Looking for the perfect brush to suit your DIY needs? We've got you covered, with our pick of the best paint brushes
The paint brush has been responsible for some of the best feats of decoration, from Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome to tremendous failures of slap-dashery (such as that time I accidentally used gloss on the nursery ceiling in my house in Colchester).
However, far from a generic thing to be selected randomly, the paint brush you choose can wildly affect how easy your next paint job is going to be, and also how well your work stands up when you step back to admire it.
There are a wide variety of brush options available, offering differing widths, angled bristles, varying handles that may or may not suit the size and shape of your hand, and even some that claim to have a drip-free design. But discovering which is the correct paint brush for you and the task at hand needn’t be daunting, for – as ever – Expert Reviews is here to help guide you through the paint brush briar path.
Best paint brush: At a glance
- Best on a budget: Harris Essentials Walls & Ceilings Paint Brush 5 Pack
- Best for big jobs: Bizwizz 3in/75mm Professional Paint Brush
- Best for cutting in: Axus Décor 1.5in Precision Angled Cutter Brush
How to choose the best paint brush for the job at hand
That’s a fair enough question. After all, how much could there really be to know about paint brushes? Well, for a start, there’s the rarely discussed anatomy of the average paint brush to consider. Did you know, for example, there are three distinct parts to the paint brush: handle, ferrule and bristles? Also that, traditionally, paint brush bristles used to be horse hair, and while you can still purchase equine-based paint enablers, most manufacturers now favour synthetic alternatives to ensure a more even finish.
Then we come to the subject of handles. Fluted? Regular? Beaver tail? Threaded detachable? Ergonomic? Speciality? Yes, these are all options; and the one you want greatly depends on what feels comfortable, so it pays to head out to your local DIY shop and try a few for size.
The next consideration is head size. What scale of job are you facing? If you’re giving the walls a fresh lick, you’re going to want something capable of cutting-in around plug sockets and light switches, as well as something capable of applying sweeping great strokes of paint, so it pays to weigh up your work first and arm yourself appropriately.
As luck would have it, we’ve considered all your possible paint brush needs and compiled a run of recommendations that will be perfect for any and all of your painting needs.
Do I need to do anything to prepare a paint brush before first use?
Absolutely. As all manner of debris and dust could have built up between the bristles during transport or storage in a shop, you’re going to want to give it a good wash and comb first.
After that, on subsequent outings, moisten the bristles with thinner, and remove any excess. This will prime the brush for the paint to come.
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What should I do with the brush after painting?
Presuming you plan to use it again in the future, remove any residual paint and wash thoroughly with a thinner, such as white spirit for solvent-based paints, or water for water-based paints.
Be sure to wash right down to the base of the brush so you clear all the paint, then simply dry with a clean rag or towel and hang it up to dry.
Any storage tips to keep my paint brushes in good condition?
The natural enemy of the paint brush is… paint. As recommended above, make sure your bristles are absolutely clean, or next time you reach for it, that brush will be hard as a rock. So, as with everything in life, a good cleanse will save the day. After that, wrap them in clingfilm or put them in an airtight plastic bag, and they’ll be good to go the next time you need them.
The best paint brushes to buy
1. Harris Essentials Walls & Ceilings Paint Brush 5 Pack: The best paint brushes on a budget
Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon
This might not be the cheapest paint brush set you can pick up, but all the cheapest is ever going to do is get you in a mess with broken bristles stuck to your walls and splashes of paint all over your floor. No, the Essentials from Harris are the very best brushes you’re going to find at a budget price.
Basic but reliable, the set of five brushes consists of pretty much everything anyone outside the world of professional decorating could need. In sizes from 1 x 0.5in up to 2 x 2in, increasing in half-inch increments, if you’re just looking to freshen up areas around light switches and plug sockets, or brighten smaller walls or ceilings, these are the brushes for you.
Featuring soft, synthetic heads, use these brushes with emulsion and they will hold the paint well, minimising mess and guaranteeing a good, even finish.
Key specs – Brush sizes: 1 x 0.5in, 1 x 1in, 1 x 1.5in, 2 x 2in; Bristle type: Synthetic; Handle material: Plastic; Handle style: Beaver tail; Ferrule material: Metal
2. Harris Seriously Good Walls & Ceilings Paint Brush 5 Pack: The best non-drip paint brushes
Price: £8 | Buy now from Amazon
A step up from Harris’ Essentials, this pack of five wall and ceiling brushes offers the same size range as before, but these ante-upping brushes boast a better paint pick up and finish in comparison with their budget cousins.
