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Guide to Paintbrushes for Acrylic Painting

By: DecoArt
April 1, 2021

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Guide to Paintbrushes for Acrylic Painting
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One of the most difficult things for beginning painters is simply knowing where to start. Luckily, you don’t need many tools for basic painting. A good set of paintbrushes, some quality paints, and a canvas is all you need to get started. 

Today we’ll be teaching you everything you need to know about paintbrushes for acrylic painting. Armed with this knowledge you can go forth and pick up the brushes you need to get started on your painting journey!

A woman in a paint-splattered apron holds a vase filled with a variety of messy paintbrushes

Basic Paintbrush Shapes

Knowing the different brush shapes and how to use them is key to improving your painting. For example, liner brushes can help you paint thin and precise lines whereas a flat brush is ideal for bold/broad strokes. Having a variety of brushes in different shapes opens up different painting techniques and styles for you to try.

Below we've listed the most common paintbrush shapes out there and how they can be used. Feel free to save this graphic to refer back to until you're comfortable with using each brush.

Guide to acrylic paintbrushes shapes
Guide to acrylic paintbrushes shapes
Paintbrush Sizes

Paintbrushes come in a variety of sizes indicated by a number, usually on the handle. The numbers can start from 000 and go all the way up to 20. Be aware that different brands of paintbrushes in the same size can look different. Consider comparing brushes in person to ensure you’re getting the size you’re looking for.

A bunch of flat paintbrushes in various sizes are laid out

Each size of a paintbrush has its own purpose. Smaller brushes are used for detail work and fine lines, mid-sized brushes are the most versatile, and larger brushes can be used for washes or painting large areas.

For beginners, try starting off with mid-sized brushes (sizes 6 to 8) in different shapes. Once you know more about your painting style you can branch out to smaller or larger brushes depending on your needs.

A girl painting on canvas looks towards the camera and holds up and assortment of paintbrushes with a smile.

Anatomy of a Paintbrush

Did you know each part of the brush has a different name? DecoArt’s Art For Everyone Learning Center has free videos on all the paintbrush basics, including paintbrush anatomy.

Paintbrush Bristle Types

In general, there are two different categories of bristles, natural and synthetic. Natural bristles will be made of a material like hog bristle or soft sable whereas synthetic bristles will be made from materials such as nylon and polyester.

There are pros and cons to each bristle type. Natural bristles can handle heavier paint easier and are better at holding their shape over time. This makes them a favorite for oil paints. However, acrylic paints can damage the natural fibers and these brushes cannot handle sitting in water.

A close-up of the tips of paintbrushes all dipped in paint in order to make a rainbow.

Synthetic bristles won’t break down in acrylic paint and don’t mind sitting in water. They don’t hold their shape as well as natural bristles, but can still last a long time if properly cared for. Overall, if you’re using brushes mainly for acrylic painting, synthetic brushes are the way to go.

A bunch of paint brushes are laid out with bottles of acrylic paint sat on top of them in rows

How To Store and Clean Paintbrushes

A common mistake beginners make is letting the paint dry on their brushes. Dried acrylic paint can quickly ruin even the nicest set of brushes, so always keep water on hand to rinse off your brushes after each use. Make it a habit to wash your brush clean of paint and smooth it back into its original shape once you are done using it.

Our video on brush care is a great resource for beginning painters looking to take good care of their new brush set.

What Paintbrushes You Need to Get Started

This may seem like a lot of information, but don’t get overwhelmed! Here’s our recommended list of paintbrushes for beginning painters looking to get started.

A list of basic paintbrushes people can buy to start acrylic painting

We have a variety of paintbrushes, tools, and paint storage options available on our website as well as acrylic paint packs to help you get started with your new hobby.

Next Steps

Now that you know all about paintbrushes it’s time to pick one up and start painting! Our video on basic brush strokes can help you practice with your new brush set. 

If you're new to painting or looking to refresh your skills, our Art For Everyone Learning Center is a wonderful resource. We upload free videos on a variety of techniques and other art basics to help you learn to paint right at home. You can also check out the DecoArt blog where we post new tutorials and projects every week or the DecoArt Project Gallery.

Happy making! From your friends at DecoArt.


Thank you for sharing this for all painters, new and old. We sometimes need reminding of the basics to start out our venture into painting. I really enjoyed your information .

Barbara Ficacci

April 8, 2021

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