- Best Paint Brush for Painting Walls
- Best Indoor Trim Paint Brush
- Best Exterior Trim Paint Brush
- Best Natural Bristle Paint Brush
- Best Oval Paint Brush
- Best Disposable Paint Brush
Best Paint Brush
Selecting the right paint brush goes a long way towards ensuring a good paint job. Many people try to use cheap brushes and wonder why they have trouble keeping the paint application looking neat. Others try to use the same type of brush for every type of paint and find the finish doesn't come out smooth. Picking the right brush means taking a number of different aspects of the brush's design into consideration, the type of paint you are using, and what you are going to paint with it.
If properly cared for, good paint brushes will last for years; I myself have some paint brushes I've used for well over 20 years. While I don't use every brush every day or even every week, they all get plenty of use.
The trick to making brushes last is to buy good brushes and take proper care of them. The biggest thing is to avoid allowing the paint to settle into the ferrule as this is what usually ruins brushes. When you dip the brush, only dip about 1/2" to 1" of the tip of the bristles; this way you’re much less likely to get the paint into the ferrule. When you’re done, be sure to clean it thoroughly before storing.
We've prepared a paintbrush buyer's guide below that will tell you everything you need to know about what kind of brush suited for the paint project you’re preparing for.
Best Paint Brush for Painting Walls:
Most people don’t think of painting walls with a brush nowadays; we usually use a roller. Nevertheless, there are some times when a brush is actually more practical for painting a wall than a roller is. Times like:
- When we have a small wall surface to paint
- When the wall has rough texture
- When the wall is cinder block or other similar material
- When the wall surface is broken up by things we don’t want to risk getting paint on
Let’s face it, rollers, while excellent, are limited. More than anything, they are hard to control accurately. So, if you’ve got lots of edges that you have to get up close to, a roller just isn’t as good. While you can do it, there’s a huge risk that you’re going to end up getting paint on something that you don’t want paint on. The other problems with rollers is that they require much more effort to clean than brushes do. Granted, a lot of people think of rollers as being disposable and don’t bother cleaning them. But when you pay eight or ten dollars for a quality roller cover, you want to use it at least a few times.
Okay, so maybe I’ve convinced you that there might be sometime when you want to paint a wall with a brush and maybe I haven’t. Nevertheless, let me go on. I’ve painted a number of walls by brush through the years, and who knows, you might find that you need to someday as well. When that day comes, you’ll be glad you read this article. So, if you’re going to paint a large surface, such as a wall, what do you need from a brush?
The main thing that a brush for painting a wall needs to do is to carry a lot of paint from the bucket to the surface that you’re painting. If it doesn’t, you’ll end up spending all of your time dipping the brush in the bucket, and almost no time actually painting. For that reason, a large brush is the best thing to use; better yet, a large oval paint brush.
I actually bought a six inch wide paint brush once upon a time. I had to paint a cinder block wall with block filler (a special primer for cinder blocks) and it had to be done by hand. I figured a six inch wide brush was the way to go. The only problem was, you had to have the arms of a gorilla to wield that brush for over five minutes. So, I really don’t recommend a six inch wide brush, unless you happen to be that gorilla; for the rest of us, 3-1/2 to 4 inches is enough.
Of course, brush width isn’t the only important dimension; the thickness plays an important part as well. I’ve seen some 4-inch wide brushes that were only 1/4-inch thick. They couldn’t hold much paint. A quality brush will be at least 5/8-inch thick. You also want flagged bristles on the brush, as those help to hold more paint. Flagged bristles are those that look like what women complain about when they say that their hair has split ends. So, let’s see what we can find that meets those criteria.