Thanks to the Seriously Good’s patented No-Loss technology, you’re spared the pain of having to pick stray bristles out of your freshly coated surfaces. This may not sound like a massive plus point, but the time saved faffing could be considerable.
Add to that their flexible handles for some much-needed ease on your hands during bigger jobs and a post-painting cleansing process that simply involves washing the brushes in water, and the Harris Seriously Good Wall & Ceiling Paint Brush 5 Pack provides all the emulsion-spreading features you will ever need.
Key specs – Brush sizes: 1 x 0.5in, 1 x 1in, 1 x 1.5in, 2 x 2in; Bristle type: Synthetic; Handle material: Plastic; Handle style: Regular; Ferrule material: Metal
3. Bizwizz 3in/75mm Professional Paint Brush: The best paint brush for big jobs
Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon
While a 2in brush may work well on smaller walls, when it comes to coating larger areas in fresh emulsion, you may want to consider breaking out a big gun, like the 3in Bizwizz Professional Paint Brush.
Coming with a no-loss filament (bristle) guarantee and soft grip handle, the bigger brush will help you finish the job faster, while helping you achieve the precision of a professional decorator.
The long, wooden beaver tail handle provides palm-filling comfort and control, while the deep filled metal ferrule keeps the filaments firmly in place as per the aforementioned guarantee.
This is the perfect paint brush for both the time-poor and those who dislike decorating, which will help you save time and keep your temper.
Key specs – Brush size: 3in; Bristle type: Synthetic; Handle material: Wood; Handle style: Beaver tail; Ferrule material: Metal
4. Axus Décor 1.5in Precision Angled Cutter Brush: The best paint brush for cutting-in
Price: £5 | Buy now from Amazon
Cutting in is an essential preparation step in any paint job. Before you attack the wall with your big brush, you’re going to need to take time to paint around all light switches and plug sockets, and alongside door frames, skirting boards and where your wall meets your ceiling. This is called cutting-in, and it takes both a steady hand and a precision brush.
The Axus Décor 1.5in Precision Angled Cutter Brush has been designed with this specific task in mind. Featuring a blend of synthetic filaments, tapered for releasing paint evenly onto the surface, the angled taper of the brush is what makes it ideal for finer detail, keeping the paint on the wall where it belongs and not making a mess of anything it shouldn’t.
A boon of a brush for any decorator’s bag.
Key specs – Brush size: 1.5in; Bristle type: Synthetic; Handle material: Wood; Handle style: Fluted; Ferrule material: Metal
5. Coral Shurglide: The best paint brushes for comfort
Price: £7 | Buy now from ArgosPainting can be harsh on the hands, with extended jobs causing inexperienced muscles to cramp and potentially seize up altogether. If you want to minimise the chances of any kind of repetitive strain injury, you’d be wise to choose a set of paint brushes designed with your hand’s welfare in mind, such as the Shurglide range from Coral.
The Shurglides come in a set of five, including a 1in, two 1.5in and two 2in brushes. Each brush has chunky, soft-grip handles that are comfortable to paint with for long periods and feel nicely balanced in the hand.
The quality here is surprisingly high given the low price of the pack, with the Solid Round Tapered (SRT) filaments providing a good amount of control, and minimal filament shedding thanks to the stainless steel ferrule.
As long as you keep them clean and dry after use, this £7 investment should see off a good few painting jobs before retiring to the bin.
Key specs – Brush sizes: 1 x 1in, 2 x 1.5in, 2 x 2in; Bristle type: Synthetic; Handle material: Synthetic; Handle style: Beaver tail; Ferrule material: Metal
6. Hamilton 0.75in Perfection Bristle: The best brush for precision jobs
Price: £7 | Buy now from Dulux Decorator CentreTaking a broad brush to daub paint across a wall is one thing, but painting areas such as windows requires accuracy. You’ll always need to do a careful job of masking off the painting areas, but a brush designed for precision work – such as the 0.75in Perfection Bristle from Hamilton – is an essential addition to anyone’s decorating kit.
The narrow, angled head allows for fine manipulation, such as edging or detail work, and where synthetic bristles can get sticky and stiff in use, the Hamilton’s natural hog’s hair bristles provide a consistent feel and amount of control from start to finish. In fact, the bristles “break in” as you use them, making them even more effective for precision painting jobs.
Key specs – Brush size: 0.75in; Bristle type: Natural; Handle material: Wood; Handle style: Beaver tail; Ferrule material: Metal