I know:

  • Natural bristle brushes should not be used with water base paints. Synthetic bristles can be used with either.
  • A slanted end is easier for cutting in.
  • You want to avoid brushes that shed bristles.
  • A good brush has tapered ends on bristles.

Other than that, what makes the difference between a 3 buck walmart special, and a 30 dollar Purdy?


There seem to be two interpretations of my question.

A: How to pick the right paint brush for your painting task. This is fairly straight forward, and there is a bunch of good advice out there on boar bristle, nylon, polyester. And wall brush vs sash brushes. It starts getting a bit vague when you take a closer look. Purdy has 4 lines of brushes. The XL line has 11 styles that come in 41 sizes. Just what is the difference between a Blue Heron, a Dale, a Cub, a Dale and a Glide.

B: Once you have decide what type of handle feels good in your hand, and have picked your size and cut how do you tell a well made brush from a bad brush in the store at the time of purchase?

It's the second question I'm seeking an answer to.

  • Are you painting latex paints, alkyds, or 2-part paints? It matters. How perfect are you at brush cleanup and aftercare? How often do you find a brush you thought you cleaned properly is in fact not usable? Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 2:21
  • 1
    The biggest difference is usually the ferrule, with the more expensive brush having tighter and more uniformly bound bristles which are less likely to shed or clump up. Like most products you see a rapid increase in quality at the start of the price curve and pay for the name at the top. (i.e. a $9 brush is probably three times better than a $3 special; a $30 brush probably not ten times so.) Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 3:09
  • Home Depot has a nice guide on the different types and sizes of brushes
    – mmathis
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


For a professional, it's all about economy, and that doesn't mean brush price. That means project speed and finish quality.

A great brush should:

  • Carry a lot of paint without dropping it
  • Allow consistent, smooth application of the paint film
  • Provide very good edge control
  • Feel good in the hand
  • Offer a comfortable, secure grip
  • Function well with the user's preferred techniques
  • Last through multiple jobs without frizzing or bristle loss
  • Clean up easily and completely

It isn't about features, such as shape or taper or bristle material, because what's needed varies by painter and by project. It's about benefits in the way of performance that save time and money.

Just as I can't tell you what shaver or deodorant to use, I can't tell you what paint brush to buy. Try a few and learn what works for you. It's a safe bet that neither the cheapest nor the most expensive are the right one.

  • +1 Most of these are applicable for the homeowner as well. Try out a few and see which you like
    – mmathis
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 16:08
  • Those are fine attributes, but I think at the store they would object if I opened a paint can, and started painting shelves. How do I decide which one to buy Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 14:14
  • Like you'd buy anything else in the late early 21st century: Decide on your priorities, examine the available selection, and seek reviews on individual products that allow you to make a value judgement. Then test and repeat. We can't do that for you.
    – isherwood
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 14:50

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