Types of Paint Brushes


There are many types of paint brushes, in various shapes and sizes, used for fine art. A paint brush may be made with stiff or soft bristles, which can be either synthetic or natural hairs. Brushes are made for particular uses and mediums, which is why an artist's box of supplies is not complete without several kinds.


  • Paint brushes are made in a range of sizes. Generally they can be placed in either the round or flat category. Round brushes can range in size from 1mm of hair to 10mm of hair or more and may have lengths anywhere from 5mm to 40mm or more. Flat brushes range in width from 2mm wide to 20mm wide and length from 5mm to 25mm. There are brush shapes called filberts, which are more like a tuft of hair, and skywash brushes, which have a thick lock of hair. There are also fan-shaped brushes.

Stiff Brushes

  • Stiff brushes such as those made of coarse synthetic fiber or bristle (hog) hair are good for using thick paints such as oils or acrylics. These brushes are used for creating textures and brush strokes in the paint, as well as for applying a generous amount of paint to a canvas. These are not recommended for thin paints such as watercolors.

Soft Brushes

  • Soft brushes are often smaller, because they are perfect for spreading thin paint or doing detail work. Soft brushes are able to be pinched to a point at the tip for painting fine lines. Sable or imitation sable is the softest.


  • If you are looking for a paint brush that performs nearly the same as a natural brush but is much cheaper, a synthetic hair is a good choice. These are usually made from nylon and come in either light or dark hair. It is not uncommon to be able to purchase an entire 15-piece brush set for the same cost of just two or three natural brushes.


  • The most common natural hairs used for paint brushes are sable, squirrel and hog, and sometimes goat and ox. Sable is a very soft hair that works excellently with watercolors or thin acrylics. Goat hair is good to use for calligraphy or Chinese brush painting because it naturally forms a nice point.

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  • Photo Credit Naomi Judd
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