Tools of the Trade: Test Driving LetterArt's Flats

Studio Sign Co.'s Nick Lee tries out LetterArt's flat brushes: a sable blend and a synthetic.

The ferrule and hairs of six flat sign painting brushes.
The FKML Series Flat Ferruled Lettering Brush from LetterArt.

Last year, LetterArt added some flats to their existing brush range. BLAG invited Nick Lee at Studio Sign Co. to give them a test drive and share his verdict.

Test Driving LetterArt's Flats

By Nick Lee

I recently tried out a couple of brushes from LetterArt, both with flat ferrules that I refer to as 'flats' or 'truck brushes'. They are the FKML Series Flat Ferruled Lettering Brush, which is a long haired Kolinsky sable blend with fine ox and synthetic hairs, and the FSSL Series Flat Ferruled Lettering Brush, which is made with synthetic sable.

The FKML and the FSSL are similar in shape, size, feel, and overall construction. The difference lies in the hairs used, with the FKML being a natural and synthetic mix, and the FSSL being fully synthetic. The natural hairs are more costly, and therefore the FKML has a higher price tag than the FSSL, especially at the larger sizes.

The Line Pull

So how do they compare in actual use and performance? I chose the 1/2 in (1.3 cm) flat in both the FKML and FSSL to go head-to-head in pulling a long line. After washing and drying the brand new brushes to remove the gum arabic, I poured some oil-based enamel paint into a paper cup and thinned it to the proper consistency. I palleted the brushes on some old magazine pages to work the paint into the brushes, and to get acquainted with them.

Both of the flats had a nice feel when palleting, and both had a fair amount of snap to them. Then I loaded the brushes up with paint and went to pull a long line on a piece of MDO signboard that had been coated out with bulletin enamel.

The FKML (natural/synthetic blend) held a lot of paint and easily pulled 3–4 ft (1–1.3 m) lines before needing to be reloaded. The FSSL (synthetic) seemed to hold a lot of paint as well, but only pulled a line of about 2 ft (70 cm) before starting to streak and show dry brush marks.

Lettering Time

Next I tested the flats on some 8 in (20 cm) tall block lettering. Both brushes were easy to pallet to a nice chiselled tip and gave a good clean start. They also had a good amount of spring, and were able to lift off the substrate with a clean finishing stroke.

The glossy black handles are comfortable to hold, and thick enough to rotate easily between your fingers. The nickel-plated ferrules grip the hairs tightly, and I had no issues with loose hairs coming out of the ferrule. The flat ferrules on the 1/2 in (1.3 cm) brushes allow them to be worked sideways to a small sharp tip for getting into tight corners, or it can be pressed straight down to spread out into a chunky 1 in (2.5 cm) wide stroke.

Final Verdict

Considering that both of these brushes can pull a 2 ft (70 cm) long stroke, I didn't notice a difference in how much paint they held when painting the 8 in (20 cm) tall letters.

Letters painted with the flats from LetterArt: N with the FKML natural/synthetic blend, S with the FSSL synthetic sable.

For painting long lines or big letters, where you need to pull longer strokes, the FKML (natural/synthetic mix) would be the brush to use as it holds more paint. But both of these flats are good for painting larger letters, and will help get the job done much faster than a small lettering brush.

Both brushes are available in six sizes from 1/4 in (0.6 cm) to 1 in (2.5 cm). The FKML natural/synthetic blend brushes are priced from $14.95 to $104.95, with 10% off when buying the full set of all six sizes. The FSSL synthetic sable brushes are priced from $11.27 to $29.95, again with a discount when buying the full set. (All prices correct at the time of publication.)

Written by Nick Lee, Studio Sign Co. / @studiosignco