Over the break I kept busy with some small figures and Christmas ornaments. All these small projects has helped me to hone in on a painting setup that works. Specifically, I have found a style of brush that seems to be perfect for painting carvings, a brand of paint that works well and a few little helpers.
I have been using all kinds of different brushes over the years, but during a recent trip to my local art center, I picked up a pack of 5 filbert brushes in a variety of sizes that are perfect for the size of most of my work. The filbert shape is very flexible and allows me to get into all kinds of tight corners by using the rounded tip or by tilting the brush on it's side. The set was less than $10. I supplement the filbert brushes with a size 0 detail brush. This is great for eyes and other tiny areas. For the cornea and pupils of tiny eyes, I have taken to using customized toothpicks. I use two sizes, the standard round and the larger model intended for serving appetizers. I use a very sharp exacto knife to trim the tip to a small flat surface and clean up any little dangling fibers. Depending on how much I take off the tip, I can get a variety of sizes. The technique I use is to dab the tip in the paint, getting only a very slight amount of paint on it and then dab the tip on the carving. For eyes, I use a tip smaller than the area I want to coat and dab in a circular pattern to make a small circle. The pupil is usually one small dab. I also use an even smaller tip tip add white highlights. I find this method offers a lot more control than using eve the smallest brush.
For many years, I only painted my carvings with Testors Enamel model paints, but stopped using them when they switched to acrylic. Recently, I started using Folk Art brand, which does the job, but for the way I paint, almost always needs to be thinned to get the right consistency. Then I decided to try Golden brand. It seems more the consistency I like right out of the bottle. While Folk Art is different in thickness from color to color, making it impossible to measure paint by drops, the Golden is the same from bottle to bottle. I can drop out equal size drops which allows for consistent color mixing. I use less paint, too.