How to choose the right paintbrush

Whether you’re painting for pleasure or for renovation purposes, choosing the right brush makes all the difference in the finished product. This know-how guide will help you make an informed choice.

Choose the right paintbrush
How to choose the right paintbrush

Buy the best brushes

As a rule, buy the best brushes you can afford.

  • They will do a better job and, with care, can be reused many times.
  • Quality paintbrushes have hardwood handles and flagged or split-bristle tips that hold more paint.
  • Their bristles are anchored at the top with metal or plastic spacers inside a metal ferule. They are tapered at the bottom to deliver a sharp paint edge.

Less-expensive brushes may have plastic handles, unflagged bristles and blunt ends.

  • Their bristles may be anchored or spaced less securely and be coarser and stiffer-textured, producing more noticeable brush-stroke marks.

The choice between the types of bristles

The choice between synthetic and natural bristles should depend on the type of paint you are using.

  • Synthetic or nylon brushes are best suited to water-based paints because they do not absorb water and they maintain consistent stiffness throughout.
  • Natural-bristle brushes are recommended only for oil-based paints — they absorb the water from latex paints and turn limp, making it difficult to load a brush with paint or keep an edge.
  • For general home painting or decorating, you will need at minimum a sash brush, a trim brush and a broader wall brush.

Brush options

  1. Radiator brush: Reach into crevices, such as radiator fins, with this brush, distinguished by its angled design and longer handle.
  2. Wall brush: Use a 7.6 to 10 centimetre (three to four inch) flat brush as an alternative to a roller when painting large interior wall spaces.
  3. Sash brush: Use a long-handled, angled bristle brush to do sashes and other areas where you want tight control.
  4. Trim brush: Use 7.6 centimetre (three inch) straightedge brushes for doors, wainscoting, window frames and cutting in along edges.


While traditionalists may be happy to do all their painting with brushes, rollers can reduce by half the time required for painting large spaces.

The main elements needed for roller painting are:

  • a metal roller frame with handle
  • a disposable textured roller cover or sleeve
  • a paint tray that hooks onto the shelf of a stepladder.

Roller covers come in various materials, from lamb’s wool to synthetics, and in 0.6 centimetre to 2.5 centimetre (¼ inch to one inch) deep naps.

  • For latex paints and a smooth finish, a nylon sleeve with a one centimetre (½ inch) nap is a good all-round choice.
  • Specialty rollers include a 7.6 centimetre wide (three inch) trim tool, and doughnut or coneshaped rollers for cutting in right-angle corners and deeply indented moldings.

Time-saving paint applicators

  • Small foam brushes are ideal for making quick touchups to cover marks and small repairs. Dip one into the paint can, apply the paint and discard the brush when you are finished.
  • Doughnut rollers do a fast job of cutting in along vertical corners of room walls. Also use this handy tool where the ceiling and wall meet, if they are painted in the same colour and finish.

Following these guidelines will aid in finding the right paintbrush for your perfect project.

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