Art and Industry in India’s Brush Market

Mar 9, 2023

Synthetic bristles and public art projects play important roles

By Suroopa Chatterjee


Industrial brushes and artists’ brushes are a thriving sector in India. With increasing growth and expansion in the home and interiors sector as well as a growing community of art practitioners in the country, brushes are enjoying a healthy demand and have seen considerable development over time. Though the industry has a fairly large market, it is considered an unorganized sector across the country.

Artists and paint companies work together

The close and almost symbiotic relationship between paint companies and the arts community saw an added encouraging focus in recent times. Kolkata, known as a creative hub in India, witnessed the creation of a gigantic mural by the Kumartuli artisans. Reaching almost 75 feet, it was painted on one wall of CESC (Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation) in the Patuli area and soon became an eye-catcher for passersby and residents of the area. Another mural, depicting the renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray, was painted on a wall of the Metro Railway Building in March 2022 in South Kolkata’s Charu Market area. Both the projects were commissioned by St+art India, an organization involved in public art projects in partnership with premier paint company Asian Paints since December 2021.

Brush types and construction

Art brushes are an extended arm of the artist’s practical prowess and they define quality, texture, treatment and overall presentation. So, paint brush selection has the same importance as the type of paint or medium the artist chooses. There are different types of brushes, including those designed for acrylic, watercolors, oil or all purpose. A paintbrush essentially is an assemblage of three basic raw materials or elements. A brush has the bristle or hair that may be made from a natural source or be synthetic. The ferrule is the metallic portion connecting the handle and bristle. The crimp is the tiny area where a ferrule connects with a handle and lastly a brush has a handle that may be of wood or plastic. Although some of the top brush brands in India are Faber Castell, Camel, Snazaroo, Kabeer, Asian Hobby Crafts, 90 degree, Uxcell, Crayola, etc., the majority of manufacturers in India do not possess the acumen or facility of handling these standard basic elements to make a complete product for export to developed nations. But a few companies, like Tic Tac Toe Brush makers, have stated that they have the experience and expertise in handling raw materials that meet global standards and have been able to export their products outside India. They customize and work with many materials of varying quality and sizes and produce in quantities that allow them to offer their brushes at competitive rates.

The hub of all quality brush making is in the southern region of Madurai where the manufacturers take care to produce quality bristles, ferrules, and handle finish, ensuring a quality product for their customers.

Types of bristles

Brushes may be chosen in accordance with the type and quality of hair or synthetic bristles. The natural sources of hair may be from hog bristles, minks, sable, mongoose, squirrels, horse, sheep, goat, ox, camel, or rabbit with each type of animal hair offering a unique quality for a specific purpose and application which a consummate artist is well aware of.

With increasing opposition from the animal rights community and activists, synthetic brushes have come to be the chosen option of many. Deepak Kumar Saw, a practicing visual artist based in Kolkata states, “Visual artists these days typically opt for synthetic brushes. Students and early learners use costlier synthetic brushes made by established brands. Natural hair brushes are even costlier, some going up to 1000–1200 Indian rupees. While older artists prefer hog or squirrel hair brushes – most of which have now been banned – for their soft pliable qualities that allow finer strokes and effect, many I know still use them as they retain stock from the time they were legally allowed to be sold. Industrial brushes that are broader and larger than normal artists’ brushes are employed by a few graffiti artists for commercial purposes or outdoor projects. They purchase local brands from local shops and then they throw them away once used,” he adds.

Brushes and rollers for Murals

Sayan Ghosh, Senior Area Manager of Project Sales at Asian Paints, states, “A leading form of Art today are represented in the murals that we see in the form of paintings on Public and Private infrastructure. Now when you talk about these kinds of art installations the scale and magnitude of the projects demand tools which are usually used for construction activities. Hence use of construction grade brushes, rollers and other mechanized and non-mechanized tools is a norm. Besides being a pioneer in Decor, Asian Paints introduced the concept of DIY kits so that every homeowner can produce art in the form of decals, textures, etc. wherein the brushes being used are industrial grade. Majority of the artists I know, in Kolkata or India per se, use industrial grade brushes and rollers as they give distinct finishes on canvases as well as on other media they choose to impart their creative thoughts.”

“Traditional brushes are extremely expensive compared to industrial grade ones. Especially mural painters who are becoming a new wave of prominent artists all use industrial grade brushes rollers and spray equipment as the areas to cover are extensive. Bigger brushes are used for their textural effects,” adds Ghosh.

Brush Expo

The Brush industry in India has been engaging in an annual trade fair known as the India Brush Expo. The 2023 edition will be the second one of its kind and will be held during 25–27th May 2023 at India’s Chennai Trade Centre. It  will be the first B2B exhibition to focus on the brush making machinery and finished products. The expo provides an exchange and networking platform for manufacturers, machine suppliers, and raw materials suppliers to exhibit their range and services to B2B end users and original equipment manufacturers.

Major manufacturers

The domestic paint market is price sensitive with a very few areas in Tamil Nadu, parts of Kerala, and Pondicherry that have a market for high end paint brushes. With the arrival of synthetic brushes DuPont filament has emerged as the gold standard of the Indian Paintbrush industry. Madurai is the busiest manufacturing center with almost 10 million brushes being produced annually, which also are the best quality brushes in the country. In all there are 20 large manufacturers, 50 smaller players and around 100 small cottage-industry producers in Madurai alone. The Madurai brush industry association is the South India Paintbrush Manufacturers Association (SIPMA) and their target for 2025 is the production of 100 million brushes yearly by the SIPMA members.

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