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How to Use a Paint Brush and Other Important Brush Business

You need just three things to get through any painting project: good paint, a strong wrist, and a quality applicator. Contrary to popular opinion, two out of three can be bad if the brush or roller doesn’t match up. Remember these five points the next time you think it’s “just a paintbrush.”

1. Choose Your Brush Wisely

Choose the brush that’s built for the purpose, and keep this cheat sheet handy so you know which to use for what.

How big a space?

For selecting best brush size, remember it’s all according to the area being painted.

1″-2″ Windows, shutters, trimwork
3″ Larger flat areas such as cabinets, baseboards, doors, beams, fences, gutters, steps and shelves.
4″ Even larger areas like siding, walls, ceilings, panelling, and floors.

Cutting in?

Make sure you have an angular brush, best for straight lines and trim work. A tapered brush also provides a fine edge for more even and accurate work.

Alkyd-based Paint?

Use Natural Bristles for oil/alkyd finishes where a smooth paint job is required, for example when applying a varnish or high gloss enamel.

Water-based paint?

Bristle brushes shouldn’t be used with water based or latex paints. The bristles will become limp and loose their shape. Bristles are also brittle and may leave an occasional “hair” on the surface when it breaks off.

Nylon or Polyester Brushes are the best choice for latex paints with the added durablilty and stiffness to retain shape after repeated use.

2. Hold Your Brush Like a Pencil

There IS a correct way to hold a paint brush. You learned it in kindergarten. Rest the brush handle between your thumb and forefinger like a pencil, and use the tip of the brush, not the sides, to apply the paint. Apply the paint with steady strokes, lifting the brush gradually at the end of the stroke. 

3. No Stirring with the Paint Brush!

That’s what the stir sticks are for. You’ll regret it instantly when your brush gets overloaded with paint and you have to wash your brush before you’ve even started.

4. Clean Right Away

It’s important to clean your brushes right away after use. We know it’s tempting to stuff them in a grocery bag and forget all about them until next year, but you’ll thank yourself for taking the extra time to clean your brushes right away. Brushes will last a lifetime if they are cared for correctly. Consider a quality brush to be an investment, like any other tool in your toolbox.

5. Hang to Dry

Ever notice? Every paint brush comes complete with a hole in the handle for this very purpose. Avoid standing the brush on its bristled end to dry. The weight will cause the edge to bend and curl. Then you’re back at Step 1. Literally.