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artists' brushes

There is no exact standard for the physical dimensions of artists' brushes, although the designations are standardized. The actual size varies with the type of brush (filbert, round, etc.), the quality, and the manufacturer. The usual designations are:

Inch sizes: 1/8, ¼, 3/8, ½, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8, 1, 1¼, 1½, 2, 2½, 3, 3½, 4 inches.

Metric sizes: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 mm.

Numbered sizes, from smallest to largest: 7/0 (that is, 0000000), 6/0, 5/0, 4/0, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30.

The German numbered sizes tend to resemble the English ones, with the exception of bristle brushes for oils, those German brushes being roughly half the width of an English brush of the same size. 

French sizes are longer from 000 through 1 and tend to be thinner and shorter after 7, so that a French 12 resembles an English 10.

The enormous prices for the larger sizes reflect the fact that, for example, producing a size 12 watercolor round requires hairs from the tails of 50 squirrels.

Quill brushes

A special series of sizes is used for quill brushes. In a quill brush the bristles are inserted into the quill of a feather rather than into a metal ferrule; the resilience of the quill gives the brush a special feel. The sizes of quill brushes are named after the birds that originally (supposedly) provided the feathers. From small to large, the sizes are: lark, crow, small duck, duck, large duck, swan, small goose, goose, large goose, condor.

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