how to choose paintbrush different types of paintbrushes home painting expert

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The Ultimate Guide To Choose The Right Paintbrush For DIY Home Painting

If you are looking to freshen up your home over the weekend, then you can’t go wrong with a simple DIY paint job in your home. In fact, you can finish repainting a few rooms (wall, baseboards, trim work, crown molding, etc.) in a day or two without too much hassle.

The only thing is that you need good quality painting tools, paint, and other supplies to ensure your paint job comes out looking as good as possible.

A high-quality brush is one of the most important parts of any DIY home painting project because a good quality brush will help you spread lots of paint in less time.

Plus, a quality paintbrush will reduce the chances of brush strokes in each layer of paint so your job will look like a professional painter painted your home.

So Many Paintbrushes To Consider

Now that you know how important it is to have a high-quality paintbrush for your painting project, it should be pretty easy to get yourself a paintbrush for your walls, baseboards, and trim work right? Not quite…

You may find yourself overwhelmed when you walk into your local Home Depot or Lowes and see a wall of paintbrushes staring you in the face. Even as a professional painter of over 10 years, it can be daunting to just find a paintbrush for your project.

I went into Lowe’s the other day to buy paint for a project and I was stunned by the number of paint brushes to choose from. The large aisle of paintbrushes with the different bristles, sizes, and other variables made me realize that most homeowners can get lost with the options and choose the wrong brush for their project.

how to choose the right type of paintbrush for diy painting projects home painting expert

To be honest, it’s almost too overwhelming. That’s why we will look at how to choose the right paintbrush for your DIY paint project!

What Bristle Should I Choose?

One of the first things that you need to think about when looking for the right paintbrush for your DIY painting project is what type of bristles you need. This might sound like an unimportant thing to think about, but in reality, the paintbrush that you choose will result in how smooth your final strokes are.

You need to pay close attention to the type of brush bristles that you choose based on what you are painting and the type of paint or stain that you plan to use.

  • Natural bristle brush: This paintbrush is made from animal hairs like ox, camel, or horse hair. These natural hair bristles tend to be coarse so they tend to soak up a lot of moisture. This means that, you should only use them for oil-based paints, varnish, and decorative chalk paint since you need to load your brush with lots of products in these situations.
  • Synthetic brushes: This type of brush is ideal for latex and acrylic paint since it won’t absorb lots of water. These bristles are made from high-quality plastic like polyester and nylon/polyester blend. 99% of the time you will need a synthetic brush for your painting project.
  • Foam brush: Foam brushes should not be used on walls since they will leave streaks. However, you can use foam brushes to paint furniture, cabinets, and other staining projects like kitchen cabinets.
Type Of Bristle What It’s Used For
Natural bristle brush

Made of natural horse hair, but also can be made from ox and camel hair. This type of bristle is very coarse so it will leave a brush stroke, but it holds lots of product. Ideal for stains and oil-based paints.

I recommend this brush for staining


Synthetic bristle brush

This type of bristle is made from synthetic bristles like polyester and nylon/polyester blend. This type of brush is ideal for acrylic and latex-based paint. You will likely need this type of paintbrush if you are painting trim work around the interior/exterior of your home.

I recommend this brush for trim work


Foam paint brush Foam brushes are typically only used for furniture and some staining projects. I like to use foam brushes when finishing kitchen cabinets but never use them on walls since this brush can streak.

As you can see, you will need to choose the type of paintbrush based on what you plan to paint and the type of paint or stain that you want to use.

You will want to choose a natural bristle if you are working with stains, but use a synthetic brush if you are using acrylic or latex paint (which you are likely using in a DIY painting project around your home).

Different Types Of Sash Brushes

Now that you know the type of bristles that you need to buy, you should consider whether you need a flat paintbrush or an angled brush. There are some minor differences between the two types of brushes, and each one is used in specific situations.

  • Flat brushes: A flat bristle paintbrush has a long narrow tip to the brush bristles. This shape is ideal for painting large areas since it holds more paint than an angled brush.
  • Angled sash brush: An angled brush has the bristles angled at a 14-degree angle on the tip of the brush. This angle gives you greater flexibility when working, and is ideal for cutting in walls and painting trim work. You will likely need to use this type of brush if you are painting trim work around the interior or exterior of your home.
  • Round brushes: This type of brush is typically only used when painting a decorative wall or home improvement project. This type of brush has a rounded sash that can be used for decorative work on accent walls or furniture.

flat sash paintbrush vs. angled paintbrush home painting expert

As you can see, different types of sash paint brushes should be used for different situations. In general, if you plan to paint a large surface area (around 2 square feet) then you should use a flat sash paint brush.

I recommend shying away from large flat brushes if you are painting a wall in your home. You should be able to use a paint sprayer for exterior walls, while you should be able to get most of your interior wall work done with a paint roller.

99% of the time you will just need a 2.5” synthetic angled sash brush to paint the trim work, baseboards, and window or door frames in your DIY painting project.

