The Best Paintbrush on the Market

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Aug 4, 2021 | Professional insight, Tool Insight | 2 comments

I have been a Decorator, Blogger, and all-round decorating geek for the best part of 20 years. One discussion that is forever coming up on the Decorators Forum UK is about the best paintbrush on the market, so I thought I’d address it.

The answer isn’t ‘straight cut’, pardon the pun. I have an arsenal of different paint brushes and each one is better at performing certain tasks. In this blog, I’ll take you through my favourite paint brushes for each job you’re likely to come across. Do not take my text as gospel as each Decorator has their preference, but the brushes I’m about to mention are all awesome.


The Different Types of Paintbrush


There aren’t many paintbrushes on the market that can be used in every type of paint and perform well. There are a couple of different types of bristles and various shapes and sizes. Some are loose and soft, so are best suited for ‘laying off’ thin paint like water-based gloss. Some are tighter and are better suited for manipulating the paint and striking a straight line.

Natural bristles (hog hair) are better for paints like oil-based gloss as they remain soft and don’t clog in alkyd paints. Synthetic bristles are best for water-based paints because they hold their shape.

Best Paintbrush for Emulsion


I’m going to recommend two paintbrushes here. These are the very best on the market in my opinion, and if you get either, then you’re onto a winner.

The first is Purdy Monarch Elite XL, which is the brand leader for emulsion brushes for Painters and Decorators worldwide.

They are easy to use, hold loads of paint, available basically anywhere and they’ll never let you down. Purdy Monarch Elite has a thick stock, and it holds its shape well. This is brilliant because it makes the brush versatile.

It’s the only paintbrush I use with almost any type of paint. Its one of the best paintbrushes for emulsion, satinwood, eggshell and masonry paint. Plus, if you look after it, it will last for years.

The second brush I’d like to mention is the Ice Fusion from ProDec. These are so stylish!! With a stainless-steel ferrule and sleek tapered bristles, the Ice Fusion is a masterpiece!! It holds loads of paint, easily cuts straight lines and squaring up corners is an absolute joy!!

The only issue is the bristles are slightly soft, so they’re no good for any paint that drags such as cheap contract matt. I really do like these brushes. It’s probably the best paintbrush to apply durable matt emulsion or eggshell. It’s also great in vinyl matt.

They’re also cheaper than most of the other high-end paintbrushes.

Best Brush for Oil-Based Paint


I’m quite old school when it comes to oil-based paint, especially gloss or satinwood. I have tried many different synthetic brushes in the past, but for me, the best brush for oil-based paint is, and always has been, Hamilton Perfection natural bristle. You can pick these up online by clicking here, or any good trade paint outlet.

The natural bristles are actually made from hog hair. They do not go sticky and stiffen up when used to apply an oil-based product. It allows you to manipulate the material and work it into whatever you’re painting with ease.

Hamilton Perfection brushes are also very soft, meaning you can lay off and reduce brush marks. They hold loads of paint too!! I absolutely adore these paint brushes!!

The only issue you may have with a Hamilton Perfection paintbrush is, until you’ve “broken them in” (used them for a few hundred hours until they start to hold their shape), you will find them difficult to cut in with. I normally use a Hamilton sash brush to cut my lines around the edge of whatever I’m painting, then use the Hamilton Prestige to work the paint into the larger areas. This is a lot easier than it sounds!!

The sash brushes are brilliant!! They hold their shape well, even when cutting thin beading, or the edges of door frames. It’s easy to push the paint and create a nice sharp line. These are also available online by clicking here, as well as many other stockists.


Best Paintbrush for Water-Based Satinwood and Gloss

Paintbrushes used in trim paints like water-based gloss, satinwood, or eggshell have the hardest task of all. This type of material can be difficult to manipulate and cut sharp lines. You also need a brush that is soft enough to lay off and avoid brush marks.

My favourite is Arroworthy Classic Angled, which I’ve been using for a couple of years now. They hold their shape very well, which is perfect for working difficult paints. You’ll be able to strike sharp lines with this brush, and then lay paint off with ease.

Having a good paintbrush for this type of work makes all the difference, and you won’t find better than Arroworthy.

the best paintbrushes for water-based paint

Best Paintbrush for Masonry


When choosing the best paintbrush for masonry, you just need to go for something that will hold its shape and is relatively cheap. There is no point in spending a lot of money on a brush for this type of work because it will wear down very quickly any way.

Avoid the generic floppy “masonry brushes” you see in DIY shops. I even saw one of these brushes recommended of a similar blog to this one, but it’s nonsense. You can’t control the paint or cut in with them.

My recommendation would be Hamilton For The Trade. They’re quite a soft paintbrush, but they hold their shape well enough to manipulate paint on a textured surface. Plus, they’re reasonably priced too!! You can buy a box on Amazon for about a tenner.

The Best Paintbrush for Varnish


Another easy one, the Kana Tank is superb and designed specifically for woodstain and varnish. The bristles consist of a natural bristle core and a synthetic outer loop. This configuration seems mental, but it’s absolutely stunning to use!! The brush holds loads of varnish and will not drip when in use. You can cut in with it, manipulate and work the material into the timber, and you can lay everything off nicely. Absolute magic and my favourite brush on this list. This is by far the best paintbrush on the market for any varnish or stain. You can buy this paintbrush online by clicking here.



