Artists and crafters favor acrylic paint for its versatility. It is used not only on canvas, but also on glass, wood, metal, fabric, ceramic, and stone to create colorful, artistic effects. As with any artistic endeavor, painting with acrylics requires high-quality tools to produce optimal results. With the best acrylic paint brushes, artists can create stunning results in artwork, crafts, and DIY projects using acrylic paint.
Acrylic paint brushes vary in size, shape, and the materials from which the bristles and handles are made. Artists and hobbyists use them for painting on canvas, action figures, miniatures, dollhouses, ceramics, and models, and also for body and face painting, nail painting, rock painting, fabric painting, and more. With a comprehensive set of brushes, artists and crafters from beginners to pros can achieve gratifying results with acrylic paints.
- BEST OVERALL: Benicci Professional Artist Paint Brush Set of 12
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Soucolor Acrylic Paint Brushes Set, 20Pcs
- UPGRADE PICK: Artbrushes Artist Paint Brushes-Superior Sable Hair
- BEST 10-PIECE SET: DUGATO Artist Paint Brushes Set 10pcs
- MOST VERSATILE: Artify 15 pcs Paint Brush Set for Acrylic Painting
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Acrylic Paint Brushes
When selecting the best acrylic paint brushes for art, craft, and DIY projects, several characteristics stand out as the most important considerations. Brush size and shape are at the top of the list. Acrylic paint brushes are made in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit the wide range of projects for which they are used and the techniques used to create them. Another thing to think about are the quality of materials and construction of the brushes, because the materials that comprise the bristles, ferrules, and handles of paint brushes determine how well the brushes will perform and hold up over time. Read on to learn more about considerations for choosing top-performing paint brushes for acrylic paints.
Different types of paint brushes achieve different effects in painting, based on the shapes and sizes of their bristles or hairs. The tip end of the brush, which is called the toe, may be pointed, rounded, or flat. The heel—where the metal ferrules attach the bristles to the handle—may be either flat or round. Because the bristles hold paint and transfer it to a surface, their size and shape substantially affect the appearance of the art project. Here are some of the most popular paint brush shapes and their functions.
- Flat brushes feature squared-off tips to hold paint and deliver sweeping brush strokes. Held sideways, they can produce thin lines.
- Angled brushes provide the most control for painting at an easel, and they can be manipulated to paint lines, curves, or broad strokes.
- Round brushes feature pointed tips and round ferrules. They’re used for blending and painting details.
Rigger or liner brushes have long, thin bristles and are used for painting thin lines and text.
- Filbert brushes are pretty versatile. When held sideways, they can produce thin lines, and when they’re held flat, they’re good for broad brushstrokes and blending. These brushes have narrow, flat bristles with a rounded tip.
- Wash brushes are most often used with watercolors but may be used occasionally with acrylics. They are used to cover a large area with a thin layer of color.
- Fan brushes feature bristles that spread out from the ferrule in a thin, fan-shaped layer. They are used for blending and smoothing brush strokes.
Acrylic paint brushes are available in a variety of sizes in order to create diverse brush strokes and artistic effects in paintings and other projects. Artists use smaller brushes for detail work and fine lines. Medium-size brushes offer versatility for thinner or broader brush strokes. Larger brushes work well for washes or laying down color in large areas.
Brush sizes are indicated by numbers ranging from less than zero up to 24, with the smaller numbers representing smaller brushes and larger numbers assigned to larger sizes. Manufacturers designate sizes with a hash sign, such as “#4” or “#15.” Although these numbers can help shoppers make appropriate selections, brush buyers should know that the size labels are not consistent among all manufacturers. For example, a size #8 brush from one company may not be exactly the same size as a #8 brush from another.
Natural vs. Synthetic Bristles
Acrylic paint brushes feature either natural or synthetic bristles. Synthetic bristles are made by extrusion, a process in which liquid synthetic is pushed through a mold to form the bristles. Natural bristles are made from the hairs of animals and tend to be more expensive than their synthetic counterparts.
