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Choosing the right paintbrushes for your project

The old proverb that a bad workman blames his tools is only partially true when it comes to paint and paintbrushes. A good-quality paintbrush used to apply top-quality paint like Resene will make a world of difference to the result of your project. Streaks or wayward bristles from a poor-quality brush can ruin your painting efforts. Alternatively, using a brush that’s not suited to the job at hand can leave your arms and wrists tired from the strain. Follow our guide to paintbrushes and brush up your knowledge on tools and techniques.

Five things to consider when choosing a paintbrush

Whether you’re painting an interior wall or exterior weatherboards of your home it’s best to use a variety of paintbrushes for the different parts of the project. These five considerations will help you choose the right brushes for you to get the job done:

1. The type of project
Do you have a large amount of painting to do? If so, you will need some paintbrushes capable of painting large surfaces (see number 3 below). If it’s a project that might take a long time, you may want to invest in top-quality brushes, but if it’s a small project, cheaper brushes will do the trick. Good brushes have long tapered bristles that won’t fray or flick paint. If your project involves using a clear coat varnish, you may wish to get a special brush for this purpose that will not be used for painting. A good-quality paintbrush will have a stainless steel ferrule that won’t rust and will prevent the shedding of bristles.

2. Your painting experience and strength
The larger the paintbrush, the more paint you can apply in one go and the faster the job will get done. But while it might be tempting to use the largest paintbrush you can find to get the job done, a large paintbrush such as an 88-100mm brush, or a heavy
PAL Legend Flat Brush, inexperienced painters might tire quickly. A better option for beginner painters is usually a smaller brush, such as a 64-75 mm brush. Experienced painters may be able to cut in using a larger brush, but beginners will have more control using a smaller cutting-in brush. Another lightweight option for fast application could be using a paint roller, but these are not suitable for every job. For example, a brush is best when applying Resene Woodsman to timber weatherboards, as the brush helps the product to penetrate the grain of the timber better.

Consider the brush needed for the job at hand, as the different types work better for different areas and paint products.
Consider your painting experience and strength, as although large brushes may seem like they save time, they might tire inexperienced painters out early. Wall painted in Resene Blue Moon.

3. The type of brush you need for the job at hand.
There are three main types of paintbrush: 

  • Flat brushes are ideal for painting large areas such as weatherboards and roofing, and for staining ply. Flat brushes hold a lot of paint but can be hard to control.
  • Oval brushes, like the name suggests, have oval bristles and are good general purpose brushes. These hold a lot of paint and can be good for areas where you need to paint on an angle such as skirting boards.
  • Cutting in or angle brushes are special smaller brushes with angled edges which allow you to have greater control painting along straight edges or joins.
  • Other brush types:
    • Resene testpot brushes are the ideal size for using with Resene testpots and are perfect for craft projects.
    • PAL Deck Master Deck Brush is designed especially for staining decks and flooring. It can attach to a paint pole, allowing you to stain decks and flooring in a sweeping motion.
    • Detail brushes are designed for small hard-to-reach areas that a normal paintbrush might not be able to reach, such as the nooks and crannies in rattan furniture. 
    • Art brushes are ideal for craft and art projects and special techniques such as dry brushing or creating a strié effect. 
    • A dusting brush is not a paintbrush but is used for brushing away sanding dust.

4. The type of paint or product you are using. Paintbrush bristles are made of either synthetic materials or traditional boar/hog hair. Synthetic brushes are best for waterborne enamel and acrylic paints such as Resene SpaceCote, Resene Lustacryl, Resene Enamacryl and Resene Lumbersider. Traditional hog-bristle brushes are recommended for solventborne (oil-based) enamels such as Resene Super Gloss, varnishes such as Resene Aquaclear and Resene Qristal Clear, and stains such as Resene Woodsman and Resene Colorwood.

5. The type of surface that is being painted. Smooth surfaces like weatherboards or walls can be easily painted with a flat brush, but rough sawn timber fences or retaining walls and concrete blocks may need a short-bristled brush to make sure the paint can get worked into the cracks. Ask your Resene ColorShop expert which tool is best for your project and whether the surface should be prepped or primed prior to painting.

Holding the paintbrush correctly will keep aches and pains at bay and ensure you get the best finish possible. Paint colour above is Resene Blue Lagoon.
Caring for your brushes properly means they’ll last for years to come. It’s best to wash the brush out while the paint is still fresh.

Using your paintbrush

Before using a brand-new or used paintbrush, give it a rinse in water to remove any dust, dirt or loose bristles. When you start painting, hold the brush from the base of the bristles or over the top of the ferrule (metal part), similar to how you would hold a pencil. You don’t need to dip the entire brush into the paint pot, one-third to one-half of the length of the paint bristles should suffice. Tap any excess paint onto the side of the paint point. Use the tip of the paintbrush (not the side) to paint the surface, holding the brush at a 45-degree angle so you use your wrist and not your shoulder. If painting or staining the timber use long strokes following the grain of the timber, maintaining a wet edge. Click here for more tips on using a paintbrush.

Maintaining and caring for your paintbrush

To stop your paintbrush drying out between painting sessions (and to avoid having to clean the brush every time) wrap your brush in a reusable plastic bag. When the painting is complete, clean the brush as soon as possible. Leaving a brush to soak for too long can damage the shape of the brush. Waterborne paints can be cleaned from brushes in water, but for solventborne paints you may need to use a cleaning product such as Resene Brush Cleaner. Click here for more advice on cleaning paintbrushes.

With the right brushes, painting becomes light work, leaving you more time to enjoy your newly decorated spaces.

About MasterStroke by Resene
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