Buying a paint brush seems straight-forward but the type you choose can have a big impact on the finished look of your painting job – as well as how long it takes you to finish.
When choosing a brush, you have to consider three things: the type of bristle, what you are painting and which paint you’re using. These considerations are all inter-dependent so if you’re painting a wall with oil-based paint you’ll need one kind, while water-based paint on a skirting board requires another… Sounds complicated? We’re here to make it simple for you.
Type of bristles
The choice between natural and synthetic bristles is an important one. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to use natural or mixed bristle brushes for oil-based paints and synthetic brushes for water-based paints. Here’s why.
Natural bristles have flagging or splitting at the tips, which helps to produce a smooth finish and holds plenty of paint. They’re better suited to oil-based paints because the natural bristles are stronger and so stand up to the chemicals better, letting you apply the paint without leaving marks.
Synthetic brushes work best for water-based paint because they don’t draw moisture out of the water-based paint so it’s easier to apply than with a natural bristle brush and won’t leave tramlines and ruin your finish. You can get synthetic brushes in a range of different materials, such as nylon, polyester and a blend of the two and they’re easy to use and clean up well.
So you’ve chosen the bristle, now it’s time to pick the size. How big or small your brush is affects how well-suited it is for a particular job, and that means both the width of the bristle area and the thickness of the bristles. Thick brushes hold more paint to cover more ground before you need to reload, while thinner brushes are lighter and offer better control – so you’ve got to match your brush to the surface you’re painting.
Choose a brush that is wide enough to cover efficiently, yet narrow enough for control over the paint application. If you're painting a small area, a wide brush doesn't work well as you’ll have little control to apply it only where you want it. A 2-2.5 inch brush is ideal for cutting in, but if you're painting doors or skirting boards, you’d be best with a 1 inch brush. Large, flat areas, like walls and ceilings work best with a 5 inch brush so you can cover the surface faster.
Now you know what bristles and how big, but what about the shape? Paint brushes are available in angled and flat styles depending on what you need to paint.
Angled brushes work well for cutting in along edges and getting straight lines. A thin angled brush is great for when you need a particularly crisp line, while a thicker angled brush holds more paint and works well along ceilings. If you’re painting a large, flat surface, you’ll need a flat brush so you can get the job done quickly and easily.
Also bear in mind that the bristle ends affect how well the paint brush picks up paint and applies it to the painted surface. Flagged or exploded bristles on higher-end brushes let you pick up more paint with each dip. The split ends also help the paint go on smoothly without brush marks – so it could save you time in the long run to spend a bit more on your brush.
No matter what type of paintbrush you choose, focus on the construction quality for the best results. Look for dense bristles and test the brush by bending it back near the base; a solid paint brush springs back.
Choosing the right brush allows you to get a smooth, high quality finish on your surfaces. Before putting your brush to a wall you might want to read our 7 top tips for prepping a wall for paint.