Last October, I shared some of my favorite pro painting tips while we were working on the guest room, and received lots of positive feedback. I’m happy that was such a helpful post and I thought it might be beneficial to elaborate on determining which paint brush or roller works best for specific projects. I wanted to break it down in an easy, permanent resource for you here on the blog. Whether you’re tackling a small paint project- like painting a piece of furniture…. or a large painting project- like the exterior of your home, I’m deciphering which paint tools work best for each project based on the surface you’re painting. Click through or pin this one for future paint and home improvement projects! Oh- and there is a little giveaway at the end of the post, too- if you’re in need of new brushes. Be sure to scroll to the bottom and enter! Ready for a super educational and informative post? Let’s do it!
*This post is sponsored by Purdy. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow us to create unique content while featuring products we actually use & enjoy!
Choosing the right brush or roller can really make or break your project outcome. I hate seeing brush streaks, uneven coverage, and have learned that projects go more quickly when I’m using the correct applicator. It took my stubborn self a couple years into our home improvement journey before I started investing in quality paint tools. They really do make a big difference, and knowing when to use what is half the battle! Let’s talk about brushes first, then we’ll discuss rollers.
There are three main things I consider before choosing a brush for a project: the stiffness, the size & shape, as well as the type of filaments. Did you know smaller trim brushes have stiff bristles and more control? They’re designed for short strokes that create crisp lines, while wall brushes are larger, hold more paint, and are made for long strokes that cover a bigger surface area, saving you time. When choosing a brush, you’ll want to consider the size, shape, stiffness, handle style, and type of bristles or filaments.
Stiff brushes are designed for cutting in a clean, crisp line and trimming out around windows, door casings, and millwork. Generally, the more stiff the brush, the more control you have to achieve a hard edge. Anytime I trim out millwork, the ceiling or corners of a room, or windows & doors, I most always have a ClearCut brush in my hand.
Brush Size & Style
Smaller sized brushes are better for working in tight areas or on detailed projects- like furniture or window mullions. In addition to size, you also have to consider the shape of the brush. Angular brushes are best for getting into tight corners or difficult to reach areas. Large brushes are optimal for covering a lot of surface area when a roller won’t work- like painting fences or curved surfaces (furniture projects). When choosing a brush, I also base my selection on the handle and how it feels in my hand. I’m partial to a short brush because it fits in my small hands and palm nicely, and doesn’t get in the way like longer handles… it’s great for tight areas and details. That part is really a personal preference and depends on how you paint and hold the brush. Experiment to find out which style you like best!
Not all brushes are created equal, and filaments (or bristles) are a big part of that. Purdy offers tipped and flagged filaments for their specific brushes, which helps with brush marks and cutting in crisp lines. Stiff brushes made for cutting in, have tipped filaments, so they won’t fray or split over time… meaning you can continue painting crisp edges with each project. Tipped and flagged filaments are actually intentionally split, then tipped… meaning they’re much softer, have smaller end bristles, and allow us to paint without brush marks. Isn’t that interesting?!
The question I’m most often asked about painting… how do you paint without seeing brush strokes? I have two remedies for that: good self leveling paint and the right brush. My favorite brush for this is a Nylox brush, pictured above. These brushes are awesome for smooth interior projects (doors, trim, and cabinetry). Paired with a self leveling paint, they provide an ultra smooth finish without any brush marks. As the paint dries, you’ll notice them disappearing. These brushes have very soft flagged and tipped filaments that provide an even finish. I made a little diagram for you…
My personal favorite brushes…
- For trim, corners, and ceilings: ClearCut
- For furniture & cabinetry: Nylox
- For exterior projects: Pro-Extra
- For stain projects: Syntox
- For oil based paint & enamel projects: Black Bristle
When selecting a roller cover, you have to determine what look you’re going for… completely smooth, stippling, a little texture, or a lot of texture. You should consider the nap, roller width, and knit to determine what roller fabric works best for your project.
Roller Cover Fabric
When choosing a roller cover, there are two main fabric options: woven or knit. Knitted roller covers hold more paint, cover more surface area, and leave more texture. Woven roller covers, on the other hand, prevent lint while providing a smooth finish. The amount of stippling or texture you get also depends on the roller’s fabric density.
The less nap on a roller, the smoother the finish will be. 1/4″ nap is great for ultra smooth surfaces- like doors, 3/8″ nap is ideal for walls & ceilings, 1/2″ nap is optimal for textured walls and concrete, 3/4″ nap is best for stucco and masonry, and 1-1/4″ nap is what you’ll need for brick or highly textured masonry. For the majority of our interior walls here at home, we use White Dove roller covers. They have a 3/8″ nap, work with all paints & stains, are lint-free, have a high-density woven cover, and they give us a nice smooth finish. I’ve got another diagram for you… I was on a roll in Illustrator and it was kind of fun getting back to my graphic design roots. Ha!
My personal favorite rollers…
- For interior walls: WhiteDove
- For smooth surfaces: Parrot
- For exterior projects (like our shed, pictured below): Marathon
Did you know that Purdy also has a convenient tool selector? I played around with it a lot last year and it’s very accurate. You answer questions like the type of surface you’re painting and the type of paint you’re using, then the tool selector will provide you with the right tool for the job. That really helped me learn what to use.
As for the GIVEAWAY… the winner will receive a Purdy brush pack filled with a few of my favorites. If you’d like to test them out- all you have to do is comment on this blog post, and you’re entered to win! Easy peasy. The winner will be announced in one week via email. *The winner must have a US mailing address to win… sorry Canadian friends!
Was that WAY more than you wanted to know about paint brushes and rollers? Since partnering with Purdy these past 8-9 months, I’ve actually really loved learning about all of this stuff. I find it so interesting and my new knowledge has definitely come in handy during our projects. The more you know makes for a better outcome!