Paint Brushes

Be prepared to take on any painting project with a variety of paint brushes

Paint Brushes

Not all paint brushes are equal – bristle materials are available in synthetic or natural fibers, and there is a range of brush sizes and angles, all designed for different purposes. A top-quality brush will hold more paint, streak less, lend a better finish and last longer. Look for a brush with metal bands, known as ferrules that are attached to the brush with screws or rivets and multiple spacers separating the bristles to keep them in place and create large paint reservoirs. This guide highlights the different types of paint brushes available, along with tips on their care so you can ensure an extended life of professional results.

Types of Paint Brushes

The two main types of brushes are made from either natural or synthetic fibers.

Natural Fibers

Natural brushes are softer than synthetic and perform better when paired with oil-based paints.

Black China

  • Recommended for oil-based paint, stain
    and varnish

Ox Hair Blend

  • Recommended for oil-based paint and
  • Produces the smoothest finish of all
    natural bristles, but more expensive

White China

  • Recommended for oil-based paint, stain,
    varnish, polyurethane, lacquer and shellac
  • Produces a smoother finish than a black China brush

Synthetic Fibers

Synthetic brushes offer more versatility and can be used with all paint types.


  • Recommended for water-based paint; most can also be used with oil-based paints
  • Not recommended for applying shellac or

Nylon/Polyester blend

  • Recommended for water- based and
    oil-based paint
  • Bristles vary in stiffness; softer bristles will
    produce a smoother finish


  • Can be used for water-based or oil-based
    paint and stain, as well as varnish, lacquer
    and shellac
  • Stiff bristles tend to leave brush strokes

Brush sizes and shapes

Most paint brushes are between 1 and 4 inches wide and are available with straight or angled edges. Each shape is designed for a specific paint job.

1-inch (straight edged or angled)

  • Corners or window sashes
  • Edging, trim and windowsills
  • Tight corners, fine detail work

2-inch (straight edged or angled)

  • Woodwork and trim
  • Framework and molding
  • Cutting into corners

3-inch (usually straight edged)

  • Large flat surfaces
  • Cabinets, doors, beams, fences, stairs

4-inch (usually straight edged)

  • Very large surfaces
  • Ceilings, walls, siding, floors

There are more job-specific brushes designed for hard-to-reach spots, including radiator brushes for painting old-fashion cast-iron radiators, and stucco brushes.


Taking proper care of your brushes is just as important as buying the right brush, so you can continue using them time and time again.

  • Clean your brushes in warm, soapy water as soon as you’re finished painting, but do not leave them soaking.
  • Store brushes in their packaging to help them retain their shape when not in use.
  • If possible, hang your brushes to dry, or lay them flat.