- Synthetic nylon bristles hold up well to acrylic paint and are not damaged by soaking in water.
- Synthetic polyester bristles also maintain durability when standing in water and tend to hold their shape well.
- Hog hair bristles are stiff and absorbent. They work well with heavy acrylic paint or paint that has been thickened with impasto medium.
- Sable hair bristles are actually made from the hair of weasels. They are soft and hold their shape, even after extended use, but do not hold up well to standing in water.
Because acrylic paint dries quickly, artists who use this type of paint must keep their brushes wet while they are painting. Many artists recommend synthetic-bristle brushes for this medium because they hold up well when soaked in water. Natural bristles tend to be less durable than synthetics when constantly exposed to water, as is necessary for painting with acrylics.
Artists prefer working with paint brushes that have handles with lengths that suit a specific project or task. For example, brushes with shorter handles require the artist to work close to the canvas or other painting surface, facilitating the control of detail and short brush strokes. On the other hand, artists working with a canvas positioned on an easel may prefer to stand back, away from the surface. For this purpose, a long-handled brush is preferable.
The ergonomic qualities of a paint brush handle may also affect whether artists will want to use that particular brush. Contoured handles with smooth, lacquered finishes feel comfortable in artists’ hands, and they add to the enjoyment of painting.
Some sets of acrylic paint brushes come with accessories such as palette knives, mixing palettes, sponges, and travel cases. These accessories expand artistic possibilities for users and add to the value of the paint brush sets.
Palette knives are used for mixing paint colors and for swiping large amounts of paint onto a canvas. A palette knife is a useful addition to any set of paint brushes, and the same can be said about mixing palettes. Used for mixing paint colors or thinning paint with water, mixing palettes made from plastic or metal may also be included in brush sets.
A carrying case is a practical accessory for a set of paint brushes. For art excursions and travel, painting outdoors, or transporting art materials from home to school, carrying cases provide convenience and portability. In the studio, carrying cases offer busy artists an easy way to store and organize their tools.
Our Top Picks
The top picks for the best acrylic paint brushes include such factors as the quality of the brushes’ materials and construction and the variety of brush shapes and sizes. Each of these sets of paint brushes provides artists and crafters tools they need to produce satisfying results in a variety of art and DIY projects. Read on to learn more about top-quality choices from reputable manufacturers.
This set of nylon-bristle brushes offers a variety of flat, fan, filbert, and round brushes in graduated sizes. They are suitable for working with acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and oil paints.
Ergonomic wooden handles provide a comfortable grip for extended painting sessions. Secure aluminum ferrules hold the bristles tightly in place for reliable performance over time. The high-quality nylon bristles hold an ample amount of paint for smooth brush strokes and color transfer on multiple surfaces. These brushes work well for acrylic painting on fabric or wood as well as on art canvases.
This set is suitable for beginning hobbyists who are just starting out and experienced artists who want to add to their brush collections. It does not, however, include a storage case.
Soucolor’s 20-piece set of acrylic paint brushes, which is actually two identical packs of 10 brushes each, is an economical way to start a brush collection or add to an existing supply. Each set includes three flat, two filbert, four round, and two liner brushes in sizes ranging from #2/0 to #8. Including handles, the brushes range in length from 6.9 to 7.7 inches.
This set offers surprising value not only in the quantity of brushes but also in their quality. The brushes’ nylon-filament bristles are fairly durable and hold paint and release it evenly while in use. Short, ergonomic wooden handles are comfortable to grip and give the artist good control over his or her strokes. The nickel ferrules are strong and double-crimped to hold the nylon bristles securely in place.
These brushes are easy to clean with soap and water, and the bristles respond well to gentle reshaping and air-drying. With care, they provide long-term service.
This set of six round, professional-quality art brushes is suitable for painting with watercolor, acrylic, and gouache paints. The natural sable bristles hold and release liquid for a smooth flow of paint onto the surface, making it easy for artists to execute a variety of brush strokes and techniques.
