Best Oil Paint Brushes
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Whether you are an aspiring artist or one that has a firm handle on this complex medium, a brush is quite possibly the most important supply that you can own when oil painting.
A quality oil painting brush will both latch onto the oil to provide a great flow to the canvas along with having a great spring in the bristles.
During our review, we looked at several different oil painting brushes to find out which one’s artists loved, but more importantly will deliver great results in your artwork.
While any of the brushes on our list will perform great, these two were best in their class:
- Best Oil Paint Brushes For Beginners – Princeton Catalyst Polytip
- Best Oil Paint Brushes For Artists – da Vinci Maestro
Best Oil Paint Brushes Reviewed
There is simply no better or respected name in the fine art brush world than da Vinci.
Handmade in Germany, these Kolinsky Sable brushes simply have all the terrific qualities that professional artists are looking for.
From a perfect backbone in this rare fiber to the retention of the oil paints within the brush itself. Even after several uses, the brushes will hold a point just as well as the first day that you bought them.
Crafted from sustainable wood to reduce environmental impact, da Vinci brushes have been around for over 110 years and have been serving artists for generations.
Now when it comes to brush types, da Vinci offers up their Maestro line in 7 different varieties:
- Cats Tongue
- Linear Medium
- Rigger Medium
- Rigger XL
Sizes for their brushes typically range between 0 to 24.
Given the high quality of these brushes, they naturally carry a steep price tag.
So, if you are looking for the finest brushes for a commissioned piece or simply want to give yourself a little gift, you can expect to pay around $30 for a single brush (smaller and larger brushes will alter the price).
- Best of the best
- Kolinsky Red Sable
- Large range of sizes and brush
- A premium price
The Princeton Catalyst Polytip is proof that you can have an artist grade paint brush at a synthetic bristle price point.
This new brush by Princeton has been designed to mimic the natural fibers found in the finest Kolinsky Sable brushes through their unique manufacturing process.
Each one of the synthetic fibers has been split at the end. This helps to carry a much heavier load in the brush – which helps to improve both flow and painting efficiency.
Available in the following brush types:
- Short Filbert
- Angle Bright
You should have no problem finding a bristle type that will achieve great results in your artwork.
In addition to the wide selection of brushes, they also have them in varying sizes – typically going between a size 00 and 24.
If you are a student that doesn’t mind spending a bit more for quality, but not ready to take the plunge into a natural Kolinsky Sable brush like those found in the da Vinci’s we reviewed – we recommend taking a look at this compelling offering by Princeton.
- Split end synthetic fibers
- Moderately priced
- Wide brush and size options
- Perfect for students
- Works with all mediums
- Almost at artist grade, but not quite
For artist looking to work on a much smaller scale or perhaps want to have lots of detail work in their next piece, then this set of 12 oil paint brushes by LorDac will be a great choice.
Constructed from a Taklon (i.e. synthetic) fiber, these brushes not only work incredibly well with oil paints, but can also transition easily over to other mediums like acrylic.
With a set of 4 liner, 5 round, and 2 flat – you should have a variety of techniques available to you.
So, if you are working on a landscape scene with lots of tall grass, the small flat brushes should have no problem in getting an accurate representation with your oils.
For the ferrule, its constructed from aluminum, making it impenetrable to damage from the odorless mineral spirits and turpentine that it will encounter in your daily painting.
While we wouldn’t classify these as an artist grade brush, they are well suited for student painters.
- Terrific for details
- Incredibly well priced
- Great for students
- Wish it had a few other brush types
This British based company founded in 1832 has been serving artists in all different mediums and forms including their Cotman Watercolors and Galeria line of acrylics.
But what oil painters will particularly take note of is this natural animal bristle brush (hog) designed for oil painting use.
In this 5-pack, you receive all the essentials to get you started right away, which includes the following:
- Round (6)
- Filbert (6)
- Flat (6)
- Bright (8)
- Fan (3)
Parentheses indicates brush size.