Purdy has been the number one choice of professional painters for many years. This 3-1/2-inch oval brush is 1-1/4-inch thick, so it will carry a lot of paint to the wall, allowing you to get the job done quicker. Read Full Review
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Proform is a much newer contender than Purdy. They are a very innovative company, with probably the biggest selection in oval brushes around. Read Full Review
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Shur-line's brushes are all Teflon coated. That makes the transfer of paint from the brush to the wall more efficient and makes cleanup much, much easier. Read Full Review
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Wooster is another old-timer in the brush business. Their extensive line covers the gambit from top quality professional brushes to cheap disposible ones. This brush is 7/8-inch thick, giving it an excellent paint reservoir for a flat brush. Read Full Review
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If you're painting with oil-based paint, rather than latex, you'll want a natural bristle brush instead of synthetic. There's no better place to go for tha than Purdy, who makes a number of natural bristle brushes that meet our needs. Read Full Review
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Best Indoor Trim Paint Brush:
Paint brushes, like screwdrivers, are one of those tools that everyone seems to have without realizing what the difference between a good one and a bad one is. However, if one compares a good quality paint brush to an inexpensive one, the differences are obvious. Each of those differences affects the quality of your paint job and the life of your brush.
More than 20 years ago, I bought a small painting company from a man I was working for. During the time I was working for him, he provided the tools we used. Unfortunately, he was not much of a believer in buying quality paint brushes. Before long, I was buying my own brushes. Every one of those professional quality brushes is still in my kit today. They were truly an investment that paid off.
While there are many manufacturers who make paint brushes, there are actually only a few manufacturers of quality paint brushes.
So, what makes a good paint brush?
- First and foremost is the quality of the material used in the brush, especially the bristles of the brush. Quality brushes will have all the bristles the same length, with none that are crooked or sticking out to the sides. On nylon brushes, the diameter of the individual strands will be thinner, and the business ends of the nylon strands will be flagged (which is kind of like the split-ends that women complain about on their hair).
- Quality brushes will also be as much as twice as thick as inexpensive ones. A brush's thickness determines the amount of paint you can charge the brush with and how quickly you will have to go back to the paint bucket for more.
- Although it really doesn't affect the overall function of the brush, quality brushes are usually wood handled, instead of plastic.
- The ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles to the handle) on a quality brush will be wider than on a cheap brush. It will also be extremely tight and will not move even if you try to move it.
- Finally, a quality brush will never come in a plastic pouch, rather it will come in a reusable folding cardboard sleeve. This sleeve isn't just packaging for your brush; it also shapes the brush while drying (after cleaning) and protects the brush from damage.
For interior trim painting, the most effective size is a 2-1/2-inch angle cut brush. This size and configuration allows you to charge the brush with adequate paint and easily paint alongside trim without having to mask it. Angled brushes will lay up against the wall, spreading out slightly with your hand at a natural angle to control the brush and paint the full stroke.
Since almost all painting today is done with latex or latex-acrylic paints, I am going to concentrate on nylon bristled brushes. If you were painting with oil-based paints, a natural bristle, such as black china bristle would be better. However, most manufacturers are eliminating oil-based paints from their product lineup in order to comply with EPA regulations for VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Never dip your paint brush all the way up to the ferrule. Any paint caught in the ferrule is not easily removed and will ultimately cause bristles to break off the brush. Thoroughly clean the brush to remove ALL paint after each use. Once cleaned, comb the bristles to straighten them (there are special brush combs made for this, but a mens hair comb will work just fine) and wrap the brush in its original sleeve.
This is a truly unique brush, being an oval angled sash. That means it will hold 30 percent more paint than a standard angled sash, allowing you to cut in a seven foot swath with one dip of the brush. Read Full Review
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Professionals have long considered Purdy brushes as the top line of paint brushes. That's because of a combination of their attention to details and their consistent quality. Of all their interior trim brushes, this is probably the number one. Read Full Review
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The really unique thing about Shur-Line's brushes is that the bristles are Teflon coated. They advertise that this will reduce clean-up time by 30% over standard nylon bristles. I can definitely see how that would be an advantage. Read Full Review
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If you're tired of the same old thing, take a gander at Proform's ergonomic handle paintbrush. While it takes a bit of getting used to, once you do, you'll find that it's much easier to work with, saving you lots of hand cramps and making it easier to place the bristles right where you want them. Read Full Review
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Wooster is another high quality brand of brushes. Typically running a little lower in price than the Purdys, they still provide high quality and excellent service. Read Full Review
Best Exterior Trim Paint Brush:
At first glance, one would think that painting interior trim and painting exterior trim were much the same thing; after all, both are painting trim. That would make them seem more or less equal. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Interior and exterior trim are quite different in form and appearance, as well as being painted differently.
