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Family how-to: make your own paintbrush

Published 17 April 2019

Venture outside to hunt for dry leaves, flowers and twigs so you can construct your own brushes and play with mark-making using natural, foraged materials.

    • Family how-to: make your own tools

      What you need

      • Foraged feathers / sticks / dried grass / seed heads

      • Twigs / sticks / garden cane

      • Tape

      • Ink

      • Plastic tray (re-use a container)

      • Lining paper (can be bought in a big roll for under £3 from DIY shops) / sheets of paper

      • Scissors

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 2

      1. Forage for a brush head

      Go outside into your garden, or nearest park, as a family. Can you find any seed heads, feathers on the ground, or thick grasses?

      Try and think about what mark each one could make if it were used as a paintbrush. When you get home, lay out your foraged finds!

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 12

      2. Choose your brush head

      We’re going to use a feather but you can try anything you like.

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 3

      3. Forage for a handle

      As well as some garden cane or sticks that you can buy, if you look outside you might find a long, straight stick to use as the handle for your paintbrush. Choose one that you can imagine becoming your paintbrush.

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 4

      4. Attach your brush to your handle

      Attach your chosen brush head to the handle (made out of your twig or cane) using your tape.

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 4

      5. Add ink to your brush

      Load some watery paint or some black ink into a tray made from an old food carton. Dip the tip of your paintbrush into your ink.

    • Family how-to: make your own paintbrush 5

      6. Experiment with mark making

      How does the ink move along the page? Is the brush smooth? How much ink can it hold?

      Play around with your brush making short movements and bigger ones.

  • Try some other brush heads

  • Try twisting the brush head.

    Try twisting the brush head.

    You don’t have to add a handle, you can use the stem of the dried flower if that’s easier.

  • Try varying the pressure

    Try varying the pressure

    Press lightly and dab your paintbrush onto the paper and see how different amounts of pressure change the marks you make.

  • What do you notice about the different brushes?

    What do you notice about the different brushes?

    Which foraged paintbrush was your favourite?

  • Show us your paintbrushes! Share a photo or video of your paintbrush or your finished work with @royalacademy on Twitter or @royalacademyarts on Instagram.

    • Engaging families

      Families at the RA

      Whether it’s a free drop-in workshop or one of our fun and engaging Art Detective trails, the RA is brimming with colourful paintings and sculptures that are waiting to be explored. Everyone is welcome at the RA – and kids under 16 go free to all our exhibitions.

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