Frequently Asked Questions

Does it matter what type of brush you use with any type of paint?

Generally, there are three types of paint brushes, those made of natural-hair bristles, those made with synthetic materials (usually nylon or polyester) and those made with a blend of natural hair and synthetic.

Traditionally natural bristle brushes are preferred for use with solvent-based (oil- or alkyd-based) paints, especially for enamel or finish work.

Natural bristles are hollow and can absorb the water contained in a latex paint, causing them to swell and become soft and limp (similar to your own hair when it is wet).

Most synthetic brushes work well with both latex and solvent-based paints, but always check the manufacturer’s recommendations on the brush. Some of the solvents used in solvent-based paints can break down the composition of a synthetic bristle – once again check the label.

The same above rules apply to paint rollers: synthetic vs. natural (wool).

High-quality or more expensive brushes have distinct advantages over cheaper ones. First of all, a high-quality brush will finish the job more quickly. This is because a top-quality brush has the ability to “hold” more paint in, which means you will have to load the brush less often. A top-quality brush will also not shed bristles like a cheaper brush, because of:

  • How firmly the bristles are seated in the ferrule (the metal band that attaches the bristles to the handle),

  • Using epoxy instead of glue to secure the bristles (glue is degraded by solvents and becomes brittle over time)

  • The material used as plugs

    • Spacer plugs inside the ferrule bond the bristles in the ferrule, add taper to the bristles, and create a “well” in the center of the bristles to hold paint

Also, a top-quality brush will have a tapered end, which means there are shorter bristles on the outside and longer bristles in the center. Tapered bristles give the painter more control over where and how much paint goes onto the surface.

Natural bristle:

  • Natural bristle comes primarily from Chinese Hog and is the “traditional” brush. (Dates back to the Phoenicians)

  • Natural bristle is recommended for solvent based paints, varnish, alkyd enamels and polyurethanes.

  • Natural bristle is not recommended for water based paints (latex, acrylic, PVA) because it tends to absorb water which results in the bristles flaring and becoming too soft to be effective.

  • Rough surfaces tend to break the tips of natural bristle, which negatively impacts the finish. (No longer a smooth finish)


Synthetic bristle:

  • Synthetic bristles are made with nylon or polyester or a blend of the two.

  • Synthetic bristle is recommended for water based and solvent based coatings. Synthetic bristle performs well on smooth and rough surfaces, and in any weather including heat and humidity.

  • The technology around synthetic bristles continues to change in line with the ongoing change to paint formulations.

  • Synthetic brushes generally last considerably longer than natural bristle and do not absorb water.

  • Faster overall painting with less effort

  • No unsightly brush streaks/striation (also dependent on the type and quality of the paint and skill of user).

  • Less bristle or filament shedding (Hamilton’s Perfection Ensign = Guaranteed no bristle loss)

  • Easier “cutting in” for those tight areas

  • Outstanding finish appearance

  • Dip the brush no more than halfway into the paint. Do not sink the brush up to the ferrule

  • Let excess paint drip for a moment then lightly tap both sides of the brush against the interior wall of the can/bucket. (Scraping the excess paint on the edge of the can is messy and counter-productive because it removes the paint that has just been loaded into the brush)

  • Keep a wet edge as you paint and continue to paint from that point forward. Use long smooth strokes and reload the brush whenever the paint starts to break up without covering the surface properly

  • Clean immediately after use:

  • Plascon Brush Cleaner, mineral turpentine or paint thinner if you have painted with solvent based paints (Enamel, varnish, oil)

  • Soap and water if you have painted with water based paints (Latex, Acrylic, PVA)

  • Use a comb to clean and straighten the bristles.

  • Do not soak your brushes for extended periods of time. They will lose their shape if you do.

  • If possible, store your brush by hanging it. Do not store a brush on its tips. This will curl the working tip of the brush

  • Run your hand over the roller to see if it sheds any lint. If it doesn’t, it’s probably a good roller.

  • Check both ends of the roller to see if there is any fabric hanging over either end. Good quality rollers are “bevelled” and there should be no overhanging fabric.

  • Look for the seam in the roller. If you don’t see one, then it is probably a good roller. If you see any gaps in the roller or loose backing at either end that means the roller is of inferior quality.

  • The quality of the fabric together with the method used to manufacture a roller impacts on the quality of the end product and ultimately on the quality of the paint job.

  • The fabric is referred to as pile or nap. The nap type and length determines the finish, with the longer nap often leaving a pattern on the surface.

  • The choice of roller is dependent on the type of paint being used and the surface being painted.

  • Solvent based paints are generally applied with a short pile mohair roller onto smooth surfaces

  • Water based paints are generally applied with sheepskin, bended synthetic or foam rollers:

    • Long pile is used for rough surfaces

    • Medium pile is used for semi rough and textured surfaces

    • Foam/Velour is use for smooth and semi smooth surfaces

      • Velour rollers – foam with a ‘light orange/pink” membrane are increasingly popular and result in a finish close to that of sprayed application, when using non drip polyurethanes/enamels

  • Saves times and produces a quality finish

  • Quality rollers hold more paint and allow for an even film thickness, (levels the paint finish without shadows or valleys)

  • Cheaper rollers often result in a number of coats having to be applied which is costly and time consuming

  • Will not shed lint on the painted surface

  • Will not delaminate during use (Check manufacturer’s instructions before using epoxy and/or industrial coatings)