By: Fix-It Club
©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Most paintbrushes have bristles, but some use a foam head.

With few exceptions, paintbrushes fall into two camps: natural bristle brushes, made of animal hair, and synthetic bristle brushes, usually made of nylon. At one time, the naturals were considered the best, but today the synthetics are every bit as good. Besides, you can't use a natural bristle brush with waterbase latex paints because water makes the bristles limp. Consequently, if you're painting with a water-thinned paint, your brush selection is already 50 percent easier.

Buy the best brushes you can afford. If you have to spend a few dollars more for top quality brushes, it will be worth it in the long run. Quality brushes make any painting task go more easily and quickly, and they can be thoroughly cleaned to look like new for the next job. With a little care, good paintbrushes will last for many years of home maintenance.


Regardless of price, you can distinguish between a good brush and a bad one by examining them closely at the store. Spread the bristles and inspect the tips. The more flags, or split ends, the better the brush and its paint-spreading capabilities. Rap the brush on the edge of a counter; a good brush may lose a few bristles, but a bad one will lose many. Find a brush with long, tapered bristles, particularly on narrow brushes. As a general rule, the bristle length should be about one-and-a-half times as long as the width of the brush (the exception is with wider brushes, often called wall brushes). A 11/2-inch-wide brush, for example, should have bristles about 21/4 inches long. Bristle length gives you flexibility to paint into corners and around trim. Finally, choose smooth, well-shaped handles of wood or plastic that fit in your hand comfortably.

Paintbrushes come in a wide variety of sizes and types and are necessary for those hard-to-reach spots a paint roller can't reach. Here are some of the main types of paintbrushes:

  • Wall. This type spreads the most paint over the most surface. A 4-inch-wide brush is a good choice, though 31⁄2- and 3-inch wall brushes may be easier to use.
  • Trim. A 2-inch-wide trim brush is ideal for woodwork and for "cutting in" around windows, doors, and corners before painting walls with a roller.
  • Sash. A sash brush has an angled bristle end. Available in 1-, 11⁄2-, or 2-inch widths, the angled sash brush makes close work easier -- especially when you're painting around windows. Used carefully, it reduces the need to use tape to protect window panes.

Not what you're looking for? Try these helpful articles:

  • House Painting: Ready to tackle a house painting project? Gather helpful tips on both interior and exterior painting in this home improvement article.
  • House Painting Tools: Before taking on any painting project, make sure you have the tools you'll need to do the job well. This article will help.
  • Paint Rollers: Find out when a paint roller is the best tool for the job on this page.
  • How to Use a Paintbrush: Now that you have a good-quality paintbrush, learn how to use it properly, only at HowStuffWorks.