Buying paint brushes for trade or DIY use was, until fairly recently, a simple choice of cheap versus expensive. There wasn’t that much else to differentiate a good brush from a bad one.
Now there’s a wealth of choice and even professional painters will argue which types and brands are better than others. Some brushes are better with water based paints, some painters prefer an ‘angle-cut’ brush to a standard ‘straight cut’ brush – and so on.
As an occasional but enthusiastic DIY’er you don’t really need to concern yourself with any of this. At the end of the day you just want a brush that gives a decent result and one that will still be workable when you come to use it again. Likely at some distant point in the future?
There are loads of brands to choose from but, for the sake of clarity, I’m going to narrow it down a few simple choices…
Hamilton Perfection (available from amazon.co.uk) – the original ‘trade quality’ brush and still popular with some old-timers. If you prefer the traditional type of brush with natural bristles Hamiltons are hard to beat.
Brushes with a natural bristle are excellent all-rounders although they work better with oil based paints when they’ve worn down a bit. If you’ve ever tried to paint an intricate window frame with a brand new brush you’ll know what I mean?
They can stand a fair amount of abuse but, especially if you’re going to have them stood unused for long periods, it’s essential that you clean them thoroughly after each use.
The Purdy Monarch Elite (available from amazon.co.uk) – a good all-purpose brush and the most popular brand with professional decorators. The bristles are synthetic and easy to keep clean. If looked after properly a Purdy brush will last for years – even if used on a regular basis.
They give a good result in water or oil based paints and, unlike with natural bristle brushes, you can paint a nice straight line even with a brand new one.
They can be expensive if you buy them individually although sets of 3 or more are always available at a substantial discount. Some of the larger DIY stores do stock these brushes but you’ll also see a lot of imitations which are nowhere near as good. So don’t buy unless they bear the Purdy name.
Popular sizes of paint brush are:
- ½” for fiddly bits:
- 1″ for window sashes and narrow areas;
- 1 ½” for window frames, architraves and narrow skirting;
- 2″ for wide skirting, panels and small doors;
- 2½” for doors and large panels;
- 3″ for walls and ‘cutting-in’ prior to rolling.
Ideally you’ll need a couple of each smaller sizes but you’ll probably get by with just one 2½” or 3″. You may even find a 3″ brush a bit unwieldy and a single 2½” will probably do just as well?
I find the 1½” and 2″ brushes to be the most versatile of the lot and you can’t have too many of them.
Axus Precison Brushes (available from amazon.co.uk) – for detailed work (intricate cornices and small sash windows, for example) a regular paint brush might not cut it? You could get away with using a kid’s art brush, if it’s a one-off, but a set of precision brushes like these can be a good investment.
For painting masonry walls you probably don’t want to waste good money on a paint brush that’s likely to get ruined? Which is a fair point.
There are some brushes marketed as ‘masonry brushes’ (the ones that look like a scrubbing brush with a handle) which I’m not a great fan of. But if you’re comfortable using one of these then go ahead, they do the job and are not expensive to buy.
Masonry Paintbrush (available from amazon.co.uk) – I’d rather use a standard 3″ or 4″ brush like this one. They’re reasonably cheap even if you just get a few uses out of them. Although if you clean them properly they should still be OK for the next time?
Where to Buy?
The fare on offer at your local DIY store is best avoided, to be honest. Even their ‘quality’ brushes are nowhere near as good as what you’ll get elsewhere for less money.
Buying online is obviously the easiest option; there are a few specialists decorating suppliers and, of course, amazon have more paint brushes than you can shake a stick at.
You could also try your local decorators’ merchant who’ll not only have a better choice but usually have an offer on when you buy a set of 3 more. There are loads of independent merchants as well as chains like Brewers, Dulux Decorator Centre and Leyland who’ll all be able to give you advice.
If you have to pay full price always ask for a discount though, as they do sometimes try it on with non-regulars.
At the end of the day there isn’t a perfect brush for any given situation, a lot of it comes down to personal choice. But if you want to get the best possible finish it’s always worth investing a little extra on quality brushes.
If you have any questions please feel free to post a comment below…