Paintbrush Guide

Paintbrush There is a wide range of brushes on the market. Paintbrush differs in shapes, sizes, grades, materials, and brands. Easy to get overwhelmed and buy paintbrush that doesn’t actually suits your needs. Don’t you worry! 😉 This article will guide you through important nuances and distinctions that will help you to make a right decision.

Paintbrush is your tool to express your ideas and emotions on the canvas, the extension of your wrist, your magic wands in the world of painting.  That is why having a right set of brushes is so important.


This is what you need to know to make a perfect choice:

1. Anatomy of a paintbrush for a better understanding of your main tool construction.
2. Shapes of brushes.
3. Bristle types – natural and synthetic.
4. Sizes chart and length of the handle.
5. Final Conclusion.

Anatomy of Paintbrush

Before we start talking about types of brushes, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the brush.
Paintbrush anatomy-smart

The brush has three major parts:

1. The head of the paintbrush

The head can be broken down into the tip and the belly.
The tip is the end of the brush, that actually makes a contact with your painting surface. The belly if the fattest part of the head, and serves as a reservoir for paint.
The bristles or hairs can be natural or synthetic.

 2. The ferrule

The ferrule is the metal piece that holds the bristle together and connects the head to the brush handle.
A good quality well-constructed brush supposed to have a high-quality tight ferrule with a strong crimp. Cheaper brushes often have cheap glue that loses bristles easily or ferrules with weak crimps that can detach from the handle, so remember that the quality of ferrule will affect the quality and longevity of entire brush.

3. The handle

Handles can be wooden or plastic, and of course long or short. Those who work very close to a painting prefer short handles. Long handles are great for standing a bit further from the painting surface.

Shapes of Paintbrush

Paintbrush smartart

The shapes of paintbrushes you use can make a huge difference in the whole process of the painting, the ease or difficulty in getting a certain effect, and of course in the final result. Each brush is designed and created for the intended purpose, so your choice will depend on what techniques you are working with.

Please find the main types of brushes needed for working with acrylic paints below. This chart will help you to narrow down which paintbrushes you need based on the style of painting you would like to do.

Round BrushPaintbrush round smart

Round paintbrush has round ferrule, pointed tip, long closely arranged bristles for detail, works better with thinned paint rather than thick paint.

Used for:  sketching, detailing, washes, filling seemingly small areas, and creating precise strokes, dabs, dots. The sharp tip can create a narrower stroke that can vary in width depending on the amount of pressure applied.

Detailed Round Brush Paintbrush detailed r smart

Detailed Round paintbrush has round ferrule, it’s shorter in length than all other rounds but still, can hold a lot of paint. This brush has a short handle.

Used for: detailed painting, short strikes,

Liner Brush or ScriptPaintbrush liner smart

Liner is a narrow round paintbrush, with very long hair and sharply pointed tip. Normally Liner has short handles.  It has a large color carrying capacity.

Used for: thin even strokes, fine details, lettering, outlining, delicate continuous stroke, spotting, and retouching.

Flat Brush 

Paintbrush flat smartFlats have a flat shape, square end, with medium to long bristles. The ferrule or bracelet holding the bristles of this brush flat, thus making the bristles spread out uniformly in a rectangular shape. The bristles of this brush are flattened and trimmed straight across. Longer haired flats hold more paint and are known as ‘one stroke’ brushes.
You can use a good medium-sized flat brush for most things. Depending on which edge you paint with, It can give you either a broader stroke or a thinner stroke. It will give you a harder edge between strokes, though, so if you want a more blended edge, use a filbert brush. Hold your brush further from the ferrule and bristles for a more gestural stroke, hold it closer to the bristles for more control when painting detail.

Used for: bold strokes, washes, shading, filling wide spaces quickly, spreading paint quickly and evenly over a surface.  They can be used for creating wide strokes, fine lines (when turned and pulled along their edge), horizontal strokes, straight edges, and stripes, also to create a smooth blend between two or more colors. Flat brushes are perfect for and varnishing.

Bright Brush Paintbrush bright smart

Bright brush is a flat brush with short stiff bristles, also has a flat ferrule. Designed for working with thick, heavy colors, preferable for working up close to the surface rather than holding the brush at a distance.

Used for:  blending, dabbing, short controlled strokes, good for driving paint into the weave of a canvas in thinner paint applications, as well as impasto. Bright can be used to salvage messy pictures. The short bristles are also good for dry brushing or creating scratchy strokes.

Filbert Brush Paintbrush filbert smart

The filbert is a flat paintbrush with the oval-shaped end, and medium to long hairs. Filbert brush is a golden mean between flats and rounds, it combines combining many of the both to create a wide variety of strokes. Like the flat, it can hold a fair amount of water.

