesses? Like for example, why would one use a synthetic brush over a natural brush? Why would one use a natural brush over a synthetic brush?

No signature needed, just my head!



  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Saturday, October 2, 2021 10:22 PM

Short answer is that natural bristles tend to be finer and more resilient for applying finishes...but require more careful handling and maintenance. Synthetic fibers tend to be less flexible to at least some degree, but are tougher and less 'fiddly' to clean and maintain.

Synthetic brushes are especially recommended for acrylic type paints. Natural fibers can actually separate components of such paints at a microscopic level, leading to greater likelihood of visible brush-strokes and general 'stickiness' in use.

Natural fibers lend themselves particularly well to oil-based paints...since in their 'original' state, oils of various sorts are actually part of their make-up. Natural bristles are also the preferred type for lacquers. On the whole they will give smoother finishes for those types of paints.

Good brushes of either type will obviously cost more...more important, probably, for natural bristles, where cheap ones will shed hairs at the most inconvenient times. Cheap synthetic brushes won't usually shed individual fibers...instead the whole brush part will often weaken from repeated solvent contact, and separate from the handle.

But there's a place for cheapo brushes as well. For dry-brushing, for instance...which I mainly do with enamels...I like cheap, fairly stiff-bristled synthetic brushes, because they stand up well to the sort of abrasive technique required. They can actually be 'squashed' into different useful shapes, which would simply wreck natural bristle brushes. (It's pretty hard on synthetic ones as well...but being cheap, they're easier to replace periodically.)



George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
  • Member since
    January 2021
  • From: Somewhere near Chicago
Posted by Teenage Modeler on Sunday, October 3, 2021 7:29 AM

Thanks for the info!

No signature needed, just my head!



  • Member since
    June 2021
Posted by rocketman2000 on Sunday, October 3, 2021 9:07 AM

The problem with synthetic fibers is that they are not all the same material.  Some of them dissolve in lacquer thinner, while natural fibers can be used with almost any solvent.  Only advantage to synthetic fibers in my mind is that they tend to be cheaper.


Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    November 2018
Posted by oldermodelguy on Sunday, October 3, 2021 11:36 AM

I  tend to use white and golden Taklon these days. The white is softer but not always the preferred choice, thus I have both. Taklon can be used for solvent or waterborne /acrylic paints. I have a detail set in white Taklon and a mix of brushes in the golden to inclue a few very short bristled detail brushes that work for stipling wash materials..

I have a couple of hair brushes as well but rarely use them.


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