Choosing the Right Paint Brush

A brush is a brush; they all do the same thing, right? Not quite. Using the right brush for your application can reduce time and provide a great finish. Does quality differ among paint brushes? Yes. A good-quality brush holds more paint and applies an even surface coat. The time saved by doing the job right the first time may warrant spending more on the initial cost of the paint brush.

Four Elements to Consider When Choosing a Brush

Bristle Material

Below you will find a list of common bristle materials along with their recommended application.

Bristle Material (Filament) Recommended Application
Black China (Natural)
  • Oil-based paint, stain and varnish
Nylon (Synthetic)
  • Water-based paint
  • Most nylon brushes can also be used with oil-based paints
  • Not recommended for applying shellac or lacquer
Nylon/Polyester Blend (Synthetic)
  • Water and oil based paint
Ox Hair Blend (Natural)
  • Oil-based paint and varnish
  • Smoothest finish when comparing all types of natural bristles
Polyester (Synthetic)
  • Water-based or oil-based paint and stain, as well as varnish, lacquer and shellac
White China (Natural)
  • Oil-based paint, stain, varnish, polyurethane, lacquer and shellac
  • Produces a smoother finish than a black China brush

Brush Style

How do you choose the right style? Below you will find four popular styles.

Brush Style Recommended Application
  • Standard brush that can be used in various applications.
  • You will notice that the wall brush has a shorter handle when compared to the other styles listed; this is because the application would require less control/accuracy.
  • Full bodied, straight/flat tipped brush.
  • The tips of bristles/filament have been slightly cut to create an angle within the depth of the brush. Most often used when cutting around a trim.
  • A compromise between the wall and sash brush style.
  • Provides greater control/accuracy on the edges of the brush, while holding more paint in the centre (due to its oval shape).
  • The top of the angle brush is cut at an angle, providing greater control/accuracy when cutting around corners.

Please note that you can also find thinner/thicker variations of the above styles, allowing you to hold more or less paint. Reducing the amount of visits to the paint can is one way of reducing your labour costs.

Brush Sizes

Brushes are available in various widths. The size you select really depends on the surface you are painting. A smaller bush size of 1-2 inches may be sufficient for window trimming, but too small to be used on doors, etc. This is why using a combination of brushes with various sizes and styles, allows you to work most efficiently in every application.

A good quality brush holds more paint, makes paint application smoother and reduces paint spattering. A quick way to check this is to feel the pack of filament. It should feel full and slightly resilient when pulled. Cheaper brushes may be suitable for the occasional job where finish/quality is not as critical, although they will not last as long as premium grade brushes.
Bonus Tip!

Brush Maintenance

Taking proper care of your brush is just as important as buying the right brush. If you don’t maintain your brushes, the quality results won’t last. Below are three quick, easy steps to maintain your brushes.