How to Use a Hake Brush

Updated March 23, 2017

The hake brush, used by Asian sumi masters for centuries, is a lush, soft brush, made from sheep or goat hair for absorption, with wooden or bamboo handles and metal ferrules. These wide, flat brushes are known for their spring and are ideal for releasing paint gently onto a surface, imparting smooth, rich washes and strokes. Hake brushes are essential tools when working with delicate and absorbent oriental papers. There are several important uses for the hake brush. These economical brushes hold a lot of water and produce a wide variety of background effects, making them a valuable addition to every watercolourist's studio.

Apply the initial coat of water to watercolour paper to prepare for the painting process, using the hake brush. Dip the brush in a container of water and brush horizontally across the paper, starting at the top of the watercolour page moving progressively to the bottom, overlapping strokes. Load the brush with water again and repeat the process using vertical strokes.

Dip the hake brush in watercolour paint mixed with plain water. Lay the colour on damp watercolour paper, creating big, loose washes, working relatively fast and using economical strokes. This is a good technique for imparting a more impressionistic style to the work.

Moisten the tip of the hake brush with watercolour paint. Use the paint-covered tip to lay in representations of trees, bushes and other landscape details on wet or dry watercolour paper. Turn and angle the brush as you touch it to the paper, imparting different shapes and effects.

Smooth out or lift out colour on damp watercolour paper with the hake brush tip, using gentle strokes that barely touch the paper surface.

Use the tip of the hake brush to absorb dripping paint or excess paint from the paper surface.

Apply gesso to a canvas or varnish to a completed painting with a hake brush when using oil paints. Brush gesso onto the canvas to prime it, allowing it to dry before starting the oil painting. Put several coats of varnish on a completed, fully dried oil painting as a protective coating.


Hake brushes come in a variety of sizes and are used in all types of art media. They are available at art supply stores and online. Hake brushes are also very effective when painting with ink, in the East Asian tradition.

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