Artbrushes’ set contains brushes in sizes #2, #4, #6, #8, #10, and #12. Including handles and bristles, each brush measures 12.5 inches in length. Each wooden handle is 7.83 inches long.
High-grade copper ferrules attach the bristles tightly to the handles with double crimping, so there is no wiggling or loosening of the bristles. The polished birchwood handles aren’t just visually pleasing—they’re also contoured to feel comfortable in the artist’s hand.
Suitable for beginners and pros alike, this set of 10 nylon brushes is useful for painting with acrylic, oil, watercolor, or gouache paints. Artists and crafters use different brushes for different painting techniques, and this set likely contains just the right size and shape tools needed for the next project.
In this package are two angle brushes (#2 and #5) for detail and color coverage and two flat brushes (#6 and #11) for laying down color in bold brush strokes. Three filbert brushes (#2, #7, and #9) work well for blending away the edges of brush strokes. For detailing, fine lines, and lettering, the two round brushes (#1 and #4), along with one rigger brush (#0), facilitate precise and meticulous brush work.
Other advantages of these DUGATO paint brushes are that they’re manufactured with nickel-plated, rust-free ferrules that hold the nylon bristles firmly in place, and they have smooth, white wooden handles that are comfortable to hold. One disadvantage, however, is that the set does not include a case for travel or storage.
The 15 brushes in Artify’s versatile set feature high-quality nylon bristles that are resistant to moisture. For long-lasting durability, the tightly wrapped ferrules that attach the hairs firmly to natural wooden handles minimize the annoying problem of shedding.
This set includes brushes in five different shapes so that artists can practice various painting techniques. The five round brushes (sizes #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5) measure 7.6 to 8.3 inches in length and have bristles ranging from 0.5 to 2 inches long. Two angled brushes in sizes #6 and #7 measure just over 8 inches long, with 1.5- and 2.0-inch bristles. Four flat brushes (sizes #8, #9, #13, and #14) feature bristles measuring from 1 to 2.5 inches and overall lengths ranging from 8 to 8.9 inches. Filbert brushes in three sizes (#10, #11, and #15) offer bristles measuring from 1.5 to 2.5 inches and overall lengths from 8 to 8.9 inches. Rounding out the set is one fan brush (size #12), which measures 8.4 inches in length and features 3-inch bristles.
Artify’s set is packaged in a zippered carry case and comes with a metal palette knife and two round sponges. The carry case pops up to become a stand that keeps the assortment of brushes organized and close at hand in the studio.
FAQs About Acrylic Paint Brushes
Working with acrylic paint opens up a new world of artistic expression, and acrylic paint brushes can be used for myriad creative pursuits. In addition to painting with acrylics, these paint brushes usually also work well with watercolor, oil, and tempera paints. The best acrylic paint brushes can be used for creating works of art on canvas and ceramics, painting models and miniatures, rock painting, fabric painting, and other creative activities. As you get started with exciting, artistic hobbies and DIY projects, you may have questions about your new acrylic paint brushes. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q. Do you wet the brush before using acrylic paint?
When working with acrylic paint squeezed from a tube or poured from a jar, it is helpful to wet the paint brush first. Adding a tiny bit of water to the wet paint brush and mixing it around makes the acrylic paint flow smoothly.
Q. Can acrylic paint be cleaned from brushes?
Yes. Clean brushes immediately after use with warm, mildly soapy water and rinse with clean water.
Q. Can I use watercolor brushes for acrylic painting?
Yes. Many paint brushes are made for both watercolor and acrylic painting. Artists tend to value synthetic brushes for acrylic painting, whereas watercolorists prefer natural-hair brushes. But there is much room for overlap, and many brushes work well for both media.
Q. How long do acrylic paint brushes last?
The answer to this question depends on the quality of the brushes, how frequently you paint, and how well you clean and care for the brushes after use. In general, acrylic paint brushes last for at least a year or two.