All paintbrushes are not created equal. A quality paintbrush will apply paint in a thicker, smoother coat, which will give it a uniform sheen and color. Lower quality brushes, on the other hand, will leave ridges and thin spots in the paint. Not only do dirt and mildew tend to collect in these spots, but the paint will be more likely to crack, flake, or peel away once it dries.
Here are some characteristics of a quality paintbrush:
- The tips of the bristles are flagged and flexible to help yield a finer finish.
- The end is tapered, with longer bristles in the center and shorter ones on the sides, to help distribute paint smoothly and evenly.
- The bristles are at least half-again as long as they are wide. For example, the bristles on a 2-inch wide brush should be at least 3 inches long.
Paintbrushes come in an overwhelming selection of sizes and styles, but you should be able to get by with just two for most projects. For painting trim or molding, you'll need a narrow (1-2 inch) brush with a straight edge. To "cut in" (or lay down a narrow strip of paint) around ceiling edges, doors, and windows, you'll need a 2 1/2 inch brush with an angled edge. Some folks may also prefer to use a wide, straight-edged brush to do the bulk of the painting, but it's usually faster and less exhausting to use a paint roller.
Paintbrushes are also available with either natural or synthetic bristles. Generally speaking, synthetic brushes are ideal for applying latex (water-based) paint, while natural bristles work best for alkyd (oil-based) paint.
You'll probably be using your paint roller more than any of your other painting tools, so it's important to choose one that isn't too heavy and that you can grip comfortably. In addition, a paint roller with a screw-in extension handle makes it easier to paint high walls, ceilings, and floors.
Like paintbrushes, roller sleeves are available in natural (for alkyd paint) and synthetic (for latex paint). For flat, smooth surfaces, you'll need a sleeve with a thin nap. Textures walls (such as stucco) will require a sleeve with a thicker nap that will hold more paint and adequately fill the recesses.
Roller sleeves are reusable, but the cores are made of cardboard and tend to deteriorate after a couple of washes. It's a good idea to have a few extra roller sleeves on hand if you're tackling a large paint job.
Other Painting Tools
Protective goggles will keep your eyes safe from spilled or dripping paint. Optionally, a painter's cap and disposable gloves will save you the trouble of scrubbing your skin at the end of the day.
A sturdy stepstool or ladder will help you reach those corners and ceiling edges. You should never stand on boxes or chairs!
A roller tray will help you get a good, smooth layer of paint on your roller sleeve. A proper tray should include a well at one end for holding paint, and a ridged surface along the other end for removing excess paint from the roller sleeve.
Other painting tools you should have on hand include: a 5-in-1 painter's tool, wooden stirring sticks, spackling compound, a putty knife, and drop cloths to protect the floor and furniture.