How To Choose The Brush For Pro-Like Finish

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Painting your home is easiest and cost efficient way to transform and customize your space. One factor that is significant to end result – for better or worse – is the brush or roller you use.

Brush is just a brush, right? Wrong. A huge mistake if you think that way. A wrong tool and all your efforts are doomed and you are frustrated with end result. And with right implement in your hands, your painting project will go smoothly and the end result will have higher chances of giving a look of professional finish.

A quality brush is as important to consider as quality paint. A high quality brush can hold more paint and applies it evenly giving you a smooth finish with less effort and if properly cared for, can be used over and over again.

How to Choose the Correct Brush for Your Project

Paint brushes come in various shapes and sizes, each with different purpose in mind. Choosing a paintbrush requires a good understanding of what each brush does and what your project requires. Are you painting large cabinet faces or are you cutting in around a windowsill? You’ll also need to consider the paint you’ll be using, the cost and the finish you want.

Brush size

The first in the criteria of choosing the right brush would be the size of the brush: the width and length of the overall brush as well as the length of the bristles in proportion to the total length.

The brush size depends on surface you are painting and degree of detail on that surface. For a featureless broad surface such as door, paneling or cabinet, wider brush will do the trick. If you are painting window or door trim, crown molding, you will need a brush with narrower width than a trim. The majority of your paint jobs will require a brush from 1” – 4“in width. As you increase the width of the brush, you compromise control and precision.

The smaller 1”-2” brushes, called as angular sash brushes, are best for window trim and detailed jobs and cutting in corners and edges. Thin angled sash brushes have slanted bristles. An angled sash brush has bristles that are cut at an angle and used for painting trim and around windows. Angular sash brush sometimes referred to as cutting brushes, makes it easier to paint a clean line. A thin angled sash brush has a thinner profile and slanted bristles and is ideal for more delicate work.

Medium sized 3” brushes, called trim or flat sash brushes are useful for doors and cabinets with flat trim or non –paneled doors. Bristles are straight across

And lastly, large 4” brushes, known as wall brush, are thick flat brush that holds a larger amount of paint and work best for any large, wide area, like sections of wall or plywood, floors, walls and ceilings.

Bristle types and paint choice

Your paint choice also determines which bristle would be the right choice. For a latex based paint, only use brushes made with synthetic bristles. Polyester brushes are best for latex paints. These brushes hold their shape and stiffness in any paint and apply paint smoothly and evenly. Blended nylon/polyester brushes have nylon’s durability and polyester’s shape retention  and are easy to clean and work well with all types of latex paints.

Natural bristles made with animal hairs are best for oil based paints, varnishes, shellac, polyurethane, wood stain and other oil base finishes and provides smoother finish. Never use natural bristles for latex paints, as they will soak up the water and leave your brush limp and unable to hold paint.

Inexpensive foam brushes are used for quick projects—touchup, for example—and are usually not worth the time it takes to properly clean them.


Other things to consider in choosing the right brush are thickness and handle design. Sash brushes are designed to be twirled in your hand as you paint.  They use rat tail handles (round) or sash handles (long and oval-shaped).  Beaver tail handles are designed to be held in your fist as you paint across long surfaces, like siding.  The more detailed the painting job, the more maneuverable the handle should be. Thicker brushes carry more paint (fewer trips to the paint can) but are heavier.  If you want a lighter brush, look for a thinner version. With all those choices, the only one that really matters is how it feels. Get a handle that feels comfortable in your hand.


Cost is a relative thing.  Good quality brushes will cost more than standard grade brushes. At times, even the cheapest possible brush will work just fine—quick touchup projects are such a case, as are small jobs that do not require a high degree of finish.  Another good example of a project for which you can use a cheap brush is applying deck stain and sealant. There’s always a tradeoff between precision and coverage and it’s better to invest in multiple brushes to do the job they were designed for.  Also remember better quality brushes have bristles that are flagged at the toe meaning the bristle has split ends which grip paint better and assures a smooth paint release and finish.


Keep these tips in mind when you’re out shopping for brushed and you’ll make your next DIY painting project give a professional like finish.

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