Interior trim consists of architectural moldings; such as baseboard, door casing and crown molding. These are generally given a high-quality, glossy finish. The entire piece of trim is coated with the trim paint or varnish; from where it meets the wall to where it meets the other surface. In addition, the wall surface has to be “cut” right up to the edge of the molding, without getting paint on it.
Exterior trim is quite different. Normally, it consists of 1-by-4-inch pine boards that are attached at the corners, around windows and at the edge of the roofline. In many cases, the edge of the board is painted to match the wall color, with only the surface being painted in the trim color. This eliminates the fine cutting needed for painting interior trim; making painting of exterior trim much like painting any large surface.
The exception to this is painting windows. Multi-pane wood windows have to be cut cleanly on the outside of the home, just like they do on the inside of the home. Painting them is actually much more like painting interior trim, than it is like painting exterior trim. As such, you’re actually much better using a sash brush, just as if you were painting interior trim.
Actually, “sash brushes” were first developed to cope with the challenge of painting window sashes. By definition, the sash is the part of the window that the glass sits in; in other words, the hard part to paint. Maybe that’s why you want to use an angled sash brush for them.
For the rest of the trim, you don’t need the fine cutting ability of a sash brush; rather, you need a brush that will carry a good load of paint to the trim and cover the trim quickly. A three inch straight brush works well for this. While you could use a 3-1/2” straight brush for this, when you take into account the normal spread of a brush when pressed against a substrate, a 3-1/2” brush is actually too wide.
Oval brushes work for painting trim as well, as they hold a bigger charge of paint and save you trips to the paint bucket. That’s because an oval brush holds about 30 percent more paint than a straight one. I personally prefer oval brushes for this reason, and will use them over a straight brush whenever I can.
When picking any straight brush, quality takes precedence over anything else. The type of material used for the bristles and their manufacture will make a difference in how easy it is to control the brush, how much paint you can charge the brush with and how smoothly it applies. Low-cost brushes will often have bristles which are uneven, a few stray bristles that are sticking out to the sides and the tips of the bristles won’t be flagged (a process where they make the bristle have split ends, to hold more paint).
The easiest way to tell a quality brush is to turn it on edge and look how thick the mass of bristles is. The first place that they cut the cost of low-cost brushes is in putting in less bristles. A high quality brush will have as much as 7/8-inch of bristle thickness (1-1/4 inches for oval brushes) while a low quality brush will have less than 1/2-inch.The bristles on quality brushes will present a uniform appearance, where the bristles appear as a solid mass when unwrapped from the package. This shows that the natural position for the bristles is where you want them to be, allowing you excellent control over the brush.
Bristles are “potted” at the handle end, usually in epoxy. If they are not potted well, the bristles can separate from the brush, usually right into the surface you just painted. A metal ferrule will attach this potted mass of bristles to the handle. Make sure that the ferrule is of some rust-resistant material; otherwise this will shorten the life of your brush. While the handle material isn’t critical, quality brushes always have hardwood handles; usually unfinished. Varnished handles are usually softwood and won’t hold up as good.
By the way, with any brush you don’t want the paint to get into the ferrule. At most, the paint should get halfway up the bristles. If it gets farther, especially if it gets into the ferrule, it’s extremely hard to clean out. If it is not cleaned out, it will eventually harden and cause the bristles to break off.