Used for: blending, stroking, washes, figurative work, softly rounded edges, filling round area and creating rounded strokes like leaves and flowers. Filberts can also be used for creating shades and highlights.

Angular Brush
Paintbrush angular smart

Angular Shader, also known as slanted, is another one from the flat family, but with angled hairs at the end. Like the Filbert, these are versatile and can be applied in both general painting application as well as some detail work.

Used for:   sweeping curves,  filling corners, precise lines, calligraphic brush strokes, as well as fine-tuned and precise marks. You can create ruffled petals and leaves with it. Best used for some tight shading and highlighting.

Fan BrushPaintbrush fan smart

Fan paintbrush is flat with the hair fanning out of the brush. You can use it both wet and dry to gently blend in colors. For acrylic paints make sure to use ones with strong and sturdy hair, otherwise, once the paint is added the hairs will clump together.

Used for: blending broad areas of paint. Stiff bristles fan brushes are used to create textured effects, especially for stipple trees, foliage, and clouds.


The material used to form the head of a brush that picks up and spreads the paint is the most important part of your brush and determines the performance of it. The bristles or hairs can be natural, synthetic, or a combination of both.

So what is the best for acrylic – natural or synthetic?
The truth is you can use both, but – Synthetic hairs work better for acrylic!
To find out why let’s find out more about both types of bristles:

  • Natural Brushes are made from animal hair (commonly made from boar’s bristle, squirrel, badger and mink, the best quality soft natural brushes are sable). But don’t let this fact to embarrass you because no animals are destroyed for the purpose of brush making. Animal hair is a by-product of the food and fur industries.
    The natural brush has a good paint-holding ability because of tiny, microscopic “scales” along the shaft of the hair. Price and performance of a natural hair brush depend on the “grade” of animal it was taken from, and the availability of its hair.
  • Synthetic brushes are man-made of either nylon or polyester filaments. They vary greatly in price and quality but usually are less expensive than natural. They can be tapered, tipped, abraded or etched to increase color carrying ability. Often, synthetic filaments are dyed and baked to make them softer and more absorbent, this type of polyester is called Taklon.
    The advantages to using synthetic brushes are:
    1. Synthetic filament will withstand the caustic nature of acrylic paints with less damage.
    2. They are less prone to damage from the chemicals in acrylic paint.
    3. They are easier to keep clean than animal hair brushes.
    4. They are less prone to breakage and are durable on many different surfaces.
    5. They stay stiffer than natural hairs when wet

The size of Paintbrush

Each brush shape comes in the multiplicity of sizes.  Size is an important consideration when shopping for the perfect paint brush. Brushes are classified by their manufacturers using a standard numbering system, you can find size indicated by a number printed on the handle. The smallest brushes start at 0000, then proceed to 1, 2, and on up to 24 or even larger. Please consider that sizes vary from brand to brand (for example size 4 brush from one brand will not necessarily be the same as a size 4 from another; the length of the brush hairs, in particular, seems to vary).

  • small-size for detail work,
  • medium-size brushes for versatility,
  • large-size brushes for painting large areas and washes.

The choice of the size will depend on your artistic needs and the size of your artwork, which makes sense. If you prefer to work on large size canvas with nice major brushstroke, you will definitely need some largely sized brushes and may be a couple of mediums for detailed work.
If you are working on regular size surface, or if you are just starting out, you will mostly need medium-size brushes and only one or two small ones for tiny details, don’t go to crazy about getting many small brushes because most likely you won’t need them all, unless you want to create super realistic paintings with multiple small details.

Please, check this Dirk Blick size chart for more information

Long or Short Handle?

You’ll notice that some paintbrushes for acrylics have short handles while others have long handles. To decide which one you need let’s see the difference:

  • Brushes with longer handles (up to 12″) are useful for easel work when you want to paint from a distance that allows you to see the whole work at once.
  • The short ones (about 6″)  feel quite natural in one’s hand. Short handles allow for easier close-up work


Final Conclusion

In general, if you’re just starting out with acrylics and you’re on a tight budget, I’d recommend getting one round and one flat paintbrush. That’s enough to accomplish most of what you need with acrylics. Two brushes are really all you need to get started with acrylics. Then if you decide you like it, you can go out and buy more artist paint brushes!

Experiment with your brushes! Explore all theirs possibilities!

If you still have any questions about paintbrushes, have difficulties in choosing right ones, or maybe have any comment about this article,  please don’t hesitate to contact me! And finally, I tell you a big secret:

The secret of successful painting is in Routine Practice and Painting Techniques Exercise! Painting is not your innate ability, but the acquired skill which improves with practice and patient work. So let yourself be creative, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, feel the paint, feel the brush, let it be a part of you! Explore the inspiration from inside out….

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