Review – The Fine Touch 3-Brush Set (1-,2-, and 3-inch Flat)

I’m not a painter, or at least, not very often. Painting is expensive, time consuming, and space requiring. But nowadays there are budget products that are easing the “pain” a little bit. Bopping in to your local superstore and buying a set of brushes with a canvas or two for less than $20 is incredible. And “The Fine Touch” is one of the more visible brands (in my area at least) selling inexpensive painting supplies, like a set of three 1-inch increment synthetic brushes. Do they really work though?

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Despite the common wisdom for years being that natural hair brushes are superior to synthetic nylon ones, they have made some improvement in quality over that time. I don’t know if the best synthetic brushes are better than the best natural ones, nor would I claim that these are better than any other brush, but I personally prefer the little extra “bounce” the nylon provides, and they’ve worked quite well for me over several painting projects.

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The basic structure is the same as virtually all paint brushes: a wooden handle with information printed on it (varnished in this case) shaped like a paddle with a ferrule on one end that holds in a set of bristles. Conveniently, these also have a hanging hole at the end for easy storage. Everything about them is cheap; the wood is lighter than the bristles, with brush strokes in its finish and burs on the drill holes; the ferrules are a flimsily metal (which will likely rust) that has either cracked or slightly splintered each handle in the fastening process, and the bristles have a bad habit of falling out during the first few uses.

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So obviously they aren’t “forever” brushes, but for what they are (cheap superstore brushes) they are entirely adequate to paint with. If you only have a couple projects, just want to get some paint down, or feel the need to ease into things you might not know you want to do “forever”, then they will work just fine for that. You won’t become a master using these, and you might get frustrated with the bristles in your paintings, but they work, and for just getting started, that’s enough.

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Review – Daler Rowney 11×14″ Canvas Panels

Painting is fun, but stretching one’s own canvas can be difficult without experience, and even pre-stretched canvases can take up more space than wanted if one is simply practicing. Or, maybe you’re using mixed media or just drawing, and a stretched canvas isn’t right for you. Canvas panels are a good, sturdy alternative in these cases, and I’ll be taking a look at some fairly inexpensive ones by Daler Rowney.

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There are three canvases in the package. All are functionally identical. They’re 11×14” almost on the nose, and very sturdy, both in binding and in strength. The have a bit of flex, and have a slight bend if left unattended, but would be very hard to snap or fold. They’re essentially primed and can be painted on directly, but one might want to go ahead and prime them beforehand. The cotton canvas is acid-free to prevent decay, and the grain is not large enough to be intrusive. Paint, pencil, glue, etc. all stick well without any major problems. I’ve had one painting not like to dry on the stuff, but since all of my others have, I’d be willing to say the problem was with the old paint I was using.

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In short, the panels are quite good and inexpensive. They won’t replace a full canvas, but they won’t hinder the painter (artist). The slight warp they have is an easily corrected downside, and the only major one I can see.

Review – Master’s Touch Palette Knife

I’ve been painting recently, and have a new appreciation for palette knives (foolishly I never used them before), both for controlling paint on a palette, and for painting. Unfortunately I’ve found no real resource that says if there are consistent sizes and shapes for palette knives, and I don’t believe there really is. So instead of this being a review of a specific size or shape of knife, this will be a general look at the quality of the Master’s Touch brand of inexpensive and easily accessible palette knives.

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The particular knife style here is slightly unconventional, and appears in the least amount of photos I see online, though it is the shape used by Bob Ross, so it’s got that going for it. The handle is a light, okay finished wood with a lanyard hole and the Master’s Touch logo imprinted on it. It’s sturdy enough and it works. Following that is what appears to be a “brass” “section” ring that is dented and losing its finish. It holds the blade in place, fairly sturdily, but also not centered. The blade is stainless steel, quite flexible and tapers down to a very usable edge. It is finished well enough, and doesn’t get thin enough to cut easily, but I suppose if one really tried they could make it dangerous. In some places the brushed finish isn’t nearly as well done, but these places don’t really matter in the scheme of things.