Overall, I have to pick Purdy for the best brush in this category. This oval brush will carry lots of paint to the trim, where it will apply it smooth and even. Read Full Review
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For a straight cut brush, I think this is the thickest one around. The 7/8" of bristles it has will hold a considerable charge of paint, even though it isn't an oval brush. Read Full Review
Proform probably has the biggest line of oval brushes around. Although a newer company, they are committed to producing top quality paint tools. Read Full Review
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Shur-Line's brushes are unique in that they have teflon coated bristles. That makes cleanup of these brushes a snap. They should last longer, due to less paint buildup in the upper end of the bristles. Read Full Review
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Best Natural Bristle Paint Brush:
While most paint brushes today are made of synthetic fibers, there are still a few natural bristle paint brushes on the market. Most of the time, when we speak of natural bristle, were talking about what is known as China Bristle. While there are other natural fibers used in paint brushes, those are typically used in artists paint brushes, which is another category.
China bristle comes from the China Bristle pig. It is available in both white and black, although white china bristle is far more common than black. While it has been successfully used as a brush material for years, china bristle is gradually giving way to synthetic materials. In fact, most quality china bristle brushes today contain a mix with synthetic fibers.
I prefer a white china bristle brush over a black one, except for when using light colored paints. White china bristle shows any paint or varnish trapped in the fibers much better than black, except in the case of light colored paints. With light colored paints, I always use a black china bristle, for the same reason I like white, to make it easy to see the paint when Im cleaning it. Ive also found that white china bristle is a thinner fiber, making for smoother paint application and a better finish overall.
However, nothing beats china bristle for oil based paints and varnishes. While synthetic fibered brushes are the best for water-based paints, they still havent beaten out china bristle when it comes to applying the less viscous oil-based products. I guess that makes sense the older style brushes for the older style paint and the newer style brushes for the newer style paint.
There are a lot of really cheap china bristle brushes available for those who need something for a touch-up brush that theyll use once and throw away. But, this list is dealing with the best, so were going to ignore all those and concentrate on just the quality brushes. So, what makes a quality brush?
The first thing to look at is the quality of the bristles. Since these are natural fibers and not man-made, consistency in the fibers is much more challenging to obtain. However, consistency is essential for a quality product and a quality paint job. Look to see if the bristles are of uniform length and are very straight. You also should check to make sure they dont fan out from the ferrule. This is an indicator that the bristles arent quite as straight as those found in a higher end brush.
Next up, you should consider the length of the bristles. Low quality brushes will tend to have shorter bristles. This causes two potential problems. First of all, the brush wont be able to carry as much paint to the surface you are painting. Secondly, you are much more likely to get paint in the ferrule, which is a sure way of destroying a paint brush.
Lastly, you should consider the thickness of the brush. One of the ways that manufacturers cut costs is to make thinner brushes. Basically, thinner brushes equal fewer bristles, and fewer bristles equal lower cost. However, that thinner brush wont hold a lot of paint. Unless youre just touching up spots, youre going to be making a lot of trips back to the paint bucket.
Typically, higher quality brushes will have natural hardwood handles. While it really doesnt make a lot of difference for functionality, painted handles indicate lower quality, probably because they are using softwoods instead of hardwoods.
With whatever brush you buy, pay attention to the packaging. Any brush packaged in a plastic bag is not high quality. Quality brushes come with a foldable cardboard wrapper, which has either Velcro or a string to replace it on the brush. This is actually important, as replacing the wrapper on the brush after cleaning is how you maintain the brushs shape.
Unfortunately, there arent too many manufacturers who produce quality natural fiber brushes today. Thats probably because water based paints have largely replaced oil based paints in almost all applications. In fact, water based paint technology has reached the point where it can replace oil based paint in almost all applications. There are even water based paints now which can be used effectively on metal structures (the last outpost of oil based paints). In fact, some manufacturers are eliminating their oil based paints entirely.
