Choosing the right paint brush for a decorating job can affect the quality of the finish, how easy it is to apply the paint, as well as how quickly you can get the job done. It's a bit like choosing a car - there's no one vehicle that's perfect for every job, so how do you choose what's best for you?

Firstly - do you REALLY like using a crap brush?

If you enjoy picking bristles out of your paint every two minutes, or dipping your brush for every 3 inches of painting, or struggling to paint a crisp line, or leaving thick brush marks, then buy a crap brush from a DIY store. If you don't like being frustrated, then read on...

Synthetic or Natural Filaments?
This is a bit of a personal bugbear with me. The vast majority of natural bristle is hog hair produced in China. On an ethical note, I doubt very much whether the hogs are kept in the best of conditions, and I haven't yet had a definitive answer on whether the hair is collected from live or slaughtered hogs, or both. But I don't want to have anything to do with that, thank you! On a quality note, synthetic filaments work much better with water-based paints - as natural bristle will swell up with water and leave much larger brush marks. There may be specialist finishes, such as for graining and marbling, for which there is currently no alternative to natural bristles.  I get good results with all the water-based and oil-based paints I use with good quality synthetic brushes.

Size is important...

The basic car will be a 5 seater - and to me the basic paint brush for decorating is the 2.5", or maybe 2". Yes, sometimes you need a people carrier of a brush, or a mini, so how do you choose?

For painting the edges of walls or ceilings (cutting in) I prefer a 2.5" brush for all but the fiddliest areas. Good quality 2.5" brushes can hold enough paint for you to paint a line to the end of your reach. This means that you dip the brush into the paint less frequently, and get more done with each dip. Nice and quick! I prefer to use angle-cut brushes too - as it means I can get into quite small, fiddly areas with the tip of the brush, without having to switch to a smaller brush. Angle cut brushes take a bit of getting used to, but once you get it they can save you time.

For woodwork (or 'trim') I tend to use 2" brushes, again mostly angle cut. For fiddly moulded work and glazing bars (on 18-paned French doors for example) I've had great results with Axus sash brushes, and I've recently been enjoying using the Corona Comet. The Axus sash brush range I would equate to the Mini - they're sharp, nippy and affordable. (The similar Wooster Peint Pro range are also good, but annoyingly have aluminium ferrules which don't stick to the magnetic paint clips which many pro decorators use, and their smallest size is 17mm, as opposed to the Axus which does a 15mm and a very useful 12mm.) The Corona Comet is not as small and nippy, but due to its Chinex filaments, it's a brilliant and reliable brush - maybe more of a Toyota Yaris.

(Axus sash brush set, and the Corona Comet)

I used to use standard 1" brushes all the time, but now find that I can do most of what I did with them with a the tip of a 2" or 2.5" angle cut brush - which hold more paint, so less dips, and more speed! The only 1" brushes I now buy are really cheap synthetic ones for one-time use - such as applying Repair Care Dry Fix liquid resin - which cannot be washed out of a brush. 

3" or 4" brushes are the people carriers of the brush world. I only use them if I'm painting masonry, or the customer wants a brushed finish on a wall. They hold a lot of paint, but can be rather unwieldy. 

My Top (Decorating) Gear...

(If you can't read the speech bubbles, right click and open the image in a new tab, I can't post it any bigger on this platform, but it opens the correct size if you open it in a new tab!)

There may never be a Top Gear for paint brushes, but this is as close as I can get. Here are my Top Gear Top Trump brushes:

The Proform Picasso - named the 'Redhead' by many decorators, is the Ferrari of the brush world. It's a superb brush for most emulsions, and is good for the lighter, water-based paints for woodwork too. I use the 2.5" angled sash brush. It holds a lot of paint, cuts in exceedingly accurately, and its soft filaments release the paint well and give a superb finish. It is criticised by a few decorators as being less durable than some of the American-made brushes, but its qualities of being able to apply paint very smoothly, accurately and quickly I think outweigh that. I use it almost exclusively for cutting in emulsions - with the exception of heavier ones such as Mythic Eggshell. It's just like a Ferrari - quick, red, sharp, but maybe not as reliable as a Honda!

