Books | The Brushstroke Handbook by Maureen McNaughton

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

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One of the reasons I was excited to review “The Brushstroke Handbook” was because I know nothing about fancy brushstroke painting. I can paint walls and furniture, and I can even use stencils. But I wanted to give my skills a little boost.

The Brushstroke Handbook

It turns out this is a great book for beginners because the author, Maureen McNaughton, is noted for her clear and concise directions. She also goes into detail on the supplies that she used for the book and why they work well for the techniques described. I used a different brand of acrylic paint and brushes (because it is what I had on hand) and I was missing the paint “extender” that she mixed with each color to change the paint’s consistency a bit. I will have to get this before I start any serious projects.

The Brushstroke Handbook

I started with a flat brush and used two shades of green to attempt the “Closed C Stroke” on page 102. The beginning of the book shows proper technique for loading paint onto the brush before you get started. This was very helpful and I referenced it many times.

The Brushstroke Handbook

I would not call these first attempts successful, and I had to change brush sizes a few times to even get close to the end results I was looking for.  But it was great practice! I had to resist the urge to follow along with the step by step pictures, and actually read the instructions too. The author does a great job of telling you what kind of brush pressure to use and how to move the brush for each of the different strokes described.

The Brushstroke Handbook

I decided to try a round brush next and did a variation of the “Pointed Pressure Stroke” on page 36. I have to say that the round brush techniques seemed easier to get a good result with (which is the opposite of what I expected). I tried to make some pumpkins that could be used for Halloween and fall gift tags.

The Brushstroke Handbook

As you can see I still need some practice before fall rolls around again because they are a bit onion-like. But I was happy with this one:

The Brushstroke Handbook

Overall, I had a lot of fun trying the new techniques and found this book to be a great reference guide. One of my favorite sections of the book shows common mistakes that you could make for each brushstroke. It shows a picture of what result you might have gotten, and then another picture of the result you actually wanted.  Then there are tips to improve your technique to fix those specific mistakes. It was just what I needed!


  • A great resource for decorative brushstrokes, with clear instructions for beginners and more experienced painters
  • Step by step photos for more than 50 different brushstroke techniques and patterns for each of the finished paintings
  • Two fully illustrated sections (one for round brushes and one for flat brushes) to help you fix any problems you may be having and improve your technique


  • If you are a beginner, like me, you will obviously need some practice before you can paint like the illustrations in this book
  • Unless you have a plethora of painting supplies you may need to purchase a few extra items to get the desired results in this book

The Brushstroke Handbook” by Maureen McNaughton is available for about $17 on It features quick reference photos, easy to follow worksheets for each of the 50 decorative brushstrokes and helpful guides to fix common mistakes.

Have you have read “The Brushstroke Handbook” and tried the brushstroke techniques it teaches? Let us know in the comments what you think!

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One Response to Books | The Brushstroke Handbook by Maureen McNaughton

  1. Avatar
    Jan Castle February 22, 2014 at 3:13 am #

    Sounds like a fun project to try…would love to review the book a little!