With 5 distinct styles at a medium size, this brush set is versatile in many ways.
While the animal fiber isn’t sable or a high-end synthetic like the Princeton Catalyst Polytip, it’s good enough to get you comfortable with the medium.
Given that this is typically priced at about $20, at $4 per brush – it’s a great deal given the construction.
- Great starter set
- Medium sized brushes
- Respected art brand
- Constrained to mid/small size pieces
Sold both individually and as a set (pictured above), these brushes by Grumbacher are a perfect beginner’s entry into the world of oil.
With 3 different flat brush sizes (6, 8, 10), these brushes are great for mid-sized pieces, but you will have some constraint around technique – therefore we recommend you picking up a round brush like this one as well.
Given that these are a synthetic fiber, while perfect for your oil paints, they can also be used in other popular mediums like watercolors and acrylics – making them great for artists who like to go between mediums.
Lastly, the handle.
With an oversized center coupled with a long handle, these brushes will be incredibly comfortable to use for several hours.
Hand fatigue shouldn’t be an issue – ensuring that you can get nice straight lines while painting.
- Versatile synthetic bristle
- Oversized handle grip
- Perfect for students
- Slightly expensive
- Limited brush types
Primarily known for their travel friendly watercolor brushes, Escoda delivers a quality paint brushed designed for oils.
Backed by a lifetime guarantee and holding a ISO 9001/100 certification – it has the best quality and consistency standards.
This means that should you explore additional brushes in the Escoda Optimo line, you will get quality at any of the 9 different sizes they offer for the round brush type.
Now given that this an artist grade brush as its made from Kolinsky Sable, it cannot travel between other mediums like acrylics and watercolors.
Finally, the last detail of craftsmanship that artists really loved on this brush was the ferrule.
Crimped three times, you never have to worry about individual bristles falling out when painting – ultimately making for clean consistent strokes.
- Artist grade kolinsky sable
- Expert craftsmanship
- 9 different sizes
These artist grade Ruby Satin (synthetic) brushes by Silver Brush are a terrific addition to any artist’s studio.
Able to work perfectly between all the most popular mediums including watercolors, acrylics, and of course oils – they not only load well, but have a rather stiff fiber that has a nice spring.
The shorter and thick handles are perfect for both control and comfort.
While this brush is considered to be a starter set, there is nothing student/beginner grade about these.
With 6 different brushes:
- Medium Triangle
- Filbert Grass Comb
- Monogram Liner
You have a plethora of options when it comes to stroke work.
Now if you do want to purchase these individually, you can easily pick them up at online retailers like Blick Art Materials.
Artists reviews for this brush were incredibly positive, with some stating that they “hold their shape” and that they have become “one of my favorites”
- Stiff and springy bristles
- Perfect for intermediates
- Comfortable handle prevents fatigue
- Fairly expensive for synthetics
This set by Art Advantage is aimed squarely at both the beginner and kids. All with a sub $15 price tag to match.
With 24 separate brushes, you have a ton of size options to go between when using them in your artwork.
While there may be some shedding of the bristles, it’s really not a big deal if you are just a hobbyist painter.
The included storage case also helps to keep everything organized between paintings.
Of the 24 brushes, you do have a mix of both synthetic and natural hog fibers – so if you want to use these for more than just oils, they will definitely work.
Overall, these aren’t for professional artists, they are geared towards newcomers looking to enter the art world on a budget.
- Great beginners set
- Extremely inexpensive
- Works across different mediums
- Not a long-term brush
- Fibers may shed
Selecting The Right Size Oil Paint Brush
When it comes to finding the right sized paint brush for you, it can be difficult – especially if you head to your local art supply store and are met with a hundred different brush sizes.
Generally, the rule of thumb is as follows:
- For Small / Detailed Work: Go with a size 6 or smaller
- For Mid-Sized / Color Blocking Work: Go with a size between 6 – 14
- For Large Scale Paintings And Washes: Go with a size greater than 14
Now in the world of art brushes, no two companies are alike.
