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How To Choose the Right Paint Brush

Does it matter which paint brush you use? Absolutely! It may seem that a brush is a brush; but there is more to consider. The quality of your paint job and how hard you have to work are affected by your choice of paint brushes.

There are three basic distinctions for brushes: bristle type, size and quality. Each factor is important, and we'll explain why.

Bristle Type

There are three basic types of paint brushes. Brushes can be made with natural bristles, synthetic bristles or foam.

Natural bristles typically are Chinese (hog's hair) or ox hair. They are best for oil based paints, and should never be used with water based (latex) paints. The water in latex paints is absorbed by the natural bristle and causes the brush to swell up.

Synthetic bristles include nylon and nylon/polyester blend. This brush can be used for oil or water based paints. A synthetic bristle is the proper choice for water based (latex) paint.

Foam brushes can be used for oil based paints or water based paints. They work best with thin products, like stain. They wear out quickly and should be used as throw away, quick task brushes. You certainly would not want to paint a wall with a foam brush.

Brush Size

The larger the brush, the more paint it can hold. That makes painting a large area faster. It also makes the brush heavier, placing more strain on your arm. Smaller brushes allow greater control and are easier to hold.

A 4" brush is ideal for painting walls, a 2 1/2" brush is a good general brush and a 1" brush is ideal for narrow spaces. Don't try to use a wide brush turned sideways to paint a narrow strip; that will damage your brush. Use the proper width brush for the job.

Brush Quality

The quality of the brush is reflected in the price. A quality brush will hold more paint, making the job go more quickly. A quality brush will provide smoother, brush mark free results. Finally, with care, a quality brush will last a good long time.

Quality bristles have flagged (split) ends which yield fewer brush marks. A quality brush should have tipped ends, meaning that the lengths vary. This also results in smoother results.

The metal ferrule holds the bristles securely in place. A quality brush will have a rust-proof ferrule with small wooden spacers between the bristles to create paint reservoirs. Cheap brushes will rust, loses bristles and typically have a large spacer that reduces the number of bristles.

Most painters choose an unfinished wood handle because they are easy to hold. Although, whatever feels comfortable to you is the way to go.

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