How to Choose the Right Brush or Roller

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job - roomfortuesday.comLast 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!

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job - roomfortuesday.comChoosing 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.

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

Brush Stiffness

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.

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

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!

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

Brush Filaments

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?!

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job - roomfortuesday.comThe 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…

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

My personal favorite brushes…

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -


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.

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

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.

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

Roller Nap

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!

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job -

My personal favorite rollers…

  • For interior walls: WhiteDove
  • For smooth surfaces: Parrot
  • For exterior projects (like our shed, pictured below): Marathon

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job - roomfortuesday.comDid 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! 

Guide for Choosing the Right Paint Tools for the Job - roomfortuesday.comWas 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!

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  1. Great Post! I find myself in the paint supply aisle wondering if I’m selecting the correct brushes and rollers quite often! I will refer to this post often!! Thanks

  2. The number of times I have smudged my beautiful paint jobs trying to remove stray bristles and fuzz…grrr. Why would I insist on the best paint I could afford and then skimp on brushes?! Sigh. You paint, you learn. Speaking of learning, what a wonderfully informative read! The graphics are especially helpful and well-done. Tipped and flagged. Woven and knit. I feel like I could really chat up the hardware store gal the next time I’m there. Seriously though, you are a fine educator. Great idea for a handy, pinnable reference! Happiest of Thursdays to you, Sarah!💜
    (BTW, I found some swoon-worthy demilunes yesterday on Etsy!)

    1. I’ve been there, too! Haha! I’m so happy it was a good informative post. That means a lot coming from a teacher :) WHY did I not think to check Etsy for demilunes?! I have yet to my fancy table that I want to splurge on… maybe I should check there first. I need more hours in the day to peruse pretty furniture.

  3. Melanie Thielke says:

    Black bristles….what’s the deal with these? Why are they useful? I must get a nylon brush! They sound fabulous. Thanks for the useful lists. I am taking notes.

    1. Melanie T says:

      (Nylox Aoutocorreted to nylon for above comment)

  4. I love Purdy brushes and am about to embark on multiple paint projects so the timing of your blog post is perfect!

  5. Melissa D says:

    This post was strangely fascinating… I love learning new things. I honestly never put that much thought into what time of brushes and rollers I choose for paint projects, and now I’m kicking myself to think of how much better I could have made things if I had only done a little research first! This post is definitely getting saved for future reference when it comes time for a few more DIY projects. Thanks Sarah! Happy Thursday and enjoy your weekend!!

    1. I loved learning about these things too! It’s all helpful information, too :) So happy you enjoyed it, Melissa!

  6. You just schooled me in a big way! I always wondered why my textured walls-which are not a heavy texture-always appear more heavily textured after a fresh paint coat…I’m using the wrong nap! This is a very thorough and informative guide, and I am infinitely grateful that you compile together so much information for us. I’m going to be coming back to this one for sure! I have a few paint projects to button up in February, and I’ll be using that handy selector tool and visiting my local SW store for sure! I used to buy my paint supplies from Lowe’s and Home Depot, but in my area neither one has an exhaustive selection of Purdy products. I didn’t know that until I popped into Sherwin Williams one day and found oh so many awesome tools to assist with paint projects. I need to fill my toolbox! Lol. Happy Thursday Sarah, I hope you have an amazing day!

    1. Haha!! Yess- you’ve gotta get the right roller nap. I hope it’s helpful for your next paint project- I really enjoyed learning about these things the past couple years. Lowe’s should carry some Purdy products, as well as Amazon :) … if you can’t get to an SW store.

  7. It’s a very useful post! Something I always have trouble with is getting my brushes completely clean. In your last Purdy post, you said you keep them for years. So you must be able to clean them, lol. Are there tricks to it?

  8. Amy Smith says:

    This was so well timed! We are painting tongue and groove boards and I have been unsure of what brush to use to get a perfectly smooth finish!

  9. I can never get a smooth finish with rollers! Now I finally understand why! I’d love to upgrade my tools and get it right. Great post!

  10. That roller diagram is so helpful!

  11. Rachael Travers says:

    This would be a dream to win… fingers crossed!

  12. Great and informative post! On reader surveys I never have really great suggestions for posts, but then something like this comes up and I think THIS is what I should have suggested. Like Peggi mentioned what’s the point in having really great paint to only apply it with a not so great brush (guilty)?! We are contemplating painting our brick exterior this spring/summer. We live in a ranch style home so it’s doable – but still a big job. I’ll definitely refer to this post (and your bedroom balcony post) on how to get the job done right!

  13. I love these kind of posts, Sarah – little tricks that make all the difference. I screenshot the diagrams for a quick reference on my (many!) trips to the pain aisle :) Thank you for taking the time to create them!

