Painted Clover, blog

Different types of Paint brushes

Brushes not only range in size, but also in shape, material and length.

Paint brushes are an artists best friend, the right brush can help you create a smooth or textured finish, you can make bold large brush strokes with a wide flat 4 inch brush or fine detail touches with a small round brush! Join us today in exploring the difference between brush heads and brush bristle types. Onward!


Brush sizes refer to the width of the head of the bristle or the “Tuft.” Depending on the manufacturer, the size is given in either inches or millimeters. Customary is 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8, 1 inch and all the way up to 4 inches.

Some brushes are considered Decorator’s brushes, which is usually for painting and detail decorations, while other brushes are used for Trade painters.These are usually non-artistic uses, like house painters, when you need to cover a large area with an even coat. Artists will use a wide range of brush sizes.


Different shapes can make your painting life a little easier, to helping create sharp edges, defined lines and even unique shapes.

Types of brush heads.jpg

Round: A pointed tip brush with long closely arranged bristles, great for details and one stroke flower petals

Flat: a straight edge brush used for spreading paint quickly and evenly over a surface. Usually longer hairs than their sister

Bright: The sister of the flat brush, but these have shorter bristle hairs to help hold their stiff shape, its good for getting the paint into the weave of the canvas when working with thinner paints

Filbert: a flat brush but with square rounded edges. This brush is a good one, because it allows good coverage and the ability to do some details.

Fan: A favorite of Bob Ross! Fan brushes can be used to make quick trees, but are also helpful in blending large areas of paint.

Angle: another personal favorite, the angle brush is good for both large areas and detail work

Mop: A larger brush with rounded edges is great for broad paint application to make a soft appearance as well as a glaze or gloss over existing dry layers without damaging lower layers.

Rigger: A long bristle hair brush, this brush got its name because it was traditionally used for painting the “rigging” in paintings of ships, they are very useful when making fine lines with the right amount of pressure.

Stippler: A short tubby round brush, great for creating texture, leaves on trees and grass

There are loads more styles, these are just the tip of the iceburg.

Bristle Material

Typically when working with different paints you should use different brushes, as the paint works differently with different types of bristle material.

A Sable, a small mammal, similar to a cat or a fox, but with squirrel like tendencies. Highly valued for is dark brown or black fur.

A Sable, a small mammal, similar to a cat or a fox, but with squirrel like tendencies. Highly valued for is dark brown or black fur.

Some brushes are natural hair from Squirrel, badger, and most commonly Sable. Which is a species of Marten, a small mammal that lives in the forests of Russia and throughout Siberia. Don’t worry, most of the Sable now available commercially is now farmed, vs hunted.

For example, watercolor brushes are usually made of sable, synthetic sable or nylon for their ability to absorb and hold water, while acrylic are usually either hogs hair, nylon, or synthetic.

Other types of bristle material is, Ox hair, which is usually died red to look like sable. Camel hair is usually used in cheaper, lower quality alternatives, but still make great beginner brushes. Brushes can also be made from Pony, goat, mongoose and badger hairs. Each type of material used does different things, holds the paint differently and makes different textures. For example, a hogs hair brush is typically a coarse brush, used to create texture.

Synthetic bristles are made of special multi-diameter extruded nylon filament, Taklon or Polyester. Which are becoming more popular with the larger use of acrylic and water based paints as they are easily cleaned and used multiple times.

I Imagine this can all sounds a bit overwhelming to a new artist, just get a variety set, something with 5 brushes, play around with each one and figure out what you’re good at! If all else fails, join us at Painted Clover for a few beginner tips and tricks on using just a few of the brushes mentioned above.

Check out our previous post about how brushes are made:

A paintbrush is usually made by clamping the handle to the bristles with a Ferrule, usually a silver or gold plated metal piece.