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Ever wondered why there are so many different brush types?
Well we’re here to help with this guide to brush types.

This blog post is a guide to brush types detailing the differences between several common brushes. It is a general guide as many different manufacturers have their own unique brush types specific to them. Because of this we have stuck to the most commonly found types across most brands.

Let’s start with something you will probably all recognise.

Round Brush

The round brush has bristles that taper to a pointed tip, therefore making them useful for detailed work requiring precise brush strokes.



Flat Brush

When needing to spread paint quickly and evenly over your painting surface it is best to use a flat brush. You will find that it’s long flexible bristles hold a lot of medium and depending on the size of your chosen brush can cover large surface areas quickly. Use a flat brush on it’s edge to produce a finer brush stroke.


Bright Brush

Bright brushes are similar in shape to flats. However the bright brush has much shorter, stiffer bristles. Particularly useful when employing thick paint styles like impasto.



Filbert Brush

Filbert brushes are flat brushes with a domed end. They allow good coverage and the ability to perform some detail work.



Angled Brush

Angled brushes, like the filbert, are very versatile and used in both general paint application and detail work.



Mop Brush

The mop is a larger brush with a rounded edge for broad paint application. Very useful for laying down a lot of paint medium in one go. For example, use a mop when laying down a watercolour wash.



Rigger Brush

The rigger has long bristles that taper to a fine point. Traditionally used for painting the rigging in pictures of ships hence the name. Best used for fine lines due to their ability to hold a lot of paint and lay down long continuous brush strokes.



Fan Brush

It’s pretty obvious where the fan brush gets it’s name. Need to smooth or blend out your paint? Then use a Fan brushThe fan brush is also used when adding texture effects to clouds, leaves and trees for example.

Brush Sizes

There is generally no standardised sizing system when it comes to brushes and each manufacturer will differ slightly. Sizing will go anywhere from 4/0, often written as 0000 to size 30 and beyond. It is common to use a measurement shown in inches to denote the sizing of a flat brush. One thing that you can certainly rely on is that the bigger the number the bigger the brush!

Common bristle materials

You will find a number of different materials making up the bristles of your paint brushes. They fall under two categories, synthetic and natural. Synthetic bristles made from nylon can be found in both watercolour and acrylic painting brushes. Whereas natural fibres such as sable and hog hair are used for oil painting and watercolour brushes. On occasion you will find a brush made up of a blend of natural and synthetic bristles, these are generally found in watercolour brush ranges.

Which is best?

When it comes to the question of which is better natural or synthetic it really comes down to a personal preference. Both natural and synthetic bristles vary in quality from range to range and will each have their own attributes such as stiffness and flexibility. We’d recommend trying some different types to find your preference.

Brush Anatomy

Brush Anatomy


Caring for your brushes

Want you brushes to last more than just a couple of painting sessions? Then you’ll need to take good care of them.
Once you have finished using your brushes for the day take a clean rag and remove as much paint for the bristles as possible. Next, if you have been using watercolour or acrylic paint clean out the bristles using clean water. For Oil painting brushes you will need to use white spirit or brush cleaner. Be sure to clean right down to the brushes ferrule as any paint left here that dries will misshape your brushes. Once clean make sure your brush is nice and dry, reshape the bristles using your fingers and store in an upright position WITH THE BRISTLES FACING UP!


We hope you have found this post useful. If you have any additional information on brushes or pro tips then leave a comment below.


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  1. Peter Bellingham - 2018-08-21 12:57 Quote

    If you’ve accidentally mangled your watercolour brush and have bristles sticking out at all angles, place the head of the brush in the steam of a boiling kettle and they will magically go back to their original shape.

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