  14. Would love to try out some brushes and rollers! We’re planning on painting the exterior and this post will be so helpful!

  15. Kelsey Alexander says:

    I would love to win this brush set to finish painting my bathroom! I started pairing the trim yesterday.

  16. This is very timely for me as I have a project to start. Thanks for all this great info. It’s so helpful.

  17. Viktorija says:

    Awesome giveaway! I have only recently started to buy more expensive paint brushes and I’m so glad—the superior quality is obvious.

  18. This is a great post. I struggle with figuring out the right brush for the job!

  19. This is very helpful – thanks so much for all the good info!

  20. Kaitlin Jenkins says:

    This was so helpful! I have always had a preference to Purdy brushes too, but there’s still so much to know. Bookmarking this post for reference :)

  21. Thank you for the opportunity to win these brushes. I learned a lot from your post today!

  22. Sara Shepherd says:

    I have a bunch of paint projects coming up. Trying to work up the courage to paint my kitchen cabinets! This post is very useful!

  23. That was so good! I do a few home projects involving paint every couple months or so and just last night, I am pretty sure I was staining a wood shelf with the wrong brush! Lesson learned. I love learning more and more about this stuff since I would love to one day make a business in reviving and refinishing furniture!

  24. Charlotte says:

    This post is super helpful! Will definitely pin this for reference!

  25. CINDY KEAS says:

    NOT too much info…..I always struggle with this! Thank you; I’m sure I will refer back to this often.

  26. This is a great resource. Great way to have it all in one place. Thanks Sarah.

  27. Thank you for the post! I’m getting ready to paint the spindles on my staircase and choosing a brush is a little overwhelming…

  28. So fun. And excellent intel. I’m already a die hard Purdy fan but there was so much I didn’t know. Now I feel inspired to paint all the things.

  29. Meghan Schwartz says:

    Thank you! Definitely referring back to this post, as I do with so many of your others!

  30. Erin Dippold says:

    What a timely post! I am in the midst of some renovations including paint. Thanks for the helpful information.

  31. My fiancé and I have been doing a lot of remodeling lately and there is nothing better than a good quality brush! You get what you buy, that’s for sure! Thanks for the info and keep blogging ! ❤️

  32. I find myself coming back to your blog to search for paint suggestions when I am painting something – one time when painting a door I had to refer back to a post on your blog for suggestions! This post is extremely useful as well and I am definitely bookmarking it! It’s rare to find bloggers who give such good advice like you.

  33. Jenna Shell says:

    Oh I hope I win this giveaway. I am remodeling my first home I’ve ever purchased. I am remodeling the WHOLE house by myself as a single 36 year old. Lol Please send prayers.

  34. Thanks for this post! So helpful. This weekend I will be testing some swatches in our home office, which of course has gotten LOTS more use in the past 10 months than it ever has now that we are working from home all day every day. I’m sick of staring at the light green, thinking of going dark and leaning towards BM Hale Navy if I can talk my hubby into it….wish me luck!

  35. When we bought our first home several years ago, we painted the entire place. My dad helped pick out brushes and rollers but I never thought to ask him why he chose the ones he did. I do remember him saying to buy Purdy brushes and take good care of them bc they would last for years. He wasn’t wrong – 2 homes later and we still have them. And thanks to your post, I now know why the “pink bristle brush” is my favorite 😂

  36. So helpful thank you! Now to tackle all the paint jobs in 2021b

  37. This giveaway is just in time for me to paint some interior trim! Fingers crossed and thank you for the giveaway!

  38. Awesome tips! Thanks for posting!

  39. For sure adding my name to this because I have a big painting project coming up!!! Thanks Sarah and Purdy!

  40. Thank you for putting this together. It’s always a head scratcher when I’m trying to figure out what brush or roller to use for which project. It’s dizzying and this post is such a good, centralized resource I can come back to with easy to read snapshots!

  41. This post is so helpful, thank you!

  42. Hoping to paint some of our very scuffed up door trim this weekend and would love to try out a wider selection of nicer brushes on a future project!

  43. Thank you for all the tips and good info. I’m bookmarking this post for future reference!

  44. Cannot wait to paint everything with this newfound knowledge!!

  45. Stephanie C says:

    Great post, super helpful tips!!

  46. Caitlin Bohner says:

    Yas! I could always use some more paint brushes. I’ve become a loather of painters tape and took your tips on a Purdy clearcut brush! Game changer!

  47. New homeowner with little DIY experience. Painting feels like an easy and not super expensive place to start. Excited to use this info to tackle prep for painting an office space this month!

