Monday, 14 November 2016

5 mistakes you're making when painting comma strokes and how to fix them

When we meet our customers at shows or at our Ambassador courses, they will often say that they love to complete our dotty designs made popular by our Starter kits and Dotty collection but that they just can't get the hang of comma strokes.  For many, it seems like a huge leap of faith to suddenly swap your dotting tool for a paintbrush and it can be easy to become disheartened with your progress if we don't get it right first time.  Sound familiar? 

The thing is, not everyone will experience these 5 issues, some may only be missing one of them but each factor can make the difference between a wonky comma stroke and the brush stroke you've always dreamed about painting.  The great news is that each one of them is a minor thing and we see them time and time again but we also see that with awareness, practice and perseverance, these issues can be overcome and anyone can create the perfect comma stroke.  

So, what are you doing that is throwing your brushstrokes off track? 

When we are painting, it is easy to become so focused on the act of painting that we don't consider the fact that we might be doing something differently to what we have seen others do.  The next time you sit to paint a design from one of our Series 1 add on kits, we would like you to become aware of these issues and, if you see that these are something you do, work on improving them.  

1. Thinking too much

Well of course we need to concentrate, we are learning a new skill! Right? To a point.... Yes, we need to think about how we are sitting, where our paintbrush is pointing but once we have mastered those, we should let the brush do the work rather than our minds.  So often we become so hung up on creating the perfect curve, the neatest point, that we try to control the direction our brush is going and flick the bristles or pull the brush away too quickly from our paper.  

We will let you into a little secret here..... if you position your brush on the paper correctly and move your brush slowly, you will find you get a much smoother stroke.  It does not matter if each practice stroke is not perfect, what matters is that you sit back, relax and enjoy the process.  The funny thing is that once your paintbrush knows you're more relaxed it will work with you instead of fighting against you! 

2. Loading your brush with too much or too little paint.  

When you load your brush with too much paint, you will find that as you paint your comma stroke, the comma will not be flat but will have two ridges of paint on each edge of the stroke.  If you do not load your brush with enough paint, no matter how you move your brush to create the point, your brushstroke will fade away and disappear before you can finish it.  

To see how to load the correct amount of paint onto your brush, take a look at this video (you will have a similar demonstration on your DVD included with the add on kit you've bought). 

3. Holding your brush too flat. 

When we are striving for the perfect brushstroke, we want to get it right and it's easy to think that if we hold our brush flat meaning the handle is close to our practice paper, then it will help us to control the brush more when in fact it often makes it harder to use. 

To overcome this, you need to forget about the brushstrokes and the outcome and perfect the way you hold the brush. To help you paint the best comma stroke, sit upright and hold your brush in the hand you feel most comfortable using (Right handed people are no more successful at Folk Art painting than left handed people, everyone is on an equal footing when they first begin painting).  Without using any paint to begin with, simply place your brush on the paper and point the top of the handle towards your shoulder.  For example, if you are left handed, the handle should point slightly towards your left shoulder.  This means that your brush should be almost upright rather than pointing to a wall.  If you are right handed, your paintbrush should be pointing up and tilted towards your right shoulder.    

4. Holding your brush too high up. 

For many of us, when we have painted in the past, as a child or later on, no one has shown us how to hold a brush as there isn't necessarily a correct way to do so.  If you find that your brushstrokes are not coming out the way you would like them to, check where you are holding it.  If you grip your brush higher up on the wooden area, you are not alone and you need to reposition your grip now.  

To correct this mistake, you need to think of your brush almost like a pencil.  You should be holding your paintbrush close to the ferrule - the metal area of your brush.  Holding it here still allows you to see your comma strokes as you create them yet it gives you much more control when you are painting.  

5. Not putting enough pressure on your brush.  

It can be so easy to be scared of putting pressure on your brush when creating this lovely brushstroke and many new folkers tend to put just enough pressure on their brush for the bristles to touch the paper.  Doing this has a tendency to create thin, wobbly brushstrokes.  

To help you paint a confident, rounded comma stroke, as you hold your brush pointing towards your shoulder, press your brush towards the paper so that the bristles lay almost flat on the paper (but do not allow the metal ferrule to touch the paper) you will see the bristles spreading out slightly as you do (this helps to create the nice rounded shape at the top of the comma stroke).   Once you have added this pressure, to complete the stroke, slowly drag your brush and lift at the same time.  It is the process of removing this pressure and lifting the bristles away from the paper that helps to create the point at the end. 

It may seem daunting to try to tackle these issues but just as when you learn anything new, it will get easier and with enough practice, it will become automatic.  As you practice, you are teaching your body how to carry out these actions, building muscle memory until eventually, your body and hands will help you create confident brush strokes without you having to consciously think about it.  Whether you have already perfected this skill or have some way to go, the fun is in practicing.   For us, completed projects are wonderful but nothing can beat sitting down and just painting and not worrying about the outcome.  

Happy Folking! 



  1. Great tips, really helpful. Looking forward to another practice and trying to just relax and enjoy it. Suz (Surrey Crafts).

  2. Thank you so much for these tips....I had developed quite a phobia about trying the comma stroke which has limited my painting and these tips have sorted out the worries. I'm even enjoying the practise now!

    1. That's great news Diane! There's nothing worse than fearing making a mistake, keep practicing and create some beautiful things along the way :) xx

  3. Thank you for sharing such informative, useful and helpful knowledge! This gave me some insights to do better. I would really love to see more updates from you.

    Spray Gun

  4. Hi Carol, I am a certified instructor and may I say that is the best explanation of the comma stroke I have heard. It is also the way I explain regarding the position, pressure and pull through to get a good stroke. May I also recommend after loading the brush, to tip just a touch more paint for a beautiful rounded head! Regards, Richard x


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