Tips for Choosing the Right Paint Brush

August 20, 2020 6 min read

A contractor holding a paint brush after dipping in a paint tray with two gallons Benjamin Moore of paint.

First, and foremost, the better the quality of applicator tool - the easier the painting and the better the results. A quality brush will hold more paint, control dripping and spattering and apply paint more smoothly with minimal brush marks. A quality brush will give a long even release of paint, and the advantage, especially to a professional painter, of cut-ability (the ability to quickly and precisely strike a straight edge). Above all, a quality brush has durability which is measured in terms of bristle or filament shape and retention. Lesser quality brushes tend to lose filament shape quickly and lose filaments sooner.


Types of Filaments (Bristles):

Synthetic brushes can be used with all paints but are especially recommended for use with waterborne coatings (latex, acrylic). They perform well while painting smooth to rough surfaces and in hot or humid conditions. 

Natural bristled brushes are best used with oil-based paints, shellacs, varnishes, alkyd enamels, oil-based stains and polyurethanes. They are NOT recommended for latex/acrylic/waterborne paints because they will absorb water causing the bristle to become too soft for effective painting. Also, rough surfaces will damage the bristles on a naturally bristled brush. Synthetics last about 5 times longer on average. 

The most important part of the paintbrush is the working end. Performance is based on the engineering of the filament, which is invisible to the naked eye. The filament and how it is finished, or tipped, affects the feel of the brush and the finish the brush leaves. Quality synthetic brushes will have Tapered filaments. This helps paint flow for better coverage. They “pump the paint” out and down to the surface. It also gives shape to the brush for precise cutting in. If the brush is thick at the base but gets thinner as it comes to the point, then the brush is tapered. An un-tapered brush is thick from base to tip. A tapered brush will outperform an un-tapered brush. 


Types of Synthetic Brushes:

Nylon:  Softer synthetic filament. Very durable. Tips very precisely for a smooth finish. Lasts longer but will soften in hot weather or prolonged use.

Chinex:  Maintains stiffness for control. Resists heat/humidity.  Last 7 times longer than a natural bristle. Perfect balance of paint pick and release. Cleans easily.

Nylon/Polyester:  Combines the positive qualities of nylon and polyester filaments. Polyester used in short lengths to add stiffness and control. Nylon used in long lengths for precise tipping and smooth finish. Takes some time to clean. 

Polyester:  Does not absorb water, resists heat and softening. Does not last as long. Can’t be precisely tipped and tends to leave brush marks. Difficult to clean.


Types of Natural Brushes:

Black China Bristle: Stiffer natural bristled brush, excellent for high productivity. Perfect for alkyd enamels, varnish, brushing-lacquers, paints, and other coatings.

White China Bristle: Slightly thinner and softer than the black China bristle. Recommended for solvent-based stains, varnishes, marine coatings, and urethanes.

Degrees of Filament Stiffness

Many factors determine the type of brush that will provide the best results for the job-the paint being used, the environmental conditions, the surface itself, and user preference. Today’s manufacturers are making brushes in various blends, so the user can choose the feel they like the most.

Soft: Great for fine finish painting and interiors. Works best in low humidity and cooler temperatures. Extra flex and smoothness. Recommended for use with clears, stains, lightweight paints, fast-drying coatings.

Firm:  Designed for all-purpose interior/exterior painting. Just the right taper for even coverage. Stable touch with balanced flex. Recommended for use with most paints and primers especially acrylics and enamels. 

Extra Firm:  Durable for exterior use and rough surfaces. Sharp edge performs well in heat and humidity. Solid feel and superior stiffness. Recommended for use with thicker paints and primers especially low voc and other fast drying coatings.

Brush construction also plays a role in determining quality and price. Most professional brushes have wooden handles while consumer brushes typically have plastic handles. The professional handle is nailed in place (not just crimped) so it stays tight and firm under work-a-day conditions. The ferrule (metal band that serves to hold the bristle and handle together) is heavier, and usually non-rusting steel on the professional brushes. Most professional brushes also typically have the longer bristles. Most brushes (consumer and professional) have epoxy settings for the bristles. This is the best way anyone has found to keep the bristles in the brush.


Common Handle Styles

Standard:  Most common handle.

Thin rattail: Thinner version of a standard handle for extra control and lighter weight.

Wide Beavertail: Larger, thicker handle allows for a firm grip for good balance with larger brush heads.

Shortcut:  Compact handle for comfort and control especially in tight spaces.


Common Ferrules

Stainless Steel:  Professional quality, rust-resistant, very durable to help prevent denting, brushed finish.

Rust-resistant Steel:Professional quality, anti-corrosion, holds filament very securely, matte finish. 

Copper-coated Stainless Steel: Professional quality, rust resistant, bright copper finish for cosmetic appeal.

