Toolipedia: Paint Brush

Everything you ever needed or wanted to know about paint brushes is right here.

A paint brush with labeled parts | Construction Pro Tips
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What is a paint brush?

While paint brushes can be used for a variety of tasks including brushing dust off of objects and cleaning items, the obvious, most common use of a paint brush is to apply paint to surfaces. Once a paint brush is dipped into paint, the paint adheres to the bristles and can then be applied to the wall or other medium. When used for painting, a paint brush is usually used to cut-in edges on walls, paint small areas and paint woodworking like trim and pieces of furniture. Paint brushes are made from natural hairs or synthetic fibers and have the same general construction.

Basic parts of a paint brush

  1. Hole for hanging the paint brush
  2. Handle
  3. Ferrule: to hold the bristles to the handle
  4. Heel of the bristles
  5. Tip of the brush (toe)

Paint brushes are used by painters, remodelers and DIYers to apply paint and stains to a host of surfaces. Paint brushes have been used for millennia by people to improve and decorate everything from caves to tombs to walls to fine art masterpieces.

How is a paint brush used?

Paint brush operation basics

  • Dip the paint brush into the paint or stain so that only approximately 1/2 in. of the bristles are submerged into the paint.
  • Spread the paint on the surface in similar—back and forth or up and down—strokes to distribute the paint evenly.
  • Ensure that there is adequate paint on the brush and refresh the amount of paint as needed.
  • When painting is completed, clean the brush thoroughly with an appropriate cleaning agent; water for latex paints and mineral spirits or paint thinner for oil based paints.

Paint brush accessories worth buying

  • A paint comb can be helpful to clean paint brushes.

Paint brush safety

  • Some paints can be high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can produce noxious fumes, especially in enclosed spaces. Be sure to ventilate rooms appropriately when painting.
  • Some cleaning agents can be skin irritants, so wear rubber gloves to prevent irritation when painting.

What are the different types of paint brushes?

  • Paint bushes come in a variety of bristle widths; common sizes range from 1 in. to 4 in.
  • Paint brush handles can be range in length as well.
  • Often, paint brushes bristles are cut either straight or angled.
  • Paint brush bristles may be made from natural hair, which is best for oil based paints, or synthetic, which is best for latex based paints.

What makes a good paint brush?

  • Strong, wooden handle
  • Moderately stiff bristles
  • Well attached ferrule (little to no wiggle)

Purdy makes high-quality paint brushes.  

Paint Brush Tip

Avoid getting paint into the heel of the brush close to the ferrule, which makes cleaning difficult and can cause drips and reduce the quality of the overall job.

Get more painting tips here.

Discover other painting tools

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LeRoy Demarest
I have worked for over a decade as an environmental scientist working on an advanced bioremdiation clean up project. For the past six years I have also worked as an adjunct instructor for several colleges, both F2F and online, teaching a number of science courses. Finally, I have been freelance writing for a variety of publications on the topics of: gardening, environment, construction, science, science education, academics and technical work.