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Picking the Right Paint Brush

Provider of staging services

Denise Sleeper, Jan 17 2021
Owner of Delta Home Staging & Redesign

I must admit that I get excited about a painting project. I spend hours looking at colour chips to pick out the perfect paint colour. I’m already imagining the new look and the crispness of the fresh new paint. Then reality hits. What paintbrush should I be using? Do I really need to buy a new one or can I use the brush from my painting job last year? Does size matter?

Choosing the right brush is key to great results. The right brush will save you time, money, reduce your frustration, and provide the best quality product. It’s like buying a good pair of shoes for running. You can run in your Keds, but having the proper shoe designed for running will make all the difference. You may also need more than one type of brush for a project. Trust me -- the investment in the right tools will pay off.

Here’s how to determine the brush (or brushes) you need for your next painting job.


What’s types of brush bristles are there?

There are two types of brush bristles:

  1. Synthetic brush bristles are made from nylon, polyester or a combination of nylon and polyester

  2. Natural brush bristles are made from animal hair


When do I use what type of brush?

Knowing when to use the right brush is very important.


  • Synthetic brushes can be used with all paints but are ideally suited for water-based latex/acrylic paints.

  • Natural bristled brushes are best used with varnishes, oil-based paints, shellacs, alkyd enamels, chalk paint enamel, furniture wax projects and polyurethanes. They are not recommended for use with water-based paints because the bristles will absorb the water and become too soft for painting

Does Size matter?

Yes. Different diameter brushes are meant for different applications. That being said, there can be individual preferences as to what size to use where. The general rule of thumb is the tighter or smaller the area you are painting, the smaller the brush diameter. Here are some general guidelines for brush size:


  • 1"- 1.5" window mullions, tight corners, detailed areas, crafts

  • 2” – 3” baseboards, door mouldings, cutting in edges of walls and ceilings, railings, shelving, window frames, cabinets, furniture

  • 4”- 6" large, flat areas like ceilings and walls, doors, fences

What brush shape should I be using?

There are many shapes to choose from. Here are the two basic shapes:

  • Square - the ends of the bristles are cut square and are best for painting large flat areas (walls, doors, decks, etc.)

  • Angled/Sash – the ends of the bristles are cut at an angle to make it easier to apply paint to window trim, any detail work or hard to reach areas

Do I need to spend a lot on brushes?

You will get what you pay for when it comes to buying a brush. Choosing a high-quality brush gives you the following benefits:

  • Better Finish: provides a smoother and fuller coverage to give you that perfect finish.

  • Saves time (& reduces frustration): the application of the paint will be easier, and the coverage will be more consistent

  • Saves money – you will use less paint

  • Long Term Investment: A quality brush will last longer so the money you spend in the short term is a great long term investment

How do I clean my brushes?

Cleaning your brushes properly will extend the life span significantly. If you are using an
oil-based paint, then use mineral spirits or turpentine to clean the brush bristles. If you are using water-based paint (acrylic or latex), then clean the brushes with warm water or mild dish soap. Dry your brush thoroughly and store it for a future painting job.

Now there are rollers and sponges and even more types of brushes, but this gives you a good start on picking out the right quality brush for your next exciting paint project.

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