The two main things to look for in oil paint brushes are size and shape.

The two main things to look for in oil paint brushes are size and shape.

The right oil paint brush is going to make all the difference in the outcome of your oil painting so choose wisely. Oil paint brushes come in a variety of different shapes, including square, angled, small, big, mop, rigger, flat, Filbert, fan, brights and round.

Not only are these oil paint brushes shaped differently but some are made of natural hair, others are made of synthetic fibers and some are a blend of both natural and synthetic.

So what should you look for in oil paint brushes?

When you are selecting your oil paint brushes there are two main things to take into consideration: size and shape. The shape of a brush enables you to apply paint to a canvas or surface in a specific way. The size of the brush that you use is going to be determined by the size of your painting.

If you are just starting out as an oil painter, buy Filbert and flat brushes. Filberts create soft rounded strokes due to their shape, and flat brushes allow you to get sharper edges. A Filbert brush is almond-shaped and is a combination of a flat brush and a round brush. Get these brushes in various sizes. The brushes are numbered.


A flat brush has a straight, clean edge that allows you to apply color evenly. The hairs on a flat brush are arranged in a shape that is rectangular and, which is longer than it is wide. This is a very versatile brush, which every oil painter needs in her painting kit. It allows you to make narrow strokes, broad strokes and even a triangular stroke. This brush is your top blending brush.

Brushes that are called brights are like a flat brush but the hairs are shorter. When you want your brush strokes to show, use a bright brush. This type of brush allows paint to be applied thickly. This is a short, stiff brush that gives you control of your stroke. A bright brush has shorter bristles than a flat brush and makes exact calligraphic marks. Consider getting a comb brush that allows you can use as a texturizing brush to create hair, fur, cross-hatching, feathers, grass and wood graining. Angular shade brushes are made to that they hold water and are ideal for blending in corners and small areas.

A round oil paint brush isn?t as versatile as other brush shapes but is good for line work and small details. A round brush is excellent for drawing lines.

A good oil brush will keep its shape when loaded with paint, and it will be resilient and bounce back to its original form after you have taken a stroke. On the other hand, an inferior oil brush will not return to its original form, and it may not bend at all. 

You can choose between bristle hair brushes that come from pigs and sable hair that come from the sable. The best bristle brushes are half an inch wide or bigger and are ideal for the beginning painter. If you want to paint fine detail, switch to a sable brush, which are best in the one-half inch width or even smaller.

Sable brushes are quite expensive, but they are excellent for making less-defined marks, glazing and blending. China bristle brushes are made from natural pig hair and are durable and tough but clean up well. This is a good brush for a novice oil painter to use. Natural hog hair brushes are better than synthetics for oil painting, although synthetic fibers are good for inking and water color. Synthetic aren?t strong enough to accommodate oil paint.

You will notice that oil paint brushes have longer handles than you will find on house painting brushes or even watercolor brushes. Use your oil painting brush in a horizontal position and place your painting surface in a vertical position. Oil paint isn?t going to flow. When holding the oil paint brush in a horizontal position, the long handle helps you balance the brush in your hand.

If you are on a tight budget you can use horsehair, nylon hair or mongoose hair brushes, but they aren?t as good as a sable brush. If you are going to use a synthetic brush, make sure that it is designed for use with oil paints.