I have to give the number one spot to Purdy, for their high-quality, professional brushes. This one, with white china bristles and a long handle makes a great combination for interior trim and wrought iron-fences. Read Full Review
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This Purdy brush is 7/8" thick! By paint brush standards, that's almost a monster. The thickness allows it to hold a lot of paint, while the tapered bristles helps control that paint. Read Full Review
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What makes this brush really stand out is the bamboo handle. Bamboo can be soaked and dried repeatedly, without cracking, much easier than wood can. That helps insure that the brush will last a long time. Read Full Review
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This 2" angled china bristle brush is perfect for painting wrought iron. The short handle is especially great, when trying to get into tight places. Read Full Review
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This is an Ox Hair brush, which is extremely rare in the paintbrush market. Actually, I think that Purdy is the only company still making Ox Hair. I find it a great material for applying any clear coat, as the soft bristles are less likely to leave streaks. Read Full Review
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Best Oval Paint Brush:
While not as common as other paint brushes, an oval paint brush is a great one to add to your kit. Once I bought my first oval paint brush, it quickly replaced my standard 3-inch straight cut brush as my favorite for exterior cutting, trim, and interior work (other than cutting) that had to be brushed.
Why did it become my favorite brush for all that? Simple, an oval paint brush can carry about 30% more paint to the surface, without dripping, streaking or causing other problems. So, for what is essentially the same size brush, you end up taking almost 1/3 less trips back to the paint bucket. Hey, its all about efficiency; Im into finding the easiest way to do things.
I also found that my oval brush was better for cutting than a standard square cut brush; not that I would try and put it up against a angled sash brush for that. In exterior applications, where cutting isn't as fine as with interior trim, the oval brush gives you a nice, smooth edge to bring up to whatever you are cutting into. While this is possible with a square cut brush, it takes a lot more finesse; the shape of the oval brush does it naturally.
There aren't many manufacturers who produce oval paint brushes. However, their number is increasing gradually. One of the brushes that are on this list is a truly innovative product, which hasn't been on the market for long.
Please keep in mind that you will pay more for an oval brush than for a square cut brush; but youre also getting more for your money. This is not only a more difficult product to produce, but it also has considerably more bristles in it.
Proform has hit the market with a combination of quality and innovation. This angled oval sash brush is the first of its type, allowing incredible flexibility for the painter. Read Full Review
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Purdy is still considered by most professional painters to be the top name in professional paint brushes. This oval bush is a unique combination of artificial fibers from their top of the line XL series. Read Full Review
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If you're painting with oils, instead of latex. This Purdy oval brush is a better pick. The longer bristles are designed for the thinner viscosity of oil based paints. Read Full Review
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Next to Purdy, Wooster is considered to be the best brush manufacturer on the market. Their Alpha line is their top of the top line of brushes. This oval brush, with its bristle mix is designed to work well with all paint types. Read Full Review
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Proform probably has created the widest variety of oval paint brushes of anyone on the market. Although not an angled brush, like the one in the #1 slot, this oval brush is high quality and holds a lot of paint. Read Full Review
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Best Disposable Paint Brush:
Having been a professional painter, I’m a big advocate of using high quality brushes. There’s just no way that a cheap paint brush can provide the kind of quality finish that most people really need. Often, those who buy cheap brushes end up paying for it in spades, by the finish that they end up with.
Nevertheless, there are times when using a quality brush just might not be practical. Some paint materials won’t fully clean out of a brush, no matter what you do. Other times, you may not have the necessary thinner or solvent for the paint you are using. In still other cases, all you’re doing is painting a small area, as a sample, making a touchup or trying out a finish. In those cases, it’s kind of crazy to spend ten minutes cleaning out a brush, when all you need to paint is six square inches.
So, even though I’m an advocate of quality brushes, I can still see the practicality of keeping some disposable brushes around. If you look in my workshop, you’ll find my good brushes all packed away in their protective sleeves, with an assortment of disposable ones sitting right next to them. I won’t use the disposable ones all that often, but when I need them, I like to have them on hand.
By definition disposable brushes are the cheapest brushes you can find. These aren’t high quality brushes, so saying that they are the “best” almost seems like a joke. Nevertheless, even in this low end of paint brushes, there are some which are better than others.
One big concern when using a disposable brush is ending up with a good finish quality. If you are working on a lacquered piece of furniture, or touching up the varnish on a tabletop, please don’t try using one of these brushes. You won’t be happy with the results. Often, you’ll end up with bristles in the finish, no matter how careful you try to be. Remember, there are limits in what manufacturers can do with a low-cost product.