The Wooster Silver Tip -  it is in many ways similar to the Picasso. The filaments are very soft, it cuts in well (although not as accurately as the Picasso) and it holds paint well (the Picasso slighly beats it on this score as well). Although being quite soft, the Silver Tip can hold heavier paints if need be, particularly after being used a while. I've even used it with Zinsser Coverstain and Little Greene Oil Eggshell. It's my go-to brush for getting a good finish in most water-based paints for woodwork such as Bedec Multi-Surface Paint, Mythic Semi-Gloss, Dulux Diamond Eggshell and Little Greene Intelligent Eggshell. It's a very good price for such a great brush, and if it was a little more durable and a little easier to clean, it would be my No. 1 recommended all-round brush. Think of a silver Porsche 911, sleek, smooth, and fast... but it's not a Ferrari!

The Wooster FTP - this is an extraordinary brush. It's big, expensive, and the chunky filaments look like they'd be better suited to sweeping floors. But from the first time I tried it, painting The Stratford on Avon Picturehouse, I fell in love with it (I know, I need to get out more). It uses Chinex filaments, which seem to allow paint to flow off them very easily - and this also makes the brush one of the easiest to clean of any brush I've owned. It's perfectly suited to heavy paints, even thick oil-based paints or Annie Sloan Chalk Paints, as you can really push the paint out with the thick filaments. However, the filaments are so well tapered that you can get a pretty good finish when you 'tip off' after spreading the paint on. It's not the very best for emulsion, it's not the very best for thinner woodwork paints, but it's good with those too! It's a brilliant all-rounder. It's pricey, but as it is very durable, and easy to clean, it will last you a very long time. It's a bit like a Range Rover, big, expensive, (maybe more reliable), but boy does it do the job! (Note that I use the 2.5" angled FTP, but not the oval version - which is enormous - think a Range Rover with huge chunky tyres - I find the oval version too big for most jobs.)

Some people rate the Wooster Alphas, but I found they didn't do anything for me that I couldn't do better with the Picasso, Silver Tip or FTP. They may be better suited for wood staining - which I don't get called on to do much of. 

I buy most of my brushes at the excellent site. They have a new range of British brushes called 'Adorn', I've only tried a couple but had good results from a 2" Profine brush in water-based stain and with the heavy, oil-based Zinsser Coverstain. I look forward to trying their other brushes, and trying them in other paints. The Red Frost range available at MyPaintBrush seem to be a decent mid-priced, good quality general brush as well - good in a range of paints. I used to use Purdy brushes a lot, but once I'd tried the Woosters, there seemed no going back! There are some Purdy brushes which are newly available in the UK, and some 'brothers and sisters of the brush' are liking them, particularly the Purdy Pro Extra Glide.

(New kids on the block, The Adorn and Red Frost range, also available from MyPaintBrush.)

I'm just beginning to try Corona brushes as well, and from an aggregate of a few weeks of testing, they perform just as well as the Woosters - particularly the Chinex-filamented Kingston - good in all paints, particularly oils; and the Cody, which is soft and precise - great for water-based woodwork paints. Ron Taylor, who knows volumes about the best brushes for water-based paints, thinks they're some of the best brushes available. Two of his blogs on choosing brushes are here: and

Corona brushes, like the excellent Kingston (above) are available from Cane Adam.

Just like cars, paint brushes will last longer and give better performance if you look after them well. How to do that will be the subject of another blog in the future. Suffice to say for the moment, clean them frequently, clean them well, and hang them to dry.

If you've read this far, you must want to get good results from your paint brush, so I'd love to know what you think! Are you an amateur with no experience of a really good brush? Are you a professional who hasn't heard of the brushes I mention, but have your own favourites? Or have you tried every brush available, and have your own recommendations? Do you have any questions? Let me know on my contact page, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or LinkedIn