Tag Archives | painting

Books | The Brushstroke Handbook by Maureen McNaughton

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

Disclosure: This site participates in the affiliate program.

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!

Vendor Spotlight: Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool by C&T Publishing

Reported by Heather Strenzwilk

Disclosure: This site is a participant in the affiliate program.

The Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool, Updated 3rd edition is a color selection deck created by Joen Wolfrom for C&T Publishing. The tool includes 24 color cards (816 colors), instructions, value finders and five color plans for each color. The cards are laminated and bound on the lower right corner and can be stored in its convenient clear vinyl pouch.

Triadic color scheme: purple/ orange yellow/ aqua green (stamped image: Papertrey Ink)

Nearly two years ago I had the opportunity to review the previous edition of the 3-in-1 Color Tool. Although I tried very hard to show how helpful the tool could be, I completely missed the point. So I jumped at the chance to review the updated 3rd edition.

The first thing I noticed about the new edition is that it is larger- the previous edition was 8″ x 2 5/8″ versus the new edition which is 8″ x 3 1/4″. The new edition has more color samples and most of them are larger. The directions have been re-written and I found them much clearer and easier to understand. This edition also includes various color formulas which make the colors easier to replicate (if desired).

The instructions use a five step process to pick, match, choose, find and select colors for your project. The author also provides strategies if you are uncertain your colors match (are on that color card). She also provides a brief introduction to the Ives 24 color wheel (one card for each color). This edition has a new section which explains the difference between pure colors, tints, shades and tones and gives examples of each (pink is a tint, navy is a shade and mauve is a tone). Also provided is a brief explanation of basic color plans such as monochromatic, complementary, analogous, split-complementary and triadic.

The HUGE lesson I learned with this edition, is that I don’t have to try to find an exact match for colors (I spent a lot of time doing that with the old tool.) The tool can be used to identify the color family. When you put a color up to a color card you can tell if it is part of that family. If it is slightly off, most likely your color family is on a neighboring card. This was huge for me and I went from dragging on color selection, to finding the right family card.

Speaking of the color cards, they had a makeover for this edition as well. The front of the card now sports the pure color and a sampling of tints, shades and tones. Also included examples of how the color is used in the color plan options. In the prior edition, the color plans were on the back of the card.

Complementary color scheme: spring green/ fuchsia (Digital Image: In a Scrap Creations)

In the current edition, the back of each color card has 32-34 additional color samples. Each samples is labeled with CMYK (cyan magenta yellow black) and RGB (red green blue) color formulas. Additionally, samples has a HEX code which is used for website design.

The value finder is the last component of the tool. The value finders are pieces of green and red translucent plastic. When you look through either the red or the green value finder, colors disappear but values can be seen. If there are some dark and some light areas, contrast is present. When I tried this step, I was amazed where I noticed a lack of contrast in my artwork.

Analogous color scheme: golden yellow/ yellow/ chartreuse/ yellow-green/ spring green/ green (Digital Image: In a Scrap Creations)

Sometimes, new and improved isn’t always a good thing. Fortunately, for the updated 3rd edition of the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool, the changes are all good, from the increased color selection, larger color swatches, color codes and improved instructions. The tool is portable and very helpful for crafting and shopping (be confident that antique or yard sale find will match your sofa). This is a very handy and useful tool and one that I’ll use frequently.


  • Lightweight, portable and comes with a protective vinyl pouch
  • Colors are easier to replicate with CMYK and RGB formulas and Hex numbers for web sites
  • Instructions were revised making them much easier to follow in this 3rd edition


  • Double sided cards make it difficult to compare colors on opposite sides of the card
  • Deck is permanently bound. It would be nice to be able to remove individual cards.

Do you use any tools such as a color wheel or the 3-in-1 Color Tool to assist you with color selection? How would you use the 3-in-1 Color Tool?