When you're trying to decide among a dozen different paintbrushes at your local hardware store, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest model and be on your way. While that brush may cost half as much as more expensive versions, it's not likely to last for more than one use, and will usually provide inferior results.
Professional painters rely on quality brushes to provide a smooth and even finish, and to provide the best quality results in the shortest time. Those who try to paint with cheap brushes will find they waste a great deal of time picking shedded bristles off their walls or out of their paint tray. Cheap brushes also hold less paint, which means more time and effort involved in producing an even coating [source: This Old House].
This doesn't mean that the most expensive brush will always be the best quality brush available, however. Look for paintbrushes that have bristles of various lengths, and are tapered along the edges. This helps produce an even coat, and prevents striping [source: Crowder]. Check to see that the ends of the bristles are slightly split, which helps the brush hold more paint. Finally, run your hand across the bristles to make sure they're secure. If any fall out or are loose, look for a different brush [source: Ace Hardware].
Now that you know what to look for in a quality brush, it's important to understand how to choose the right type of brush for your project. Paintbrushes can be divided into three basic categories, based on the material of the bristles. Natural bristles are made of animal hair, which make them some of the stiffest brushes available. Because of their superior ability to hold their shape and stay stiff, they're best used when applying oil based paints and lacquers [source: Crowder]. Synthetic brushes are made from polyester or rayon. Polyester is the softer of the two, and works best when using latex or acrylic paints. Its soft texture provides a smooth finish, making it the best choice for any indoor painting jobs. Nylon brushes are slightly stiffer, and are best for rough surfaces or outdoor use [source: Old House Web].
But what if you're planning to paint several rooms? To get larger paint jobs done more quickly, check out the next section on rollers, our No. 4 best painting tool.