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How to Choose the Right Paintbrush

A nylon brush works with either latex or alkyd oil-based paints.Jill Battaglia / Shutterstock.com

A nylon brush works with either latex or alkyd oil-based paints. Natural bristles should only be used with alkyd oil-based paint.

If you are using alkyd paint or a finish that requires thinner in the cleanup process, choose brushes with natural bristles. If you are applying latex paint or a finish that is water-based, choose brushes with synthetic bristles as natural bristles lose their integrity when wet.

Brushes made from polyester not only keep their shape in water, but they also hold up to humidity and heat. Brushes made with nylon will not wear out as readily, but they do not hold up as well when the temperature climbs.


From left to right: 2″, 1 1/2″, 1″ brushes

If you are painting an average room, all you should need is a 4-inch brush with a straight edge, a 1 1/2-inch brush for sashes, and a 2-inch brush for trim.

Check the bristles of your brush for proper "flagging" (like split ends in hair) and consistent bristles.©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Check the bristles of your brush. The more split ends, called “flagging,” the better.

When buying brushes, don’t skimp on quality because it will show in the results. Look for many different lengths of bristles that are split at the ends (this allows the brush to hold more paint), packed tightly, and secured into a wooden handle with epoxy, not glue.

Before purchasing, hold the brush as you would when painting. Make sure it is a comfortable weight. Fan the bristles to make sure there are no gaps, and “bounce” the tip of the brush to test for springiness.

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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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