It’s always a good idea to check a disposable brush for loose bristles before using it. You can do this by rubbing the bristles back and forth with your hand. If any bristles start sticking out longer than the others, they are loose, take them out. At the same time, look for bristles that are sticking out at odd angles from the rest and cut them off. This will help prevent the brush from causing you any extra problems.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that you can’t load a disposable brush with much material. These brushes are much thinner than quality brushes, so there aren’t as many bristles available to hold the paint. So, if you have to cover a large area, you will need to dip the brush many times.
Finally, these brushes aren’t really good for cutting. The bristles won’t spread neatly to provide a clean edge for cutting. While you can do touchup with them, don’t expect them to be more than they are. Within the limits of what they are designed to do, they are great. But if you try and take them beyond those limits, you’re not going to be happy with the results.
These brushes are made by Wooster Brush, the same company that is number two, after Purdy, for professional paint brushes. While they aren't the same quality the professional brushes are, having Wooster's name on theme gives me confidence that for disposable brushes, they're going to be good. Read Full Review
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Foam brushes can be great, but you've got to watch what you're getting. Many are made on plastic handles, without the heads glued on. These can be a problem. Jen, the originator of the foam brush, still produces the best of this particular type of brush. Read Full Review
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Like the Wooster brushes, these are made with white china bristles. This is an assortment pack, with 1-inch, 1-1/2-inch and 2-inch brushes in it. Read Full Review
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If you're going to be using a lot of disposable brushes, this package gives you lots of value for your money. These are synthetic fiber brushes, rather than china bristle. Read Full Review
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Paint Brush Buyer's Guide
With so many types of paint brushes on the market, it can be a little daunting trying to decide what you need for the paint job you’re about to start. What brush size do you need? What brush material do you need? Is it really worth paying all that extra money for a high-priced brush, or is it just a gimmick to get you to pay more? These are all good questions requiring good answers in order to get the best possible paintjob. I’m going to give you a short course on paint brushes, so we can try and answer all those questions.
Nylon and nylon mix brushes are probably the most commonly used paint brushes today. While it’s possible to use them for any type of paint product, they work best with latex and acrylic-latex paints which are all water-based. Originally, these brushes were made with round ends, but more advanced designs have “flagged ends” which have been roughened or split. This enables them to hold more paint. There are many variations on nylon brushes today, mixing other fibers in with the nylon.
This is sometimes referred to as “natural fiber” because the fibers come from animals. They are available in both white and black fiber. These brushes are best used for oil-based paints and primers. Stains and varnishes, which are also oil-based, work well with these brushes too. I like a white bristle brush for stains and varnishes, because it is easier to see if all the stain or varnish has been cleaned out of the brush.
Although polyester is mixed with nylon in some high quality brushes, it doesn’t work well on its own. Typically, you only find pure polyester in cheaper brushes. The fibers tend to be larger and not flagged, so they don’t hold as much paint. I only use polyester brushes when I need a disposable brush such as with caustic chemicals or in a case where the substrate will damage the brush. One such case would be when painting wicker furniture; to effectively get in all the low spots of the weave, one needs to stab at the piece of furniture with the brush, an action which tends to bend the bristles.
This is the least common brush material, and the hardest to find. Ox-hair is used only where fine finishing is needed such as in the case of furniture. The soft bristles do better than any other material to avoid a “streaking” effect in varnishes.
If you’re using oil-based paint products, use China Bristle and nylon or a nylon mix for water-based paint products. If you want to know which Nylon mixes are considered the best, check out the manufacturer’s web site, or compare the prices of the same sized brush form the same manufacturer.
These brushes are designed for making cut-in easier. Essentially, the angle on the brush allows you to naturally hold the brush so it easily and naturally flows alongside the trim or other surface you’re to cut into. Angled brushes are used primarily indoors, where cutting into baseboard, window and door frames must be done exactly.
