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What Is A Synthetic Paint Brush? (Paint Brushes Explained)

Are you wondering what the difference is between a synthetic paintbrush and a natural hair paintbrush?

You've come to the right place!

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • What a synthetic paintbrush is
  • What each type of paintbrush is good for
  • How to identify which brush you should use

And much more!

So, if you're wondering how and when to use a synthetic paintbrush on your next painting project, keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

What Do You Need To Know About Synthetic Paint Brushes?

In order to understand which is the right paintbrush for a given application, you need to understand the fundamental differences between natural bristle brushes and synthetic paint brushes.

What Are Natural Hair Paint Brushes?

Natural hair brushes are often made from natural,  animal hairs and often those hairs come from hog bristles, ox hairs, goat hairs, and even sable hairs.

They were the only option for paintbrushes for a very long time (centuries in fact!) which is why many people still view them as the best option for painting.

While they are very versatile and do produce amazing results with fine details, they are no longer the only quality brushes out there thanks to technology!

This is why it's important to evaluate the painting work you're looking to do and seeing what the right paintbrush for you is.

What Are Natural Hair Paint Brushes Best At?

Natural hair brushes are best at furniture and flat surface painting. That's because their bristles tend to swell when exposed to paints and solvents which makes them less precise and can make those fine details much harder to achieve. 

They might leave behind more brush marks because of this. 

However, when used for oil painting this is not as big of an issue because it takes much longer for oils to penetrate the fibers of the brush compared to water molecules in water-based paints.

What Are Synthetic Bristle Brushes?

Synthetic bristle brushes are paintbrushes that have bristles that are made from materials other than hog bristle or animal hair.

Often they're made from nylon bristles or polyester bristles or a nylon/polyester blend, which creates a smooth finish on whatever surface you're working with.

What Are Synthetic Bristle Brushes Best For?

Synthetic bristle brushes do have several applications where they really shine, but most of all they're amazing at working with anything water-based.

This is because of their bristle's smooth texture and super springy bristles that make them create for detail work like "cutting in" on corners and tight spaces.

They're great for woodwork and furniture painting with gloss finishes, eggshell, and water-based satin paints. 

They can also do a great job at doing precise, artistic work because their bristles don't expand as much once they absorb paint. The bristles are also way less sensitive so it's fairly easy to maintain their shape if they bend out of place than natural hair bristles.

How Can You Choose Which Type of Paint Brush To Use?

Still not sure which brush to use? Well, that will greatly depend on what you plan to use this brush for in the first place.

What Types of Painting Do You Plan To Do Most?

Ask yourself this important question: what are you planning to use this brush for in the future?

For instance, if you're looking for a great artistic brush for watercolor work, synthetic brushes like the ones from Purdy might be a good choice for you.

Even if you're not looking for a brush for artistic purposes, if you want to find a great brush for using water-based paints or latex paints, synthetic is still probably your best friend.

However, if you're an oil-based painter or you prefer to work with acrylic paint, you would probably be better off with some natural brushes in your arsenal.

So ultimately, it all comes down to the types of painting you hope to do, as well as the types of paint you'll be working with most often.

How Do You Identify A Good Synthetic Paint Brush?

So what exactly signifies a good quality synthetic brush?

When you're looking for an excellent synthetic brush, it's important to read the product details for that specific brush to ensure that it's capable of taking on the projects you plan to throw at it.

Beyond that, it's important to choose the right type of brush for the right job.

For instance, if you plan to do a lot of fine lines, straight edges, and stripes, you'll want to find a good flat brush. These are also great for bold strokes and filling lots of space.

However, if you're looking to do more fine detail work, sketching, and outlining you'll want a round brush.

Aside from the specific brush, you'll choose, which brands should you look at for synthetic brushes?

Some of the top brands in the art world for synthetic bristle brushes are Purdy, Kolinsky, and Wooster.

You can find some of the best models like this one from Purdy, and this short handle one from Wooster on Amazon, but your local paint supply store should have them in supply as well!

Final Thoughts On Using Synthetic Paint Brushes

Now that you have a clear understanding of the differences between synthetic bristle brushes and natural hair brushes, you can feel much more confident in your brush choices moving forward.

Whether you're an artist who wants to step up their game and learn how to make the most of your paintings or an avid DIYer who wants to make sure they're stacking their brush arsenal with the best brushes for their work, choosing the right brush will elevate your game substantially.

So, go forth and paint, friends!