  48. Loved your last post on brushed and brush care. I bought two of the brushes you recommended and they are amazing.

  49. Ashley Piomelli says:

    This post was soo unbelievably helpful!! Thank you so much for sharing! A good brush can definitely make all the difference!!

  50. I have so so many painting projects in my entire house from walls, trims to furniture. This is a great post and I’m saving it so I can review it again before I start my painting projects.

  51. Amanda Fowler says:

    Awesome! So helpful, and it’s so nice to have it on a blog post to come back and reference! I’m not likely to remember a Insta story and search for a highlight, haha! Thank you!!

  52. Currently painting my bathroom vanities and feeling inspired by the change to paint all the things!

  53. Sierra Fontaine says:

    Painted for the first time last weekend as a new homeowner. Thank goodness for my husband knowing the Purdy brushes are the best! I am excited to tackle more projects in our new to us house.

  54. You are a wealth of knowledge and thanks for sharing it with us!!

  55. This is so helpful! I never knew before painting our first home this year that there are different brushes and rollers for different types of projects. I love how your blog simplifies and explains all things interior design!!

  56. Diedre Roberts says:

    Love Purdy brushes!

  57. Really interesting information. Thanks for sharing!

  58. Thank you so much for sharing! This is so helpful!!💛

  59. Sherry Meek says:

    Purdy brushes are the best. Thanks for the detailed rundown. ❤️

  60. This is so helpful!!! I just used to go by the good, better, best labels at Home Depot lol. Now I’m excited that my husband ruined our paintbrushes recently during a move :)

  61. Catherine says:

    Good tips! Any suggestions for a brush with an easy grip?

  62. I just bought my first house and have been trying to work up the courage/energy to paint. This list is super helpful!

  63. Stephanie says:

    Really appreciate this post as every time I paint, I stare at my brushes wondering which one I should use. I’d also love to know how you clean and care for your Purdy brushes. We’ve had ours for a while and I feel like we’ve gotten behind the curve on properly cleaning them so I feel like we need to replace them sooner than I’d like.

  64. Great to have all this info to save for future reference, esp the easy to refer to list with links.

  65. Gracie Evans says:

    So helpful. I’ve never bought a Purdy brush, but will certainly be more apt to try one now.

  66. So helpful! I had no idea what the roller nap meant!

  67. I love a good paint brush! I’m in the middle of a couple of painting projects and better tools make all the difference. Thanks for sharing these tips :-)

  68. Denise White says:

    Thank you for sharing all that amazing information! Who knew there was so much to know about paint brushes and rollers. Thank you Sarah and Purdy : )

  69. Thank you for all the details. I am just starting to paint the interior of my home. Great tips for a first time DIY-er!

  70. Layne Thompson says:

    This is very helpful! I do love my Purdy brushes.

  71. I’m in the process of preparing (mentally and supply-wise) to paint the whole main floor of my house. Will definitely be looking into some of these suggestions! So timely :)

  72. Purdue brushes are my favorite!!

  73. Sarah Hansen says:

    I usually grab whatever brush I can find and go! But after reading this post, I’m going to spend a little more time finding the right one. Thanks for the info!

  74. this is actually very helpful, i recently painted my walls and used a micro fiber rooler. now i am wondering why did i chose that:). Bookmarking this for future refrence for sure! love you guest room btw!!

  75. Very helpful, detailed post. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity as well :)

  76. Handy information, especially when you’re in the brush section trying to figure out what you need for the job!

  77. Alina Fortuna says:

    Very informative and timely! I was just at Home Depot feeling overwhelmed and unsure which paint brushes would be best for repainting my trim. Definitely saving this for future reference!

  78. I have learned about brushes and rollers through trials and error but this provided more than I knew through experience! Thanks for the information! I’m hoping to paint some rooms in our house year so getting some fresh brushes would be awesome! I’ve worn mine pretty ragged and I’m diligent about cleaning them well. 🥴

  79. I’m definitely saving this post for future reference! Almost every surface in my house needs to be painted, so this will be super helpful.

  80. Purdy is my go to! My local Sherwin Williams manager showed me their brushes and I haven’t looked back since, Purdy is the only brand I use. I love the new painters backpack they came out with last year too!

  81. Kathy Roberson says:

    Excellent information..thank you for sharing. I always use Purdy but you just gave me some different ones to buy!

  82. What great content!! Everyone can paint and no one ever knows the right tools to use! Thanks for this! Will definitely file this away for my next project!

  83. Such great info! I’ve learned from past experiences that a quality brush can make all the difference. I always go for the Purdy brushes these days.

  84. Love Purdy brushes. I have been painting since my first apartment in 1978. My dad always said to use the best brushes and rollers; makes all the difference in the project!

