4 Important Factors to Help You Choose the Right Paintbrush

One of the most significant factors that will affect the outcome of every painting project you tackle will be the brush or roller cover you choose. The wrong tool will doom your efforts, leading to wasted time and frustration with the results. When you choose the right paintbrush, the paint will be applied more smoothly and evenly. 

Your time is worth something, too, and it’s not cost-effective to put time into a project if you do not use the correct tools. You may end up having to start all over again or being unhappy with the outcome. Whether you are a novice painter or have been doing it for years, you will want to make sure that you have the right paintbrush on hand to ensure that your job looks great when it is done.

choose correct paintbrush

Main Criteria for Picking a Paint Brush

One of the fastest ways to ruin a room’s new paint is to use the wrong brush when applying it. Not only will the wrong brush leave the space looking streaky, but it will make the job itself much harder. For instance, try using a polyester brush with oil-based paint. You’ll find the bristles turning limp and virtually impossible to work with.

When choosing paintbrushes, you’ll want to consider these tips before you decide.

1. Project Scope 

The size of the room or space is key when choosing one or many paintbrushes. Are you painting an entire wall or entryway? Does your space just need a touch-up? The area being painted will help lead you to the type of paintbrush you’ll need.

Paintbrushes can range in width from a quarter inch to five inches or larger. Choosing the right size brush is based on the size of the surface you are painting and the degree of detail on that surface. If you are painting a broad, featureless expanse like a door, paneling, or a cabinet, you will want to use a wider brush. If you are painting window trim, crown molding, or chair rails, then look for a brush just a bit narrower than the width of that trim.

Here are a few good tips when choosing the best brush width:

  • Small trim and window – 1 to2 inch width
  • Doors and cabinets – 3 inch width
  • Large flat areas – 4 to 5 inch width

A smaller size brush is easier to control, while a larger size brush holds more paint and gets the job done faster.

2. Type of Paint

The surface you are painting will dictate the type of paint required. The brush chosen will depend on the paint used.  This is one factor that, if ignored, your paint project will not end well. 

Paintbrushes come in two main bristle types, natural and synthetic. An oil-based paint works well with natural bristle brushes. These bristles are made from animal hair.

Natural bristle brushes are used for wood stain, varnish, urethane, and enamel-based paints.

Bristles with split ends allow the brush to hold more paint and release it evenly. These brushes are the best option for oil-based paints, stains, and sealers. They readily absorb water and can quickly become limp. Natural bristle brushes are not a good choice for water-based paints.

For latex paint, a synthetic bristle brush would be the best choice.  Synthetic bristles are made from nylon, polyester, or a combination of both. They work well with water-based latex paint, acrylic, and alkyd paints. These bristles are stiffer than natural animal hair and do not absorb water. They’re best used for water-based paints and stains. They will offer great coverage and a smooth finish.

You will also find that bristles vary in their degree of softness or stiffness. Brushes are usually marked as soft or stiff. Softer bristles are a good choice for stains and varnishes.

The softness of natural bristles compared to synthetic bristles is the main reason natural bristle brushes are recommended for varnishes, urethanes, and oil-based paints in general. These paints will dry with distinct and undesirable brush ridges if stiff bristles are used in their application. However, if you are cutting around trim or painting an intricate molding, a stiffer brush will give you more control over the paint.

3. Detail of Painted Surfaces

Another consideration is whether the brush has bristles cut blunt, straight across and parallel to the ferrule, or cut on an angle. The shape of a brush bristle can also affect the overall look of the finished project.

Use a straight cut brush for flat surfaces without detailed molding and when you will not need to cut in close to another painted area, trim, or any other fine work. Choose an angled brush to cut around trim when preparing a wall for being painted with a roller, for moldings with details and shaping, or when you need to paint up an edge.

4. Results Desired

The quality of the tools you use is just as important as your painting technique. Good quality brushes will cost more than standard grade brushes. Higher quality paintbrushes have bristles that are flagged, meaning the end of each bristle has split ends. They are designed to grip paint better and leave fewer brush marks on your surface. 

Don’t try to save a few dollars with your paintbrushes, especially for larger areas that are noticeable. Using a top-notch brush for a project will make a huge difference. If you want a smooth finish, you’ll need to invest accordingly.  Though it may be more economical to buy cheaper brushes, great quality brushes will last longer with proper cleaning and storage.

A cheaper brush will work fine for projects that don’t require a high degree of finish. Quick touch-ups or small paint jobs may look just fine. You can even use a wide inexpensive brush to apply deck stain or sealant with good outcomes.

Make Your Brushes Last

A properly cared for brush can last for multiple projects. Clean brushes after each use to make them last. Foam brushes and cheap brushes can be thrown away after they are used.  Quality paint brushes can get many uses out of them if they are properly cleaned after each use.  

If the paint has been applied correctly with the brush, no paint should ever be in the brush’s belly. Only half of the bristles should contain paint.

The type of solvent you will use to clean your brush depends on the type of paint you are using. The best guide is to follow the paint manufacturer’s directions on how to clean your paintbrush. These instructions are usually marked on the paint can.

Water-Soluble Paints

If your brush has latex or another paint type that is water-soluble, a specially made brush detergent can be used to clean the brushes. Regular dish detergent will effectively remove the paint from the bristles as well and is much less expensive. 

Be sure to clean as high up into the bristle as possible. Push the brush down on a surface while rinsing with warm water, forcing the bristles to splay. Use a sponge with a light-scrubbing surface to rub the bristles, removing any caked-on paint. Then rinse, rinse, and rinse again.  If you paint often, you may want to purchase a brush comb, which is a specialized tool with wide-set metal teeth designed to separate the bristles of a paintbrush while you clean it.

Oil-Based Paint

If you’re using oil-based paint, swirl the brush in a cup of paint thinner or lacquer thinner for 30 seconds, then wipe the brush on the side of the cup. You will likely have to repeat this process a few times until you don’t see any paint coming from the brush. Do a final wash with soap and water, shake the brush out, let it dry, and store it in the sleeve it came in.

Shake the brush a few times to align the bristles and hang to dry so that air can circulate the bristles. This helps the brush to dry quickly and correctly.  Once dry, store your brushes in the sleeve they came in, so that the bristles remain flat and protected. Keep the cardboard covers with which costlier brushes are sold and put them back on for storage.

If properly cared for you will get many services from a good brush. Taking the time to clean and store them properly is important to their longevity.

Trust The Painting Pros

Choosing the perfect paintbrush is just one of many steps to a quality paint job. Proper technique, training, knowledge, and expertise all play into the results you will achieve. Why do a so-so job yourself when you can get perfect results by hiring the best professionals in your area?

Painting your home or business can be daunting. If you don’t have the time, expertise, or desire, let the pros do it for you. Our skilled and competent painting contractors at The Painting Pros are always ready to face a challenge. No job is too big or too small for our team to handle. We have extensive knowledge in the field; therefore, you can rest assured that your painting projects are in great hands when you choose us.

Schedule a service call with a professional painter today!

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