This is the original and still most common brush shape. Rectangular brushes are predominantly used in places where one needs to cover an area where a roller would be inappropriate, without accurate cutting. A common example of this would be painting exterior trim and fascia board. It could also be used quite effectively to paint interior corners; an area where rollers won’t reach but not needing the finesse of using an angled brush.
Oval brushes are a newer design, intended for use anywhere a rectangular brush might be used. Since the oval shape is thicker than a standard rectangle, it will hold more paint. I’ve also found it easier to cut trim with an oval brush.
If you’re cutting inside, your best bet is to use an angled brush. If you’re working outside, an oval brush will most likely give you the best results.
The size of a brush you need is determined by what you’re working on. The larger the brush, the more paint it holds and thus less time spent dipping your brush in the paint bucket. However, you don’t want your brush to be so big it you’re painting outside the lines. Pick a brush that will fit comfortably in the area you’re painting.
The most common brush sizes used are:
2-1/2” angled brush for interior cutting and trim
3” rectangle or oval brush for exterior cutting and trim; wider brushes get heavy real quick
1” angled brush for window mullions which are the narrow strips separating individual pieces of glass in a larger window)
Signs of a High-Quality Brush
Brushes come in all sorts of “grades” from the el-cheapo disposable brushes to quality brushes a professional will rely upon for years. The following are some key characteristics to look for in a quality paintbrush.
You’ll never see a good brush with a plastic handle, and rarely see a cheap brush with a wood handle, unless it is a simple cutout out of cheap wood.
Brushes of lesser quality are thinner than quality options. For example, a high-quality 2-1/2” angled sash brush will be 1/2” thick; a lower quality will be only 3/8” thick.
Lesser expensive brushes typically have short bristles as compared with high-quality brushes. Shorter bristles mean that you are much more likely to get paint into the ferrule (the metal part) and ruin the brush. Cheaper brushes usually have thicker bristles, which are easier to make but hold less paint.
This only works on nylon brushes, because natural fiber brushes are naturally flagged. However, any synthetic brush that doesn’t have flagged bristles isn’t worth much.
The bristles of high-quality brushes should naturally lay flat and straight, even after ruffling them with your hand.
Lesser quality brushes will have a narrower ferrule. Wider ferrules hold the bristles more securely.
While this may seem like a minor consideration, it’s fairly important. High quality brushes come in a foldable cardboard sleeve with either a Velcro or cord closure, never in a plastic bag. The sleeve acts to protect the brush when not in use and it also shapes the bristles after cleaning.
Cleaning a Paint Brush
For your brushes to last a long time, they’ll need to be cleaned thoroughly every time they’re used. Afterwards, they must be stored in such a way as to keep the bristles straight, so that they dry with the brush in the right shape for the next use.
To start with, make sure you’re using the right compound to wash your brush. Since most paint today is water-based, water is therefore suitable to clean the brush. However, if you’re using oil-based paint, stain, or varnish, you’ll need mineral spirits to effectively clean the brush. Lacquer and other exotic finishes all require special cleaning products to properly clean the brush.
Remove Excess Paint
Before using any water or solvent, remove as much paint from the brush by wiping it on the edge of the paint can and brushing it over a scrap piece of wood or newspaper. The more paint you’re able to remove in this manner, the easier it will be to clean it.
Submerse the bristles into water or solvent, without submersing the ferrule. Hold the brush with one hand and work the bristles with the other, cleaning the paint out of them. Replace the water or solvent as it becomes clouded, so you can see what you are doing. You’ll probably need to change the solvent a number of times, unless you are working under running water.
It is even more important to clean the inside of the brush, than to clean the outside. Spread the bristles apart to work the solvent into the inside of the brush, taking care not to bend the bristles to the point of kinking them. Use a brush comb or wire brush to help get the paint out of the area between the bristles. If necessary, use a wire brush to clean dried paint off of the outermost layer of bristles.
When the brush is clean, it will no longer cause the water of solvent to change color as you work the bristles. Remove excess solvent or water by flinging your arm, while holding the brush. Comb the bristles straight with a brush comb and wrap the brush in its original packaging or with newspapers to hold the bristles in position while they dry.