Overall it’s a nice introductory tool. It obviously has some quality control issues, but they aren’t major and don’t prevent the tool from functioning or make it dangerous. It’s inexpensive, and I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t sure if they really want to paint and are just trying to get into it, upgrading in the future is always possible and still isn’t a lot of money. And even if one doesn’t this tool will likely be able to last a painting lifetime.

Review – Masterpiece Odorless Paint Thinner

When looking for something as simple as paint thinner (mineral spirits), it can be tempting to go for the cheapest option in a given item’s range. And for odorless mineral spirits at my local store, Masterpiece was the cheapest brand there. Should I have gone with the more expensive option? Let’s see.

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The container is fairly standard for a quart size bottle. The front label doesn’t have much art but gives enough information, and the back label gives enough “if you destroy property or yourself with this it isn’t our fault” warnings that you get the point. I’m not here to give safety advice but it should be said this stuff is very flammable and could do damage to you if used in a non-ventilated area.

There is a handle on the container for east carry that works fine. The only problem I have with it is the seal and handle conspire to make pouring difficult. It tends to “glug” which is something I’d be wary of.

The thinner itself works very well. When used on colored pencils (a trick I just found out about recently), it dissolves the wax and allows for easy blending. When used with paint, it does indeed thin oil-based paint quickly and is good for cleaning brushes and facilitating mixing. In regards to it being odorless it is, basically, though you will be able to tell if you’re in a room with an open container of the stuff, which is good to prevent too much inhalation.

Overall, it works, and I don’t regret going with the least-expensive option. I like it, and it’s far superior to turpentine (which is the stuff of the devil). It might not be the purest form of mineral spirits, and some are likely better. But for a beginner it certainly is effective at what it is advertised to do.

Review – Uni Paint Pen

So you want to paint, but you’re better at drawing. Or you want to mark on some surface unsuitable for Sharpie or other permanent markers. Well, the Uni Paint PX-21 by Sanford may be for you.

This pen is oil-based and needs to be shaken up like a spray can before use. It has a “fine” point, which means a medium or even broad point if you compare it to anything that is a not a paint pen. The line it writes is solid and about as thick as a large Crayola marker. This particular version is the black version which is especially solid, though it is fairly shiny, somewhere between a Sharpie and a matte black spray in terms of marking on plastic. It does mark on literally anything, though some shiner plastics and polished metals have it wear off easily.

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The body of the pen is metal and feels solid in the hand. A shiny label has all the necessary information printed on it, including warnings and such. This label makes the pen slightly slippery in the hand so tight gripping is necessary.

The cap matches the color of the paint. It has ridges that are sharp and cut into the skin. It also fits very snugly onto the end, meaning it is quite difficult to remove, which is both a hindrance and a benefit.

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Also be warned that since it is an oil-based pen it stinks mightily and will give you a headache after a few minutes of constant exposure. The label even tells you to put the cap on immediately after use, though this is most likely also to not let the paint dry out.

Overall this is a great little painting device. It is especially handy for touchups on plastic and metal painting. Or, if you’re like my relatives and have a shop were regular markers and price tags have a hard time sticking to the stock. It’s not really a home item, or one that will be useful to canvas painters, but it certainly will have its place with sculptors and model builders.

Review – Imagine Plus 110-pound Card Stock

By: Austin Smith

After paper the new thing that one would most likely move on to is card stock, in this case Imagine Plus 110-pound 8.5″x11″ card stock. This stuff is a little more “advanced” and one could actually create “finished” projects on it. “Finished” being a subjective term.

110-pound card stock is obviously much thicker and heavier then paper. It takes pencil and ink well; heavy inking and even light painting also work well. The stock does buckle under water quite easily, though, so over-inking and water-based paints aren’t recommended. And painting on anything lighter than Water-color type paper could lead to buckling.

The stock itself is smooth, with enough friction to not go sliding around. Pencil is taken and erased well. Ink is quickly absorbed. The grain is noticeable at times but rarely affects the work that is on it. Heavy ink shows through, but the likelihood of someone seeing the back is negligible.

The size of the paper being 8.5″x11″ makes it a rarely seen art surface. The size, like that of copy paper, is simply unconventional. It is a good material for people just “graduating” into “finished” artwork.

While the stock is nice and useful, most will quickly pass it up for superior art surfaces.