Paint brushes are essential when it comes to decorating. From cutting in to laying off, no project is complete without having a paint brush handy. But how do you choose the best paint brushes for the job? After all, if you buy something that is low quality you could end up with paint spattering over your other surfaces or a paint brush that simply loses its bristles after just an hour of use (trust us, we’ve experienced this with many brands).
Let’s crack one myth straight away – you don’t need to fork out £££s on professional standard brushes to get a perfect finish at home. When looking for the best paint brushes, especially when it comes to DIY, you’ll want to find something that is precise, comfortable to hold, provides a great finish and doesn’t lose its bristles.
With that in mind, we’ve put together our knowledge of paint brushes and tried and tested some of the latest ones on the market to come up with this definitive guide. Read on to learn more.
Best Paint Brushes Overall: Harris Paint Brushes
Harris paint brushes are fantastic across the board but the Seriously Good Walls & Ceilings pack is the best when factoring in both quality and price.
This set of 5 paint brushes has a variety of sizes ranging from 0.5″ for intricate detailing to 2″ for painting more liberally. The synthetic bristles are backed up by Harris’ patented ‘No Loss’ technology which essentially means that your walls and ceilings aren’t going to be covered in bristle hairs after you’re finished painting. The level of precision offered by these brushes also makes Harris the best paint brush for cutting in.
One of my pet peeves when it comes to paintbrushes designed for use with emulsion is that they can become clogged up very easily and lose their shape which ultimately results in uneven application but having used these brushes on a few jobs recently I’ve not experienced this once.
The brushes were designed for emulsion use and thus are perfect brushes for any painting jobs that include interior walls and ceilings. Whilst this may be the case, they’re still suitable for a variety of different paints and can be used when painting skirting boards and interior doors.
The combination of a plastic handle, stainless steel ferrule and synthetic bristles make these brushes very easy to clean assuming you clean them straight away with water.
Sizes: 1 x 0.5″, 1 x 1″, 1 x 1.5, 2 x 2″
Best for: Walls and Ceilings
Runner up: Hamilton
These Hamilton paint brushes are great quality but more importantly have a natural wooden handle. Wooden handles typically offer more comfort to the user over long periods of time and is the reason many professionals in the trade use them.
Aside from the comfortable handles, the bristles are of a high standard and are tapered which means that application is easier with each brush stroke when compared to typical, cheap, unbranded brushes.
They’re easy to use, relatively easy to clean and the variety of sizes means they’re suitable for jobs beyond just walls and ceilings. They’re specifically made for use with water based paints but there’s no reason why you can’t use them with other paints such as thicker glosses.
Sizes: 1 x 1″, 2 x 1.5″ and 2 x 2″
Best for: Water based paint
Best Paint Brushes for Gloss: Harris Woodwork Gloss Essentials
Back to Harris again, this time with their Woodwork Gloss Essentials which are, in our opinion, the best paint brushes for gloss.
The bristles are made out of soft synthetic filaments. This makes them ideal for getting a great finish when working with gloss paint. Furthermore, the bristles come in 4 different sizes so you can pick and choose which brush to use depending on the area you’re working on. They’re best suited to painting interior woodwork such as skirting boards and doors.
Like all synthetic brushes with plastic handles, the brushes are easy and comfortable to hold. You also get the added benefit of them being easy to clean.
You might get some bristle hair loss but overall, they hold up really well over multiple uses.
Sizes: 1 x 0.5″, 1 x 1″, 1 x 1.5″, 2 x 2″
Best for: Gloss paint
If You’re Looking for Professional Paint Brushes: Purdy Paint Brushes
OK, now for the showstopper: Purdy paint brushes. These really are the crème de la crème and really, if you’re only going to be painting the odd wall or two, you should save your money and get something cheaper.
So why are these brushes so good and consequently so expensive? Every single Purdy paint brush is created by hand with such superior craftsmanship that you’re almost guaranteed to get a perfect brush every time. They really are the best professional paint brushes around.
The bristles are a blend of DuPont Chinex and Orel. This ensures you get better paint lift, a super smooth application and an easy job when it comes to cleaning up. The beavertail wooden handle is lightweight and smooth to hold and is perfect if you’re working on long jobs. The bristles also last around 5x longer than a typical brush (which goes some way to explaining why they’re 5x more expensive too!)
I’ve been using my set of Purdy paint brushes on various jobs almost every other day for over 4 months and my top tip to keep them in tip-top condition would be to rinse them with water as soon as you’re finished then pop them into a jar of diluted Viro-Sol before rinsing them off again.
They’re also incredibly versatile and can be used with any paint on any interior or exterior surface. Talk about an all-rounder.
Bristle: Synthetic (DuPont Chinex & Orel)
Sizes: 1 x 1.5″, 1 x 2″ and 1 x 3″
Best for: Everything
Best Paint Brushes for Fence: Ronseal Fence Life Brush
When looking for the best paint brushes for a fence, you don’t need to look much further than Ronseal. Ronseal have a variety of high quality paints and accessories associated with fences. This list includes paint sprayers and fence paint so it’s only natural that their Fence Life Brush tops this category.
Designed for use on exterior wood, this 4″ brush is perfect for covering large areas quickly which is just about the single most important feature you need!
It’s also great for picking up paint and providing a nice, smooth coverage.
Best for: Fences
Best Masonry Paint Brush: RoDO
If you’re using a brush to paint masonry, you’re going to want something that is durable, has high bristle density and is bigger than your standard paint brushes. It’s for this reason that we’d recommend RoDO.
This particular masonry brush is designed with a high bristle density. This makes it perfect for achieving a smooth coverage on masonry. The extra bristles also mean you can hold more paint which ensures you’re not leaving patches in areas you’re going over.
I’ve always struggled to get on with masonry paint brushes and have on more than one occasion ended up using something that spatters paint onto window frames so finding this ProDec masonry brush has been a god-sent.
Bristle: Blend of Natural and Synthetic
Best for: Masonry
It should go without saying that for bigger jobs, you’re probably going to need a bigger brush.
If you’re painting surfaces such as masonry, you’ll want to go with something that’s around 4 inches. Moving down, brushes in the 3-4 inch range are more suitable when painting flat surfaces like kitchen cupboards or doors. You should also a 3 inch brush if you’re cutting in walls and ceilings.
For skirting boards, window frames and smaller areas, anything under 3 inches will work well. Smaller brushes are especially better when painting more intricate areas such as around electrical sockets or light switches.
Best Way to Clean Paint Brushes
Some paint brushes will be easier to clean than others. For example, water based paints are a breeze whilst thicker glosses and oil based paints might be a bit more of a hassle.
Cleaning Water Based Paints
Cleaning water based paints off of your paint brush is usually as simple as running them under flowing water. If that doesn’t do the trick, add some soap into the mix.
Cleaning Oil Based Paints
Cleaning oil based paints off your brushes with water simply won’t work. As they don’t mix, you’ll simply have the paint repelling the water. So how do you clean oil based paints? Using a paint thinner is usually the best approach here. By soaking them in paint thinner for 5-10 minutes, the paint can essentially be blotted off of the brush by dapping the bristles on paper towels.
Oftentimes, using a paint brush will get you a superior finish when compared to using a roller or paint sprayer. But they’re not only useful for painting entire surfaces. Cutting in or laying off are both important parts of painting and having the best paint brushes for the job can make all the difference.
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Want to learn more about different ways you can paint? Feel free to take a look at our recent “best paint sprayer” article!