Is the quality of your paintbrush important?

Having a good quality paintbrush will genuinely make a huge difference to the quality of your work. Avoiding brush marks, cutting sharp lines, and applying even coats of paint are all easier to do with a good brush. Plus, you’ll apply the paint a lot quicker with a good brush.

Besides which, you might only use a cheap brush once or twice before throwing it away. A good quality paintbrush will last for years! I get thousands of hours of work from some of my brushes before they need replacing.


What is the best all-round paintbrush?

If you can only buy one paintbrush, make it a Purdy Monarch Elite XL. You can literally use it in any type of paint except maybe oil-based gloss. It’s easy to use and will serve you well for years.


Can you save a brush once paint has dried on it?

Yes you can!! I use a product called Virosol (available from Amazon by clicking here). It’s a citrus cleaner that won’t damage your paintbrush but will dissolve paint. If your brush has gone hard, give it a good soak in diluted Virosol overnight, then clean the next day.


Final Thoughts


There is a lot to consider when choosing the best paintbrush. As you can tell from the blog above, the type of paint you’re using plays a big part. Oil-based paints require natural bristles. When using emulsion, go for a bigger brush with synthetic bristles.

Paint pick-up and distribution is a vital quality of any paintbrush. It isn’t just the amount of paint a brush can hold, but how evenly it deposits the material while you’re using it.

The Best Paintbrush on the Market – by Mike Gregory


What do Other Decorators Use?

ProDec Ice Fusion are the best paintbrushes on the market.

I’ve spent a fortune on Purdy Brushes over the years. I would never go back to them now, even if they reduced their price.

Roy Fish

Professional Painter and Decorator

I’ve always preferred Hamilton Perfection Paint Brushes. I used to love the Pure Bristles but now prefer the synthetic. It’s all about the handle shape as it fits my hand and fingers. I’ve used them for most of my career.

Kev Donohoe

Professional Painter and Decorator

After a time of using brushes like Hamilton Trade, which do serve a purpose. I then discovered Arrowworthy Classic Brushes which are amazing! They have soft bristles which hold loads of paint, comfortable in the hand and just nice to paint with.

I’ve also discovered the Worcester Silver Tipped Brushes which I think are as good or even better than the Arrowworthy. They seem to have a finer tip at the end, which is really nice for cutting in with little. They’re also more widely available.

Gavin Baker

Professional Painter and Decorator

I have always loved the Hamilton synthetic paintbrushes like Hamilton Expressions. They hold loads of paint and keep their shape. Long handles also more comfortable.

Bazza Kirkham

Professional Painter and Decorator

I have been using Arroworthy Classics, but they wear down very quickly. They are lovely to use but just too soft.

I have just bought some Purdy Monarch Elite XL paintbrushes. They’re just as good but last a lot longer.

Dave Pearce

Professional Painter and Decorator

After finishing my apprenticeship back in 1982 I was using Acorn and Hamilton Perfection, which had a nice finish with the brush work. Then after talking to a Purdy rep, I started using Purdy brushes, which at the time even though a bit pricy, gave a superior finish. Though nowadays the standard seems to have dropped.

I now use Picasso and Rembrandt brushes. I do a fair amount of high-end work around Wirral, Cheshire, and North Wales. The have a nice flow with these brushes. Used right you will avoid brush marks. I favour the angled brush more than the straight edge brushes.

Andrew Harrison

Professional Painter and Decorator

For quality alone, the best paintbrush would be Corona. However, there is never a one brush for all options and with so many to choose from, when does it ever end?

Throw away brushes are all the rage at the moment. Offerings from Hamilton with their stumpy cutting in brush, to Arroworthy and their Nylex Classics and angled options. These make up most of my daily brushes. But Corona offer the lifetime brush which are used for more advanced craft work, such as kitchens, cabinetry, and other woodwork finishes

Steve Trebilcook

Professional Painter and Decorator

I mainly use Arroworthys and Paint Warriors now.

Arroworthy is a great brand, and all their brushes give a great cutting line and good application.

Paint warriors, I’ve just started using and give a great cutting line and hold loads of paint for continuous working.

I was always a Purdy fan, but the price is high, and the quality of the application is not as good as the above.

Saying that if you do like Purdys. They do last a lot longer than many other brushes, as others seem to wear down quicker.

James McFadyen

Professional Painter and Decorator

Updated May 10, 2024 | Posted Aug 4, 2021 | 2 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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  1. Doug Cooper


    Can you please tell me which model of the Staalmeester brushes you find best for water based paint.



  2. James Handyside

    Hi, I’ve been decorating for the best part of 40 years. When I first started, Hamilton Perfection Plus brushes were available. These had slightly longer bristles and the quality of the bristles were fantastic. I still have a three inch brush that I have never used and there is no comparison to that of the Hamilton brushes that are on sale now. The bristles are harsh and dull and from the word go leave brush marks. It’s only when they are really well broken in that you can achieve a nice finish. Synthetic brushes are good, but when you’ve used them for a while go out of shape with straggler bristles sticking out at the sides. You can’t beat a well worn in cutter, but I suppose I’m old fashioned. Happy painting.


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