We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking the Dismiss button on this page, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. Privacy Policy


Brushes are highly efficient for painting all areas – small, medium and large – and for all types of paint. A poor brush, however, will result in a poor finish.

Filaments used in paint brushes are hog bristle and other animal bristles, as well as manmade filaments (both tapered and level), including nylon, polyester and other level synthetics. Tapered polyester filaments are recommended for all paints. They do not absorb water or lose resiliency as do natural bristles and nylon. Natural bristles work well only with oil-based paints. Nylon can be used with latex paints or oil-based paints.

The American Brush Manufacturers Association has developed a Code of Ethics in regard to packaging and labeling of brushes. Literature is available from the association regarding the Code of Ethics.

A quality brush has a high percentage of bristles with flagged (split) ends, which is important for holding and spreading paint. The better the flagging, the more paint a brush will hold and the fewer the brush marks left on the painted surface.

A quality brush also has filaments that vary in length for smooth flow and application of paint. Bristles on brushes used for precision painting, such as sash brushes, should be “tipped.” They have pointed ends, allowing more precise control of the paint.

China hog bristle is the best natural filament to use with oil paints. China hog bristle can be used only with oil-based paints, because it absorbs water and becomes loose and floppy. It does not have the long wearability of polyester and nylon brushes.

Other natural hog-bristle brushes are recommended for use with varnish and lacquer in addition to oil-based paint. Ox, camel, squirrel, badger and sable are used for artists’ and other specialty brushes.

Nylon bristles should be used with latex paints, and tapered polyester for all paints, including oil, latex, varnish, lacquers, shellac and marine finishes.

Inexpensive brushes contain little filament and are made from the poorest-quality hog bristle or from level (not tapered) synthetics. Level synthetics flag poorly, if at all. The end product is a poor painting tool.

Nylon and polyester (the best synthetics) are tipped, flagged, and tapered individually during manufacturing. Quality brushes are made with multiple sizes of tapered filaments similar to pure bristle brushes. The flag is maintained during long use. Generally, the longer and thicker the brush made of tapered nylon or tapered polyester, the quicker the job will be done.

Synthetic hog bristle can be used with all paints. Like other quality synthetic brushes, the bristles are individually tipped, flagged and tapered.

Quality brushes are made of tapered filament, either natural or synthetic. Normal bristle or filament lengths for general household use include: 1″ wide brush, length out of ferrule 2″ to 2-1/4″; 1-1/2″- and 2″-wide brush, length out of ferrule 2-1/4″ to 2-3/4″; 2-1/2″ and 3″-wide brush, length out of ferrule 2 1/2″ to 3″ and 3-3/4″- and 4″-wide brushes, length out of ferrule 3″ to 3 3/4. Flatting brushes 4″-6″, 3-1/4″ to 4″-length out of ferrule) are used to apply paints to ceilings, cellars and other large areas.

Quality brushes are thicker at the ferrule and have smaller wood plugs or dividers in the ferrule to spread the bristle and allow for more paint-holding capacity. Inexpensive brushes have wide plugs and reduced amounts of bristle.

Besides paint brushes, special brushes found in many homes include enamel and varnish brushes (flat or chisel shape) to reduce lap marks sometimes resulting from alkyd paints and lacquers, and Dutch calcimine (flatting) wall brushes, used to apply water-based paints to large areas.

Paint Brush Glossary
– bristles are tipped. One end on one side of the brush is longer, giving working end slanted appearance.
– ends of bristle originally embedded in hide of hog and are ends that go into brush setting.
– working end of brush is shaped to resemble end of steel chisel on both sides of brush. Most quality varnish brushes and a number of quality wall brushes and sash tools have chisel edges on both sides.
– wood, metal or leather bound form into which bristle is set; also holds handle of brush.
– working end of each bristle and tapered filament is divided into fine hairs called flag ends. Hold paint in brush and help spread it evenly.
– heel is section of brush where butt ends fit into ferrule. When this becomes clogged with paint, it is “heeled up” and will not work efficiently.
– proper proportion of stiff and soft bristles or filaments.
– working edge of brush is straight. Large brushes usually have square edges with natural bend of bristle inclining toward center of brush.
– tapered polyester, tapered nylon and natural bristles are thick at butt end, thinner at flag end. Tapered brushes of each different material are made by blending various sizes of tapered polyester or nylon or natural bristle.
Care Suggestions
1. Clean brush immediately after use, before paint has a chance to harden. Use proper solvent for oil-base paint; for latex-base paints, clean with warm, soap or detergent water solution. If brush does not clean thoroughly, clean in paint thinner and rewash in warm detergent solution.
2. Comb wet bristles with metal comb.
3. If brush is to be stored for long periods, return to pouch supplied with brush or wrap in foil or heavy paper, with bristles smooth and flat.
4. Always store fiat or suspended from a nail or hook so that bristles are straight and the brush is not resting on bristles.
5. Do not allow any brush to stand on end in either paint or water.
6. Do not soak a brush in water; it will damage either the filament or the epoxy setting and cause the ferrule to rust.
Rollers and Pads
1. Clean after every use, removing excess paint by rolling or pressing on a newspaper, then washing in proper solvent or water.
2. Dry and wrap to store.
Choosing the Right Brush
For successful painting projects, use the correct brush to fit the job. Various manufacturers recommend a number of brush sizes and styles for specific painting projects.
– ceilings, floors, chimneys, shingles, boats and pools. Recommend a wall brush, 7/8″ to 1″ thick and 3″ to 6″ wide; 4″ wide flatting brushes are preferred. There are also lightweight 4″ to 6″ flatting brushes that are ideal for large areas.
– cupboards, floors, eaves, large pipes, picket fences and table tops. Recommend a fiat varnish or fiat sash brush, 2″, 2-1/2″ or 3″ wide. For window sashes, suggest a 1-1/2″ or 2″ angular trim brush. There are two kinds of sash brushes-fiat and angular.
– trellises, radiators, metal furniture, ladders, garden tools and small windows. Recommend 1″ or 1-1/2″ sash brush or small at varnish brush. For small window sashes, suggest 1″ or 1-1/2″ angular trim brush. Automotive repainting-recommend 2-1/2″ or 3″ soft hair flowing-style brush, such as quality nylon or ox brush or a good varnish and enameling brush.
– recommend 2-1/2″ or 3″ soft hair flowing-style brush, such as quality nylon or ox brush or a good varnish and enameling brush.
– recommend a 1-1/2″, 2″ or 2-1/2″ soft hair flowing-style brush, such as a quality nylon or ox brush, a good varnish brush or a quality tapered polyester brush.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.