May 26th, 2016

Tips on Choosing the Right Paint Brush


Just when you thought you had your paint project figured out, you head to the home improvement store and are faced with a decision that you never expected to be so hard: choosing the right paint brush. As you stand in front of the shelf, looking at literally a dozen types of paint brushes, how do you know if you’re choosing the right paint brush for the job?

You may think that a paint brush is just a paint brush and grab the one that is on sale, but this is not the best way to choose. The type of brush you use will determine how the painted surface turns out when it dries. To help you make sure that you’re choosing the right paint brush for the job, here’s a quick primer on what you should know.

The Anatomy of a Paint Brush


paint brush parts


Brush Bristles: Synthetic or Natural?

  • Synthetic-bristle brushes are made from nylon, polyester or a mix of both. A synthetic brush is best for painting projects that use water-based or latex paint.
  • Natural-bristle brushes are made with animal hair. They are too absorbent for latex paint and work best for oil-based or alkyd paint projects.


How to Check for Quality

  • Look at the tips of the bristles. A quality natural-bristle brush is flagged, meaning it has split ends on the tips. The best synthetic brushes have fuzzy-looking ends.
  • Make sure the bristles have a tapered, chisel-shaped end. You don’t want the end of the bristles to be flat.
  • The ferrule (the metal band that holds the bristles together) should be tightly wrapped around the bristles. To check for quality, tap the ferrule and then rub the end of the bristles over your palm a few times to make sure that no bristles fall out. Cheap brushes will lose their bristles. Loose bristles will drop into your paint and can dry in your painted finish, which will have to be picked out by hand and mess up the finish.
  • The hole is one of the most important features. It is used to hang the brush upside down after cleaning to make sure all the water drips out of the brush.


Choosing the Right Shape


square-cut paint brushes


Square-cut brushes are best when you need to quickly cover a large area. They are made with natural or synthetic bristles and are available in widths up to 5 inches.


angled paint brushes


Angled/sash brushes are used for painting along window trim and moldings, hence the name sash brush. The angled shape makes it easier to paint a clean line than a square tip brush. Angled brushes are the best to use when painting furntiure, banisters, spindles and moldings.


short handled paint brushes


Short handle brushes are best for painting in cramped spaces. The short handle allows you to easily maneuver. If you have small hands, a short-handled brush may feel more comfortable.


chip and foam paint brushes


Chip and foam brushes are inexpensive alternatives that can be discarded after the job is done, eliminating clean up. Chip brushes are inexpensive, but shed bristles which could land in your paint. These types of brushes are best for touching up flat surfaces.


specialty paint brushes


Speciality brushes, or stencil brushes, are round packed brushes with flat tops. They are best for stenciling a design on a wall or piece of furniture. Specialty paint brushes are great to have on hand to touch up or get paint into very tight spots.

Cleaning Your Paint Brush

  • Dampen a synthetic brush before use. Paint will be less likely to dry on the brush, which will help it last longer.
  • To clean a synthetic-bristle brush, use soap and water and then rinse it thoroughly until the water runs clearly. Tap all the water out and then use the hole in the handle to hang the brush upside down so any water still in the brush will drip out. This will keep the ferrule from getting damaged and allow the bristles to dry in their natural shape.
  • To clean a natural-bristle brush after using oil-based paint, pour paint thinner in a small paint tray so you can lay the bristles flat in the thinner and swish the tray around. Once the paint is removed, wipe the brush with a paper towel and hang the brush upside down.
  • Don’t let a paint brush sit bristles down in a can of paint thinner or water. It will damage the edge of the bristles and create brush strokes and unevenness in your painted finish.

If used and cared for properly, a quality brush can last for years.

Now that you know a little bit more about brushes, I hope you will feel confident choosing the right paint brush for your next project.

For more painting tips, like how to save a dried up paint brush, visit the advice section.

This post is sponsored by Glidden® paint, a PPG brand. All thoughts, opinions and paintbrushes are my own.