  85. Can’t live without my Purdy brush and would love another to add to my toolbox!

  86. Wow! This was super helpful. I’m definitely bookmarking this for future reference!

  87. Andrea Noble says:

    I love the short handle brush as well—the reduced weight seems to make all the difference for me! Thanks for as lo the info!!

  88. Jordan Karolla Thomson says:

    So helpful! I’ve always been partial to Purdy brushes, but this taught me so much about where to go once I get to the right brand isle, haha! I’m always looking to expand my brush collection and this would be amazing!

  89. Scott Andersen says:

    I can definitely use some new brushes

  90. Kris Huber says:

    What a great article about brushes & rollers! Thanks for writing it!

  91. Roberta berrios says:

    Very resourceful information! Purdy is my favorite brush and roller… I love to paint.. Painting cabinets soon.. I got the Purdy bag for Christmas and love it! Need to fill it up.. Thank you for sharing … 🙏🏼

  92. Charlene Cannon says:

    Have a lot of painting ahead, my daughter just bought a house and there is a lot of oak cabinets, doors and trim to paint. This was a very helpful blog. Thank you

  93. Elizabeth says:

    What’s the best roller or brush for applying a protective finish on stained furniture so that I don’t get streaks?

  94. Love Purdy Brushes! Could really use some new ones for a new house project – great post!

  95. We have a new to us home in need of much paint. A few extra tools would be appreciated. Thanks for the tips, Sarah!

  96. You just made me feel like a fell down a rabbit hole of information on paint supplies all in one super helpful post! Who knew that the tips of Purdy brush bristles could be so different. I’ll be painting a farmhouse cabinet that is currently being built. Thanks for steering me in the right direction!

  97. Could you speak to painting ceilings?
    Thanks again!!!

  98. Emily Sebesta says:

    I’m getting ready to paint the trim in my house so this is extra helpful!

  99. Good tips, lots of painting in my future so this is very helpful!

  100. Abi Tackett says:

    Loved how informative this post was! I definitely learned some things I didn’t know ☺️

  101. Pinning this post to every board! I just repainted our garage and was super disappointed in the performance of the brushes we chose. Will put these tips to use when we move on to painting a hallway, office, two bathrooms, a bedroom and a nursery this year! It’s a major to-do list!

  102. Karen Bell says:

    Thanks for such a detailed post! It’s definitely one to save and refer back to. Purdy brushes are the best!

  103. Perfect timing as just starting our master bedroom refresh and paint is first up!

  104. Great information, thank you.

  105. Very helpful post. I have always struggled with paint lines and can always see them in all my paint projects.

  106. This post is so helpful! Thank you!

  107. Felicia thompson says:

    I’m about to paint the doors in my house so I’ll have to buy a Nylox brush. Thanks for sharing!

  108. Alexandria Brown says:

    Great post! I’ve purchased some Prudy brushes in the past, but I didn’t really understand when to use what brush. I love your breakdown of which brushes you prefer for each type of painting project. Thanks!

  109. Amanda Heilig says:

    So helpful and informative! Thanks for sharing! 🤗

  110. So helpful! I find myself standing in the paintbrush aisle purchasing new brushes with almost every paint project, and what I really need to do is invest in some better quality brushes. Perfect timing too, as I’ve got quite a few paint projects on the horizon with a new house!

  111. This is so helpful for a painting newb! I want to tackle more paint projects this year bc it’s such a simple way to transform something, when done right of course! Thanks for the tips.

  112. About to buy our first house after years of renting!! getting all overwhelmed with the home improvement projects that are about to happen and would love to have a good brush set to set us on the right path

  113. I love my one Purdy brush that I do have for painting all the trim in my house. I feel crazy protective of it when we are doing projects and no one else gets to use it.

    1. That is so me with my favorite brush! I can relate, Danielle. My husband knows not to use that one. Hahah!

  114. Mary Kay Ciziunas says:

    I’d love some new brushes for some upcoming paint projects.

  115. Julie Sellers says:

    Thank you for both these detailed posts, Sarah. I always dread painting projects but am feeling more optimistic for my next one with this preparation!

    1. I love hearing that, Julie!! Have a great week.

  116. I’ve yet to see an infographic like that for the roller brushes… that’s pretty handy.
    Just painted my bedroom for the first time (a dark green <3) and I can still see some roller marks after it dried in some spots, it's like it's a different shiny and catches the light… argh. Not sure what I did wrong there.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I’m so glad to hear that. I love a good dark green paint color- I bet your bedroom is gorgeous! I’d say the shiny spots could be because of the finish you used or the mixing? I always use a flat or eggshell on the walls. Make sure you mix the paint really really well- I’ve had that happen before as well :) xox