Choosing the Perfect Paint Brush

After purchasing my first home, I decided it was time to put my painting skills or lack there of to the test.  I contacted my best friend who managed a branch of a paint supply store to tell him the colors and have him mix the paint for me.  He was a solid friend and gave me a recommendation for the type of paint to use and even offered to help with the painting as long as I provided the required beverages.  However, he neglected to tell me the importance of choosing the correct paint brush.

I purchased my paint and picked out the cheapest brush I could find in the store.  As I began painting, I quickly realized the consequences of my poor selection.  The brush I selected was a large wall brush and as a result, the task of cutting in at the ceiling was nearly impossible.  

I didn’t realize that paint brushes come in many different sizes, styles, and qualities that must be considered.  Personal preferences, especially in seasoned professionals, play a roll in brush selection, but for the rest of us, here are some general guidelines for choosing the perfect paint brush.

Paint Brush Sizes

  • 1″-2″: Use for small trim, touch ups, detail work, etc.
  • 2 1/2″-3″: Use for doors, large trim, corners, cabinets, floors, etc.
  • 4″-5″: Use for large areas like walls, ceilings, exterior painting, etc.

Paint Brush Styles

  • Thin angle brushes have slanted bristles and a thin profile make it the perfect choice to achieve straight lines for corners and edges.
  • Angle brushes also have slanted bristles, but are able to hold more paint because they are thicker.  As a result, they are a great selection for cutting in ceilings and trim.  Angle brushes make cut-ins easier for novice painters.
  • Square trim brushes are flat and primarily used for larger areas including exterior siding.  Many painters prefer this straight edge over an angle brush for painting trim and corners.
  • Wall brushes are thick, flat brushes and used primarily for larger surface areas.

Paint Brush Bristle Types

Synthetic Bristles

  • Nylon/Polyester brushes are designed to hold their shape when using latex paints.  Due to this blend, these brushes are durable and easy to clean.
  • 100% Nylon brushes retain their shape and stiffness longer due to the strength of the nylon.  This bristle is ideal for latex paints and is a superior cut-in tool.

Natural Bristles

  • Black China brushes are made with hair that is strong, thick, and course making them the ideal choice to use with oil based paints and epoxies
  • White China brushes are made with hair that is soft and thin making it the ideal choice for stains, varnishes, polyurethanes, and clear coats.

Special Note:  Natural animal hair brushes should never be used with water based paint.  The water will cause bristles to expand and become unusasble.


Choosing the perfect paint brush makes a project easier and faster while ensuring a quality finish.  With a little research and preparation, your paint project can be a success.  For more detailed information, visit the Sherwin Williams Brush & Roller Guide


Started a paint project with the wrong brush?  Click Here to find out how you can have the perfect brush delivered to you in less than 2 hours. 

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