Bristle and synthetic: it’s quality that counts

08th Sep 2016

There is no denying that top quality paint brushes cost more than some decorating tools that are on the market, so it is important that you understand what you are getting for your money.

The truth is that a good set of paint brushes will do as much to guarantee a top class result as the quality of the paint applied – something that does tend to get overlooked!  In fact, you could go so far as to say that the paint applicators can make or break the job and therefore an investment in the best – as well as the best paint – will pay real dividends in terms of an improved finish, avoidance of bristle or filament loss, ease and comfort of use and speed and evenness of paint application.

Indeed it is not only the type of material used in the brush head that will make a great difference in terms of a successful job, the quality of the brush is equally important. Having said that, there are however differences between bristle and synthetic, making one better for some types of jobs and the other the preferred choice in other circumstances.

Natural bristle has a rougher surface texture than synthetic, which has a number of advantages:

  • It holds more paint, meaning less loadings for the decorator especially when a large area makes more paint per loading a real advantage
  • It spreads paint further first time, meaning less working of the paint for a better finish and less time needed
  • Natural bristle wears to a shape, called ‘breaking a brush in’ which makes for a brush with better control, and eventually a ‘cutting in’ brush.

On the other hand, bristle also has disadvantages versus synthetic:

  • There is higher risk of bristle loss than synthetics – hence the need to invest in the best quality
  • Natural bristle swells in water so will leave brush marks in a waterborne trim paint

Synthetic filament comes in lots of styles and is under constant development and you therefore certainly need to be aware of the difference in quality of synthetic products.  The quality varies from products with very good performance to products that are very poor.  Synthetic filament brushes have a smoother surface and this too offers advantages and disadvantages:

  • Synthetics hold less paint  meaning more loadings, but this may suit a decorator that likes to paint in smaller areas or sections
  • They do not spread paint as well as bristle, so you need to work the paint more
  • Synthetic filament does not wear as quickly as bristle (bristle wears approximately 5 x quicker) so the brushes will lasts longer, but this also means the brushes do not ‘break in’ to suit your specific painting style
  • Synthetic does not swell significantly in water (depending on the synthetic material used) so tips stay fine to prevent tramlines (brush marks) in waterborne paint
  • Synthetic brushes are easier to clean and decorators will have to clean them when using waterborne paint as they cannot be stored in a vapour box
  • There is less chance of bristle loss with synthetics.

So, given the characteristics of both types of brush, the tip is to consider the merits of both rather than choosing one over the other, and to pay some extra consideration to the quality of the brush. as the nature of their design and composition makes a real difference to performance.  As already discussed the manufacturing process and the materials used are only one aspect that set top class professional brushes apart from the rest, the second is the rigour of the testing to which the products are subjected.

While this all adds to the overall cost of the brush, the benefit of such attention to detail in both preparation, production and quality assurance delivers massively in terms of ease of use, speed of use and the guaranteed delivery of perfect finish no matter what the job and the circumstances.  Spending good money on the best quality paint, which most would accept as necessary, will only prove justified as long as the application products are equally the subject of investment.  Together such investment pays real dividends.

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