Riggers, daggers and stripers: six calligraphic brushes

In yesterday’s post I wrote about a new brush I was trying out, and promised to write more about it today. When I sat down to sketch the brush I decided to expand the post by comparing all the brushes I use for calligraphic strokes and marks. Turns out I have four more that I use frequently. Of course I had to start by sketching them all, and then painted with each of them to demonstrate the types of strokes you can obtain by using them.


1 & 2: Richeson Squirrel Dagger Stripers
The first two are the short-handled brushes I used for my background trees yesterday. My friend Russell Black had this to say about the origin of the brushes, “the dagger striper was used to pin-stripe lines on the bodywork of cars. Used with thicker “lead” based paint, it wasn’t originally that floppy. Used with thinner mediums, the long squirrel hair can be a bit unpredictable.” So true. And that is what I liked about it when I painted yesterday’s trees. That floppy unpredictability, the randomness of the stroke is what makes it so much fun to use for organic shapes like trees branches. Brush 1 was a bit thicker than Brush 2, and you can see how fine the wispiest lines are in #2. Note: For all the samples below I loaded the brushes with a watery mix of Cerulean Blue, a bit of Burnt Sienna and then added Indigo into the wet areas. 



3. Scroggy’s Loose Goose from Cheap Joe’s
This brush is also made from squirrel hair. The marks are quite similar to the brushes above (maybe a bit more delicate), but the brush has a longer handle which makes it easier for some people to use. It also doesn’t hold quite as much paint, but it still has that floppy random quality that I love.


4. Rosemary Brush Co. 1/2″ Sable Blend Series 772 Dagger
This dagger from Rosemary is the one that Liz Steel introduced me to. She uses it for just about everything. I love this brush for painting trees (both branches and foliage) because it creates both a wide stroke and fine lines, so you can drag from the big areas of leaves right into the finer branch lines. It’s a wonderful brush for leaf shapes.


5. Richeson Grey Matters Rigger Series 9834 #3
This synthetic rigger brush is useful for so many things. I love it for painting power lines in an urban landscape, but it’s also great for painting grasses and branches. As you can see, because it’s long and even, the strokes are more uniform. I love to paint with it because as the brush runs out of wash the strokes get finer and finer. Because the head of the brush is very long it holds a lot of wash, allowing you to paint for quite a long time without reaching for more wash on your palette.


6. Richeson Sable/Squirrel Reservoir Liner #6 
This magic brush dances across the pages, creating the finest web of tiny lines. Because it has two diameters — one for holding all the paint (hence “reservoir” in its name) and a much finer one for painting with — it is perfect for the thinnest branches, wires, grasses or other details in your sketches. You need to dip into a very wet puddle to get it flowing, but the marks it makes are unique in their delicacy.




49 Comments on “Riggers, daggers and stripers: six calligraphic brushes”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Is there an online source for these brushes?


  2. Jodi says:

    So enlightening. Thank you


  3. Bernadette says:

    I so appreciate the time and thought you put into this post. You did not leave anything to chance from detailed paintings of each brush to include examples and documentation of each specific use shown.
    Thank you for your kindness and generosity in sharing your time and talents.


    • Thanks so much Bernadette. It is a good exercise for me too since it really helps me to get to know the brushes when I write about them and use them on their own. Extra bonus if you enjoy it too.


  4. Dee Ludwg says:

    Seems to me, Cheap Joe or someone calls no. 6 a lizard lick or something similar….I love mine!


  5. Mayela Lameda-Lyver says:

    Thank you so much for such a great explanation. Love the fact that you showed samples of the brush strokes


  6. Donna says:

    Wow, you give us so much info….thank you for taking all this time to describe these brushes. I will need to experiment with the few riggers I have to get a good feel for what they can do.


  7. Dali says:

    I love my Rosemary Travel Dagger watercolor brush. I use it more than any other, when I am sketching. It does so much!


  8. nancydalewolfe says:

    I love my Rosemary Travel Watercolor Dagger to paint with, as it is so flexible and can create different lines and shapes.


  9. Thank you for this post, so useful to see the comparison of how they all paint. Of 1, 2 and 3 which one is most versatile? (asking because I want them all, which is not a good idea!) I love the Rosemary Dagger, but those first three are very interesting since they seem to have a less controlled line- not sure I need less control, but still… Thanks again for the really useful post!


    • HI Suhita, Yes, you’ll find that the line is much less controlled than brushes 1-3. Brushes 1 & 2 are very similar so I wouldn’t buy both. The #3 is very easy to buy so I would probably suggest that one. I think you’ll like it.


  10. M. L. Kappa says:

    Lovely post, and a Merry Christmas to you, Shari!🎄🌺


  11. This post is wonderful! I have a rigger and a dagger but didn’t know what they could do. I will try them now. You always amaze me with your teaching ability and time you put into it. Thank you.


  12. Wow ! Thank you so much Shari! This post is very useful. I was just about to ask you a question regarding the rigger you use in your course Sketching Landscapes. Now… let’s see… how much money do have I have left to spend on my Christmas present? Diane


  13. Monique says:

    Of course I love the painting first..I love seeing art supplies painted:) Thank you for the descriptions and what they do..w/ you:)


  14. Alison says:

    What a great post! So instructive, and inspiring. Not only did you show us the mark-making possibilities, but also how they work with the three colours you used. Great post! I guess I’ll be buying a new brush after all.


  15. joantav says:

    I find it so interesting that they are all just a bit different. I have the Rosemary dagger and love the fact that you can make both a thin line and a broad stroke so easily. Thank you for not only explaining what they do but demonstrating it too.


  16. delphine says:

    I already own 3 and 4 ( not out of knowledge but thanks to your advice and Liz’s), and got such a geek kick out of them it’s hard not to buy all the others right now, on a whim. Thank you so much for your advice and support Shari, it does really make a change! I wish you wonderful, happy holidays!


    • Happy holidays to you too Delphine. If you already have 3 & 4 you are good. With those two you’ll be able to do almost anything. Unless you want the really tiny lines that you can make with #6.


  17. Thanks Shari. I have a few of the brushes you describe and I do enjoy using them for the purposes you define. I appreciate the time you take to educate us about different aspects of this very fine art. Elias


  18. Susan Jackson says:

    Shari, Thanks so much for the post! I am in love the the thin thin thin line. Where does one get the Richeson Sable/Squirrel Reservoir Liner #6? I’m having trouble finding it. Have a wonderful time in Sanibel. I’ve been many times. Don’t forget to peddle through Ding Darling! Happy New Year.


    • Hi Susan, we had a great day yesterday pedalling through Ding Darling. I didn’t stop to sketch but enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not sure where you can buy the brushes. They sent me the samples to try but I may make them available on my website in the new year. I’ll certainly announce it if I do.


  19. I am interested in the Richeson Grey Matters Rigger Series 9834… I googled it but can’t find it in the states. Blicks says they sell it but they don’t — just sets. Any ideas? Great post!


  20. Angie Bumgarner says:

    I looooove my Scroggy’s Loose Goose brush! It’s so much fun to use😁

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Angie Bumgarner says:

    Thank you so much for showing the brush strokes! Very interesting to see what the brushes can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Mira says:

    Shari, Thank you so very much for your super instructions and demonstration about the brushes and the different effects …I’ve often wondered about the scroggy brush! Thank you!


  23. johnahancock says:

    Passing this along to MY students and followers!


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