What Size Brush Should I Choose?

Once you choose the type of paint bristle you want, you need to choose the brush size based on what you want to paint. There are three paintbrushes that you can use, and you will need to choose the right paintbrush based on the project that you are completing.

  • Large brush (4” or more): Large paintbrushes are generally used for large areas to paint your walls. This type of brush is ideal for painting walls, covering large areas of the ceiling, or paneling that you might not be able to use a paint roller on.
  • Medium brush (2-3”): A medium brush is ideal for cutting in walls and trim work around a room. This is the most popular type of home painting brush is a 2.5-inch angled paint brush since it is the easiest type of brush to cut in paint and holds a good amount of product for each stroke.
  • Small brush (1.5” or smaller): As their name suggests, small paintbrushes have a small head and should not be used for large areas. Instead, this type of paintbrush is used for intricate detail work where larger brushes would not be used.
Size Best Used For
4-6” Perfect for painting large flat surfaces like a garage door or hallway. You can choose a flat interior paintbrush to help paint larger surface areas where a mini-roller might not be an ideal choice.
3-4” You should choose a 3-4″ flat brush to help paint bookshelves, kitchen cabinets, and other medium-sized surfaces.
2-2 ½” This size interior paintbrush is perfect for helping paint narrower surfaces like crown molding and doors and even makes painting baseboards easier. This sized paintbrush is ideal for more intricate work because the paintbrush size won’t limit your movement and angles as a larger interior paintbrush can.
1-2” Smaller paintbrushes are an ideal choice if you are working on a project that demands more detail like fine trim work or intricate details on cabinets and woodwork.

As you can see, there are several size brushes that you can use for your painting project. I recommend getting a 2.5” angled nylon brush for cutting in a wall or for working on trim work.

This size and style of the brush are what you will likely use for any painting project, but you might use a large natural brush if you are staining a deck.

When Should I Use A Roller vs. Paint Brush?

Some beginner DIYers may not know when to use a paintbrush or when they should use a paint roller. I recommend that you use a paint roller whenever possible when painting a flat surface like a wall (interior or exterior) because it eliminates the risk of unsightly brush strokes.

I like to use a standard 9” roller for all of my interior wall painting. Here are some points to consider when you need to decide between using a paint roller or a paintbrush for your project:

Paintbrushes Paint Rollers
  • Best used for cutting in walls, and painting trim work.
  • Can be used on cabinets and other items that have textured surfaces.
  • Choose between synthetic or natural bristles based on your project.
  • Ideal for painting large flat surfaces like walls, ceilings, and cabinets.
  • Roller covers hold a lot more paint than a paintbrush so you can cover more surfaces quickly.
  • Choose the correct nap for your paint roller cover based on your project.

Final Tips To Help You Choose The Right Paint Brush For Your Project

Now that you know the different types of paintbrush bristles, what the different sizes brushes are used for, and when you should use a paintbrush, I wanted to provide you with some final tips to think about when choosing a paintbrush:

  • Ensure the paintbrush flexes at the tips when you press it against a surface. This will ensure that the paintbrush makes a good connection with the surface you want to paint so you spread the paint evenly with each stroke.
  • Use a paintbrush with “flagged” tips (a different color than the other part of the bristles). This will mean that the paintbrush was pre-treated by the manufacturer to spread paint more evenly.
  • Bristles on the paintbrush should be densely packed on the handle. This will help you hold more paint so you can cover more surfaces with each stroke since more bristles will hold more paint.
  • Make sure you are not able to see the handle of the paintbrush when you pull the bristles apart. A high-quality interior paintbrush will have the bristles packed to help hold more paint, but a low-quality brush will not have many bristles in the center of the paintbrush. The more bristles your interior paintbrush has will allow you to hold more paint and cover more surfaces with each stroke.
  • Choose a paintbrush that has an unfinished wood handle. This type of interior paintbrush will help you maintain a good grip when painting walls or detail work, even if you have paint or other liquids on your hands. A paintbrush with a plastic handle can cause you to lose your grip, and this can lead to mistakes like painting the ceiling or mistakenly adding paint to the trim.

Wrapping Up How To Choose The Right Paintbrush For Your DIY Project

There you have it!

Now you should have everything you need to know to choose the right paint brush for touch-ups or a full-blown home DIY painting project. Whether you are looking to paint a flat surface like a wall or kitchen cabinet, you will know what to look for and the differences between natural bristles and synthetic bristles, along with the best size of paint brush for almost any painting project.

I hope this blog post helps you the next time you go into Lowes or Home Depot, or you look for a paintbrush on Amazon. There are lots of choices and it can be overwhelming, but now you should be able to choose a brush in no time!


Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a professional painter with over 10 years of experience. I want to show homeowners tips, guides, and advice to save them time and money when painting their own home. I know it can be daunting to take on a painting project yourself, but it doesn't have to be. With the right information and some guidance, you can easily paint your home and save money in the process.


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