When I first started out painting with acrylics I just bought the cheapest ones I could find and ended up with a set of 3 brushes, all with the same size and shape. Long story short, it didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t a very good purchase.
Knowing which brush to use in which situation is a crucial skill to have, regardless of the type of paint you are working with. Certain brushes are suited for specific techniques and effects.
In this article, I just want to introduce the most important brushes for painting, what they are used for, and which ones I would recommend beginners.
Paint Brush Types You Need To Know
You want to have a variety of different brushes for painting available to you. That way you be able to learn painting techniques correctly right from the start.
Normally I advise beginners to go with some cheap option until they really figured out if a particular medium suits them well. But when it comes to paintbrushes I strongly recommend you at least start out with the 6 most common types listed below.
The round brush is perhaps the most commonly used type of brush, and likely the one you are most familiar with. It has a soft rounded tip and come in a variety of different sizes, ranging from really small to really big.
Due to their rounded tip they give very good control over the flow of the paint and are therefore well suited for adding details. You normally will start by using the bigger sizes a lot and then slowly move to the smaller ones for the final finishing touch.
The flat brush is another type of brush that most people are still familiar with. Just like the round brush, is comes in a large variety of different sizes.
This type of brush is often used for wide strokes to cover a large area with paint. Additionally, you can hold the brush vertically instead of horizontally if you want to make thin lines.
I admit that when I saw the fan brush for the first time I had no clue what to use it for. But once someone shows you how to use it properly it starts to make so much sense.
The fan brush is perfect for adding nature elements to your painting. Especially painting trees, grass, brushes, etc. becomes much easier. Moreover, they can be used for subtle blending of different colors, for example skies and lakes.
The angled brush has hairs of increasing length from one side to the other. This gives it an angled or slanted tip, which is why they are also sometimes referred to as slanted brushes.
They can be used to paint lines that vary in size. By slowly lifting the brush while painting a line, the short hairs will lose contact with the canvas first which creates a narrowing line. And you can do the opposite to paint lines that increase in thickness.
Some beginners might also prefer using angled brushes when they are painting with an easel, because the almost vertical angle is very different from painting on a flat canvas on the table.
The liner brush is basically a very thin version of the round brush with elongated hairs. This makes them ideal for adding details that are even too small for your smallest round brush.
Besides painting, this brush is also used for lettering, journaling, and writing. For example, the final artist signature you add to the painting is often written by using the liner brush.
The wash brush is a bigger version of the flat brush, and as the name suggests is used to apply a wash to your canvas. Considering that they are much bigger than any other artist paintbrush you can’t really miss them.
The tip of the wash brush is a bit thicker than most other types. This lets it absorb more water and paint, such that you can cover large parts of the canvas at once.
Additionally, most brushes come in a variety of different sizes as well. Obviously the smaller the brush the easier it is to fill in details, while bigger brushes are better for applying paint evenly on big surfaces.
Although having a wide variety of differently sized brushes to your disposal can be useful, you definitely don’t need that many to start out with. For example, having only a single fan, wash, or liner brush will be enough for most people. But I do recommend having several flat and round brushes.
Note that different brands can label their sizes differently. A size 1 at one brand might be size 2 or 3 in another brand’s selection. Rather than looking at the indicated size, it’s more accurate to check the length, diameter, and width of the brush. Unfortunately, this information is not always easy to find, so I normally try to buy most brushes from the same brand.
Natural Vs Synthetic Hair
The hairs of a paintbrush can come from many sources. Originally animal hairs were used, but nowadays polymers can be used to make synthetic hairs that are pretty similar to the natural hairs.
If you compare artist paintbrushes you will quickly see that natural hairs are much more expensive than the synthetic ones. Which might make you think that the natural ones are much better as well.
This might be true for watercolor or oil painting, but surprisingly the best brushes for acrylic painting are actually made using synthetic hairs. This is mainly because the acrylic paint damages most types of natural hairs over time and even small amounts of dried paint will ruin your brushes.
Additionally, most natural hairs don’t like to sit in water for a long time because they will start to permanently change their shape. Synthetic hairs are more resistant to this, which is an important feature considering you will need to soak your brushes for a while to remove all the paint.
Beginner Paint Brushes For Acrylic
#1 Mont Marte Brush Set
As long as you have some good acrylic paints, a single round and flat brush can be enough to get you started. However, a wider range of different shapes and sizes will allow much better control of the acrylic paint and lead to better results.
For beginners, a relatively cheap set of brushes such as the Mont Marte 15 piece art paint brush set is a good place to start. The set contains 4 angled brushes, 2 flat brushes, 2 filbert brushes, 5 round brushes, 1 fan brush and a rigger.
They have a long handle which makes them easy to use in combination with an easel and the hairs are smooth and thick. Additionally, the hairs are well embedded in a way that prevents them from coming out, so they are quite durable as well.
#2 ZenART Acrylic Painting Brushes
If you are serious about acrylics and want to dive right into it with some professional quality acrylic brushes, then we recommend the 14 piece brush set by zenART Supplies. If you are just starting out and not sure how to use all these different types of brushes and knives, you might want to take an acrylic painting class online first.
These brushes have long handles made out of Birchwood which makes it easy to use them in combination with an easel. The brushes either have semi-stiff badger + 30% synthetic hair of are made completely out of stiff chungking hog bristle, ideal for working with heavy bodied acrylics. The natural hairs can carry a lot of paint and hold their shape while doing so.
Although shedding is a common problem with natural hair, this is prevented by adding fine synthetic hair and by the nickel-plated ferrule. Since they come with a 1 year 100% money back guarantee, these brushes are a safe bet.
Best Painting Brushes For Acrylics – Professional Set
If you are looking to up your game, you might want to take a look at the artist paintbrushes by Winsor & Newton. This brand is mainly known for a variety of different paint and inks, but also offer high-quality art brushes. Not surprising, considering the company has more than 150 years of experience making art supplies.
They can be bough individually or as a small set of 4, 5, or 7 different brushes. You won’t find any big sets of 14 or 15 pieces as the cheaper options mentioned above. So you can start with a smaller set and then after some experimenting you can buy the ones you really need.
The 7-pack comes with 2 round brushes, 1 filbert brush, 1 fan brush, 1 angled brush and one flat brush. Note that Winsor & Newton sells a variety of different acrylic paint brush brands, both short handle brushes and long handed brushes.
Regardless of which one you choose, you can’t really go wrong with any of the brushes by Winsor & Newton.