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A Paintbrush Primer

December 16, 2014

For speed, nothing beats paint rollers and sprayers, but brushes will never lose their place in the painter’s toolbox. Only they can do the kind of fine detail work that makes an interior painting or exterior painting job look truly finished. It’s brushes that can reach into tight corners and into trim’s nooks and crannies, trace around window sills and sashes, cut into ceilings, and color along floors.

types of paintbrushes - interior painting company MA

Not all paintbrushes brushes are created equal, however. And even the best paintbrush on the market won’t be suited to every application. Today we’re going to take a look at the anatomy of a paintbrush and what makes a great paintbrush so useful.

Natural vs. Synthetic

Natural bristles from boar or oxen have naturally flagged (i.e., split) tips that are perfect for holding onto paint and then releasing it gradually through each stroke. Some are extremely durable, making them especially useful when painting rough surfaces that might shred a less hardy brush. That doesn’t mean natural bristle paintbrushes can’t lay down a smooth coat, however. Traditionally natural paintbrushes have been the go-to choice for painters using oil paints, varnishes, glossy enamels, poly, and shellac.

Water-based paints are typically paired with synthetic brushes that are crafted from nylon, polyester, or a mix of both. Nylon is the better choice if the choice is between one or the other because it’s very long-lasting, handles well on rough surfaces, and can lay down a smooth coat. However, it can also soak up water and get floppy after prolonged use. The appeal of polyester brushes is in the price tag – but remember that you get what you pay for. The best synthetic option is a paintbrush with both nylon (for durability and action) and polyester filaments (for firmness). Some synthetic brushes have even been designed to mimic the feel of natural bristles, making them appropriate for oil paints and finishes.

Shape for Form and Function

Paintbrushes came in a dizzying variety of sizes and shapes, from your most basic brush that looks like what you see in your mind’s eye when you picture a paintbrush to tiny detail brushes with curved flexible elastomeric (and ergonomic) handles. Some brushes have extra long handles and bent heads for reaching behind things like radiators or into deep crevices. Angled sashes let painters make extra accurate strokes – especially along narrow strips. Tapers offer a painter the ability to control how much paint is released, from wide stripes to fine feathered edges. There are paintbrushes with bristles bunched into a square shape, extra narrow brushes, and extra wide ones, too. And they all have their own uses, so don’t make the mistake of thinking a paintbrush is a paintbrush is a paintbrush.

Choosing the Right Paintbrush

Whether you are tackling an interior painting job or an exterior painting job, a quality brush will make it easier. The true test of a paintbrush’s quality is how well it picks up and releases paint. While there’s no way to test that in a store, reading reviews before shopping can help. And when you’re ready to shop, look for things like tapering (which indicates the brush will form a line as you paint rather than flailing out), a full body (there should be a reservoir in the middle but plenty of filaments on both sides), soft bristles, and quality construction.

At Jerry Enos Interior Painting Company, we know the right products for the job. Every Massachusetts exterior painting and interior painting project is different, and unlike other MA interior painting companies, we will always treat your house, building, or surface as one-of-a-kind. Call us for a free estimate at 978-546-6843.


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