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Best Acrylic Paint Brushes and How to Take Care of Them - A Complete Guide

Updated on December 26, 2016

A paint brush set is the painter’s most important tool. Before you go out and get the best acrylic paint brushes, you have to first understand them. There are many things to learn about it. You have to know the different brush shapes and what they are used for. Also consider the different bristle materials and their pros and cons. You have to learn how to care for your brushes so that they can last you a long while. Acrylic painting is the best choice for most beginners.

Parts of an Art Paint Brush

Above image depicts various parts of an art paint brush. Each part is explained below in detail.
Above image depicts various parts of an art paint brush. Each part is explained below in detail.

The first step is to understand the different parts that make up a paintbrush. There are three parts that make up a brush:

1. Bristles: The bristles are of course the soft hairs that you use to spread paint. The bristles can also be further divided into the heel, which is the part where the bristles are connected to the ferrule. Then there is the toe, which is the tip of the bristles. And finally, there is the belly, which is the remaining part of the bristles.

2. Ferrule: The ferrule is the metal part that connects the handle and the bristles. There is also the crimp, which is the part of the ferrule with which it is secured to the handle.

3. Handle: The handle is the remaining part of the brush after leaving bristle and ferrule. It is usually made of wood but now a days you can find plastic handles as well.

Shape of the Bristles

There are many different shapes of bristles and they include:

Various types of paint brushes best suited for acrylic painting
Various types of paint brushes best suited for acrylic painting
Brushes with round bristles are very versatile. They can hold lots of paint for bold strokes due to their large belly. They can also be used to paint very delicately using their tips. Round brushes are good for outlining, sketching, detailed work and for filling in small areas.
Flat bristle brushes typically have long bristles and a square end. They are usually flexible and can be used for long fluid strokes when used in a flat position but when the edge is used, they can create thin and delicate lines. They are good for filling wide spaces, bold strokes, straight edges and stripes.
Brights look very much like flats except that the bristles are shorter and stiffer. They are thus easier to control than flats and can be used for rectangular marks and for creating detail. They are very good for impasto painting.
Filbert brushes are a blend of round brushes and flats. The tip is almost like a flat but oval shaped. Filberts are good for softening edges and for blending.
Fan brushes have wide spread-out bristles and are the perfect brushes for blending, smoothing and for feathering wet paints.
Angular brushes are basically flat brushes with angled bristles at the toe. The tip is therefore to the side and can be used to reach small areas. Angular brushes are also good for curved strokes and for filling corners.

Material of the Bristles

Bristles can be made from many different kinds of materials. These materials can be classified into two main groups: Natural and Synthetic.

Natural bristle is normally made from animal hair. They can be quite expensive depending on the animal and cannot withstand being left inside water for a long time. Natural bristle will also get damaged in the long term from the chemicals that are present in acrylic paint. The three most popular natural bristles are sable (mink), squirrel and hog (pig hair).

Synthetic bristles are normally made from taklon, which is a type of polyester. They can stay stiffer than natural bristles when wet, and they are cheaper and do last longer.

Synthetic paint brushes are therefore better than natural paintbrushes when it comes to acrylic painting.

Handle's Length and Material

Paint brushes come in different sizes and materials and there is no standard sizing for them.

For example a size 5 brush from one manufacturer may be the same size as a size 13 from a different manufacturer.

As for the handle’s material, wood has long been used in the manufacture of paintbrush handles before plastics also started to be used as handles. You can find paintbrush handles made of both materials in the shop but wooden handles are better because of their grips.

The highest quality paintbrushes have wooden handles. This is because the wood can absorb the sweat from an artist’s sweaty hands and it also provides a non-slip grip.

When purchasing acrylic paint brushes therefore, a wooden handle is recommended.

For beginners also, a longer paintbrush is better, since short brushes are mainly for close-up work. As you progress, you can then add smaller brushes if you need them.

Best Paint Brush Set for Acrylic Painting

I have used many different brushes and sets till date and there is one brush set that I will readily recommend any time to both beginners and advanced painters alike. It is the Santa Fe Art Supply Artist Paintbrush Set.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Santa Fe Art Supply Artist Paintbrush Set is perfect for acrylic, watercolor and oil paint brushes and offer many benefits like:

High Quality:
Santa Fe brushes are very robust. I was quite impressed when I used them for the first time, and after many hours, I still didn’t find a bristle that had come off. The brushes are very solidly built and definitely superior to many much more expensive brushes that I have used in the past.

Set of 15 (+1) Brushes:
The set comes with 15 different brush types and a detailing brush which is great for face painting and eye makeup. This is enough for any painter to work with and there is really no need for extra brushes. The brush types include four round brushes, four filberts, five flats, two fans and three angular flats.

Other extras and benefits of this brush set include a travel case with a pop-up stand for holding all 15 brushes and also, a limited lifetime warranty. This should show you how strongly the manufacturer stands behind its product’s quality.

How to Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes

Acrylic paint can be washed off properly with water alone but you could also use an artist soap if you have one. The use of strong soaps or shampoos is not advisable. If you do not have the special soap for washing brushes, then use only water. Following are the steps to cleaning your acrylic paint brushes:

Step 1: Before washing, place the brushes in-between a rag or paper towel and squeeze out any leftover paint.

Step 2: Swish the brushes in a container or cup containing water to remove any other leftovers.

Step 3: Then rinse under running tap water, using your fingers to squeeze gently and remove all the remaining traces of paint.

Step 4: If all the paint has been washed off, you can now apply soap and then rinse again.

Step 5: Wipe the brushes dry using a towel and shape them into form.

Step 6: Leave them to dry in air using a pop-up stand like the one that comes with Santa Fe paint brushes.

How to Take Care of Acrylic Paint Brushes

You should never let paint dry on your brush because once it does, it will be difficult, if not impossible to get the brush painting like it did before. Acrylic paints tend to dry up very quickly, so you must be extra careful.

Also never rest your paintbrush with the bristles facing downwards because this causes them to bend and once bent, it will not be possible to fully reverse the bending bristles.

When painting, avoid collecting so much paint with the brush that the ferrule touches it. This is because the area of the bristles next to the ferrule is very compact, and it is therefore very difficult to wash out paint that has entered there.

And if you need to leave your workspace quickly, always rinse out the paintbrush under running water, then dry it up, rinse again and then leave it lying in a horizontal position. This is so that you don’t come back after your distraction and meet a brush with dried paint.

You will also need a travel and storage case for your brushes. This is important in order to protect the bristles from getting disfigured.

One of my reasons for liking the Santa Fe paint brush set is that it not only comes with a storage and travel case, but that it also comes with a paintbrush holder for all 15 brushes allowing you to have your stand-by brushes with the bristle facing upwards while painting, which is in fact the recommended position.


The right choice of paintbrush is important to every painter, a good quality product that can last. Also important are other accessories like a storage and travel case. I think that the Santa Fe brush set is the best choice a painter can make when deciding on which acrylic paint brushes to buy. It offers multiple brushes, a travel case and a brush stand, all with a very high quality workmanship.


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    • msrebel55 profile image

      Sandra Bick 

      2 years ago from Ft. Worth, Texas

      You are correct. It's not difficult to clean the brushes and it is very important to do so after every use.


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