Brushed Steel: Semi-professional quality, allow coating, rust-resistant (but to a lesser degree), satin finish. 

Brass-plated Steel: Mid-line quality, enamel coating, durable, bright brass finish.

Tin-plated Steel: Economy Quality, bright finish.


Choosing the right Brush Size

Angle Sash is the most used brush. The angled end provides added control while edging, especially on vertical surfaces like around windows and doors. They are great for “cutting in” around trim and into corners. A thin angle sash is narrower and lighter for precise lines and small areas where added precision is necessary. AFlat Sashis designed with a straight end. This is useful when painting baseboards, moldings, or horizontal surfaces.

1” to 1.5” angle or flat sash: Hobbies and crafts. Window mullions. Tight corners and very detailed areas.

2” to 2.5” to 3” angle sash: Window frames, casings, door moldings, cutting in edges of walls and ceilings.

2” to 2.5” flat sash: Baseboards, cabinets, furniture, moldings, railings, shutters, gutters.

3” to 4” flat sash: Exterior siding, masonry, decks, fences, stairs, walls, ceilings, doors.

Tips on Brush Use:

Before starting to paint with a brush, work the bristles back and forth with your fingers to remove any loose bristles or dirt. Prepare the brush for painting by dipping the filaments only halfway into the paint. When the brush is full of paint, tap gently on the sides of the can to release excess paint. This assures maximum pick-up and transfer to the surface. Hold the brush properly by placing your fingers on the ferrule to help steady your hand. The handle should rest comfortably between the thumb and forefinger. Apply paint with the tips of the brush and not the sides. Every so often slap both sides of the brush against an unpainted area to release paint which has accumulated in the top of the brush. This will keep the brush from "fingering". Paint with steady even strokes lifting the brush gradually at the end of the stroke. Don't use the brush to stir the paint - a paint mixing stick does a better job and you don't want the brush to get overloaded with paint. Always clean the brush immediately after use. When storing the brush, avoid standing it on its bristle tips as the weight will cause the edge to bend and curl. If possible, put the brush back into its original package and store the brush hanging up.

Let us look at the features and benefits of the Brushes we carry in our store!

Corona Excalibur (Chinex)

  • Incredibly effective with acrylics, heavy-bodied waterborne, alkyd-modified latex coatings and primers, and all paints.
  • Deep flagg tips created in-house to resemble those of natural China bristles for super smooth paint finishing.
  • Hand formed chisel provides extra sharp, accurate cutting-in and preserves the smooth flagg tips.
  • Stainless steel ferrule.

Corona Cortez/Cool (Nylon/Polyester)

  • Nylon in the top edge for durability.
  • Polyester in the bottom for stiffness retention and extra flex.
  • Deep flagg tips created in-house to resemble those of natural China bristles for super smooth paint finishing.
  • Hand formed chisel provides extra sharp, accurate cutting-in and preserves the smooth flagg tips          
  • Combines the best elements of solid round tapered DuPont™ Tynex® Nylon and Orel® Polyester filaments for interior and exterior painting.
  • Offers superior paint application in oil and latex paints, inside and outside, winter-spring-summer-or fall.
  • Stainless steel ferrule

Corona Vegas (Nylon)

  • A softer synthetic filament, ideal for applying interior latex, enamels, eggshell, and flat paints.
  •  Deep flagg tips are created in-house to resemble those of natural China bristles for super smooth paint finishing.
  • Specially dyed solid-round-tapered DuPont filaments offer singular paint pick-up and release.
  • Soft, medium, and stiff filaments blended for proper flex and taper as required by the specific brush styles and sizes.
  • Great with water-based clear finishes.
  • Stainless steel ferrule.

Wooster Chinex FTP (Chinex)

  • Extremely durable 100% white DuPont Chinex®, maintains stiffness and control, easy to clean
  • Fuller, softer tip exclusively from Wooster, smooth paint release
  • Stainless steel ferrule

Wooster Alpha (Nylon)

  • Unique synthetic blend featuring Micro Tip filaments for a fine finish with all paints
  • Firm, full formulation for smooth paint flow and increased production
  • Stainless steel ferrule
  • Sealed wood handle

Wooster Lindbeck Ultra/Pro Firm (Nylon/Polyester)

  • Classic firm formulation of purple nylon and sable polyester, a top-seller for more than 15 years, provides exceptional cut-in control
  • Great for all medium-bodied coatings like acrylic paints or latex enamels, warm temperatures indoors or out, and whenever a painter wants a time-saving firm brush
  • Stainless steel ferrule

Wooster Silver Tip (CT Polyester)

  • White & silver CT (chemically tipped) polyester filaments for excellent leveling and smoothing
  • Very soft and thin filament. Flexible to help eliminate brush marks.
  • Stainless steel ferrule
  • Hardwood handle