This is due in large part that they are handmade.
In addition, there is no art supply governing body that regulates that a size 6 brush must be X inches long, Z inches wide, etc.
Should you be replacing a brush, then we would recommend checking out the manufactures website to get the size dimensions of their brush.
This will allow you to see how your current brushes may compare to the ones they offer.
Sites like Blick Art Materials do a pretty good job at having detailed descriptions to help too:
Note: The width refers to how wide the brush is at the base of the ferrule (where the bristles meet). Length refers to how long the bristles extend from the base of the ferrule.
Oil Paint Brush Types
If you are a complete beginner looking to learn more about brush shapes, check out our write up on all the different types of paintbrushes.
However, when it comes to oil painting, most of your work will be done between a few different brushes – which include the following:
- Round: Most Popular – used for patterns, detail work, and curved lines
- Flat: Perfect for lines, edges, and general color blocking
- Filbert: A great brush for blending
Of course, there are several more brushes that we didn’t cover including bright, rake, fan, etc.
But again, if you are a beginner, we would recommend going with the above and mastering those first before taking the leap to the lesser used brushes.
Caring And Maintaining Your Oil Paint Brushes
Just about every brush, with perhaps exception to the Art Advantage Brush Set, on our list should last you a lifetime when cared for properly.
Here’s our recommended steps to ensure that you get the most out of your new oil paint brushes:
How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes For A Lifetime Use
Oils can be a stubborn medium as they naturally resist water – making cleanup a challenge.
Therefore, we highly recommend that you use a solvent such as odorless mineral spirits or turpentine during cleanup for more effective results.
This will not only dissolve the safflower or linseed oil found in the oil paints, but will prevent any gunking in the ferrule base.
Caked up paint in the ferrule can lead to a much poorer brush performance by making the bristles split and not retain oils nearly as well.
After the paint has been completely dissolved by the solvent, then we would recommend using a dishwasher detergent (Dawn, Palmolive, etc.) and warm water to fully clean.
Lastly, for those artists who use a natural fiber brush like kolinsky sable or hog, add a drop of linseed oil to the bristles and form it to a tip.
We found that this little trick keeps the bristles springy and to a fine point.
Why Fiber Quality Matters
When reading the reviews, you might be wondering to yourself if you should spring for a pricier kolinsky sable brush or opt for the more affordable synthetics.
Depending on your skill level and preference can help you decide which oil paint brush is best.
Generally, we found the following to be true:
If you work on commission or have a firm grasp on the oil medium, then go with the kolinsky sable brushes. These natural fibers just simply perform much better than their synthetic counterparts.
However, if you like to go between various mediums including watercolors, acrylics, or even gouache, and want to save a few bucks, synthetic will be your brush of choice.
While synthetics can’t hold as much paint, over the recent years, they have gotten much better in their design – as was evident in the Princeton Catalyst Polytip brushes.
Storing Your Brushes
For professional artists, you likely already know this, but for the student and beginning painters when it comes to brush storage, always place them tip side up.
While resting a brush in solvent for a few minutes when painting is ok, prolonged pressure on the tip of the brush will lead to bent bristles and ultimately making for poorer results in your artwork.
A simple glass jar or even a paint brush stand is all you need to keep your brushes organized and in great shape.
Choosing The Best Brushes For Oil Painting
Choosing the best oil paint brushes is a difficult task. Given the large number of brushes on the market, we unfortunately don’t have the resources to look at each one individually.
However, with that being said, we do feel confident that any one of the above brushes will be a welcomed addition to your studio.
If you would like to have additional paint brushes reviewed, please let us know.
Lastly, while quality art supplies are a critical part of producing great results, talent still takes precedence. So be sure that you practice regularly and consistently with your oil paints to see marked improvements in your artistic journey.
And keep continuing to push your personal limits with each and every oil painting you do!