Different Types of Paintbrushes

Paint Brush

For those that don’t know, I remodeled my house from the ground up. I even built an addition onto the house. I’ve built walls, installed lines and wires, put in flooring, and the list goes on. I’ve done a lot of construction, a lot of it was hard. However, for me, none of it is as hard as all the painting that comes at the end. I hate it. I don’t have the patience for it, and I was never happy with how things looked…until I finally learned about the different types of paintbrushes and how to use them.

I want to share with you what I’ve learned about paintbrushes so you can avoid trial-and-error. We’ll discuss these topics to help you understand the different types of paintbrushes:

I hope at the end of this article you have more confidence in your painting abilities. So, let’s jump in.

Types of Paintbrush Bristles

Natural vs nylon. Is polyester better than a blended? There is no one kind of brush bristle that is the best for all applications. Instead, each bristle type handles each kind of paint differently, and using the right one has a tremendous impact on the final outcome of your painting project.

Natural Bristle Brushes

A natural bristle paintbrush is made from animal hair, usually boar or horse hair. Just like humans, animal hair splits at the end which allows the brush to hold more paint. In addition to holding more paint, it also spreads more evenly for a better finish. A natural bristle brush is great for oil base paints, varnishes, shellac, polyurethane oil-base, and clear coat finishes

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Polyester Bristles

If you are applying latex paint, polyester might be the way to go. A polyester bush is durable and best of all, it will not absorb moister. While they can be used for oil-based paint and stains, they are more suited for water-based paints.

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Nylon Bristles

Nylon is also good for water-based paints. A nylon paintbrush can be used for oil-based paints, but is not recommended. Nylon paintbrushes are also not recommended for lacquer or shellac.

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Blended Bristle Brushes

A blended paintbrush is a blend of polyester and nylon brushes. The pro to this type of paintbrush is that the two fibers together help maintain the shape of the brush. This is the brush of choice for painting baseboard corners or projects where the brush can easily lose shape. You can use this for water or oil-based paints. You can also get this in a stiffer bristle which will hold more paint or a softer bristle which will provide a better finish.

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Brush Sizes

Brush size refers to the width of the brush, not the length of the bristle or handle.

  • 1″-2″ – This size brush is great for detail work, tight corners, cutting in edges of walls and ceilings, cabinets, baseboards, and small trim.
  • 3″ – This size paintbrush is great for glossy paints on doors and cabinets. A 3 in. paintbrush is also great for larger work areas.
  • 4″ – This is the largest common size you will find. This is great for large flat areas like a deck or floor. You can also use this size on walls, ceilings, or fences. Four inch brushes are commonly used for “wash” applications (ex. lime wash).

There are larger paintbrush sizes than four inch, but they are harder to find off the shelf. You might need to make a special order, and overall there are fewer options available for brushes larger than four inch. Unless a project calls for a specific size paintbrush, any of the standard sizes should work for your project.

Brush End Shapes

There are three standard edges to paintbrushes. The type of brush end you should use depends largely on the surface you are applying it to, technique, or final desired look and lay of the paint.

Square Paintbrush

A square paintbrush is where all the ends of the bristles are even. This is the choice when you are applying paint over a flat surface. This is a good paintbrush for painting…

  • Walls
  • Doors, cabinets, or tables
  • Base coat on canvas
  • Applying a “wash” layer

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Angled Paintbrush

Angled is exactly that, the bristles are cut at an angle which makes it easier to cut in corners. An angled brush is commonly used for…

  • Painting trim and cutting-in on corners
  • Blending and “feathering” paint

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Chisel Trim Paintbrush

This has a slant to the brush and are great for making crisp lines. They are also great for painting and cutting-in trim.

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Brush Bristle Styles

  • Wall – This is a thicker brush that holds more paint. Good for large surfaces.
  • Flat Sashes – Straight bristles and good for flat surfaces.
  • Trim – Flat brush which is also good for large surfaces, such as siding.
  • Angle Sashes – The bristles are slanted and hold more paint than the thin angle.  Extremely good for cutting in ceilings.
  • Thin Angle Sashes – Also has slanted bristles and a thin profile. Great for corners and when you have to cut in edges.

Care for Paintbrushes

Some paintbrushes are extremely expensive so you want to take care of them when you are using, storing, or cleaning them. Here are just a few tricks to keep your paintbrush in tip-top shape.

Tip for Multi-day Painting Projects

If you are going to paint tomorrow with the same paint, don’t worry about cleaning the brush. Wrap the brush airtight in cellophane and store on its side. When you come back the next day, just unwrap the brush and you are ready to go.

The paint will not dry on the brush. There are products that allow you to hang the brush in the paint overnight. For me, I find it easier to just wrap the brush and it’s all ready for tomorrow.

Tips for When Using a Paintbrush

Don’t Over Dip!

Never dip the bristles all the way into the paint. Only dip up to half of the bristle length in paint. If you go all the way to the top, that paint never makes it to your project. In fact, it will gum up the brush and make it hard to clean.

Don’t Mix Your Paintbrushes!

Never mix paintbrushes. If you are using a water-based paintbrush, have that as your water-based paintbrush. Don’t switch to using that brush with oil-based paints. It’s better to have a different brush dedicated to oil-based paints.

Tips for Cleaning a Paintbrush

  • Water Base – Clean with warm water.  Once you get most of the paint out, I use a little soap to help completely clean the brush.
  • Oil-Based Paints – When I use oil-based paints, I tend to toss the brush away because it’s a pain to clean. Just go buy whatever the manufacturer recommends, which is usually paint thinner.
  • Drying – Hang the paintbrushes with the bristles pointing down.  When you hang paint brush it helps the water dry completely and helps the bristles keep their shape.

Tips for Storing a Paintbrush

Never store paintbrushes on their tips.  Always lay them flat or hang them. If possible, store them in the manufacturer’s packaging.

Different Types of Paintbrushes Wrap-up

There are more details to paintbrushes, such as handle types and manufacturers. However, most of that comes down to preference. I believe understanding the different types of paintbrushes, their bristle types, shapes, size and style are the most important factors for improving your painting projects. So, I hope you learned something new today, and wish you luck on your next painting project.


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