How to Pick the Perfect Paintbrush

<h1>How to Pick the Perfect Paintbrush

How to Pick the Perfect Paintbrush

So often, painters agonize over the quality and price of their paints. They know that a good, quality paint can make the difference between an average painting and the next masterpiece. However, expert and novice painters alike often forget the key role that paintbrushes play in creating beautiful art. Paint brushes are the vessel that carries the paint to—and applies—the paint to your canvas. Therefore, knowing how to pick the perfect paintbrush for your budget is vital to successful painting.


Paint brushes are made of three parts: the handle, the ferrule, and the tuft. Each of these parts contributes to the overall feel and quality of a paintbrush.
  • Handle. The section of the brush you actually hold.
    Make sure that hardwood handles are lacquered or enameled, to prevent deterioration. Choose a handle that feels comfortable in your hand and provides an easy grip.
  • Ferrule. The part of the brush that connects the handle to the tuft.
    Generally, the higher-quality paintbrushes have nickel-plated ferrules that are attached to the handle without double-crimping. Look for ferrules that are seamless, as they help prevent solvents from leaking inside and damaging the tuft.
  • Tuft. The actual “brush”—or the part that applies paint. Tufts come in various shapes, such as round, pointed round, flat, fan, mop, scriptliner, and extender. They also come in various sizes. Try to choose brushes that have the size displayed clearly on the handle, so you aren’t confused as to which sizes you’ve used or want to use. It is the tuft that often determines the overall quality of a paintbrush.

    What Makes a Good Paint Brush?

    You now know what parts actually make a paintbrush. But what makes a good paintbrush? While handle and ferrule construction play a vital role in the quality and feel of a paintbrush, it is the tuft that draws the most attention—and rightfully so. As the part of the brush that actually applies paint—and helps interpret the artist’s strokes—it is the tuft that can accentuate or damage the painter’s vision. There are many types of tufts. Here are a few to help you determine what best meets your needs:

  • Red Sable. Some tout red sable as the best quality that money can buy. While this is generally true, be aware that brush hair obtained from any member of the weasel family can be called red sable—making quality and characteristics difficult to predict.
  • Kolinsky Sable. Made from mink tail hair, this is the highest quality red sable tuft available. Kolinsky sable is soft, pliant, and known for its spring, strength, and absorbency. It is generally considered best for watercolor painting, although oil painters use it routinely to produce smooth, flat, or precise strokes—as well as to produce subtle blending.

    Since sable brushes can be so expensive, don’t be afraid to test them for quality. First, dip the brush into a glass of water. Next, flick the hairs against your wrist to remove any glue (used to protect the brush during shipping). Once the glue is removed, swirl the brush in a glass of water until it is completely soaked. Remove the brush and snap the handle quickly against your wrist to discharge the water. Did it come to a perfect point? That’s the sign of a good brush.
  • Sabeline (light ox hair), or camel hair. Sabeline is made of ox hair that has been bleached and dyed red to resemble red sable. They are often used for watercolor or acrylic painting.
  • Hog Bristles. This stiff tuft is derived from hogs, pigs, or boars. A better-quality hog bristle is marked by flagged tips and interlocked construction. For example, think of each bristle as a piece of hair with a split end. You may not want this for your own hair, but it is the sign of a higher quality, flagged bristle brush—and one that will hold paint longer and more uniformly. If the bristle curve is turned inward, then it has interlocked construction, which provides better spring and shape retention.
  • Synthetic. Synthetic tufts are often intermixed with other natural materials, and can be a good choice for the budget-minded, as they can—to a degree—retain some of the favorable characteristics of their natural cousins. Synthetic brushes are best used on rougher surfaces, such as fabric applications. They are a good choice for stenciling and creating unique effects on hard surfaces.

    Recommended Brushes for Various Mediums

    Keep in mind that, while some brushes may be specifically recommended for various mediums and painting surfaces, choosing a paint brush depends primarily on your own personal preferences and ability to achieve desired results. If you can create beautiful watercolor portraits using only synthetic brushes, that’s great. However, knowing which brushes work best for various mediums will give you a good place to start.

  • Acrylic paint. Sabeline or sable brushes work well for acrylic painting. However, keep in mind that the pH of acrylic paint can be very damaging to natural-bristle brushes. As such, synthetic brushes are also good for use with acrylic paints.
  • Oil paint. Since oil paint is thicker, hog-hair brushes and stiff synthetic brushes make a great choice for thick paint applications. Are you working with a thinner wash or trying to create a subtle blending? Sable and sabeline brushes work well.
  • Watercolors. Sable brushes, with their ability to absorb liquid, make the best choice for watercolor painting. If price is an issue, some high-quality synthetics can also do a great job.

    Without a doubt, using the proper paintbrush can drastically affect the overall appearance and quality of your painting. Which brushes you choose is a matter of personal preference, combined with an understanding of which brushes work best with various mediums. No matter what your decision, picking the perfect paintbrush is the one of the most effective ways to ensure that your vision shared with others.

    Instructs painters on how to spot brush quality and how to choose the appropriate brush for each painting medium.

  • Art Studio Furniture & Equipment
    Art Instruction DVDs & Art Education
    Drawing  Supplies
    Painting Supplies
    More Art Forms
    Children's Art