Paint Brushes, Rollers & Pads

A paint brush consists of three parts - bristles, handle and a metal band called a ferrule that holds the two together. The bristles are set in a block of solid resin to keep them together, and are either natural bristles (pig is best) or synthetic fibres. The handle may be wood with a lacquer or varnish finish, or plastic. As a general rule, use bristle brushes with oil-based paint. Reserve synthetic fibre brushes for use with water-based paints and other products, as the fibres don't take up water and will therefore not subsequently clog when using with water based paints.

Basic Brushes

These have fairly short bristles that are often packed out with a wedge in the centre to make them appear thicker. This means they don't hold paint particularly well and the short bristles can tend to leave brush marks.

Professional-Quality Brushes

Professional brushes have longer bristles and more of them so they hold more paint and give a smooth finish, free from brush marks as the bristles are 'laid off' - drawn lightly over the finished paint. They are ideal if you want a fine finish, especially with gloss paints and varnishes, but be prepared to clean them carefully after each use. A good brush improves with age. Buy cheap brushes and throw them away when you've finished if you're happy with their slightly inferior performance.

Brushes come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 12-19mm, 25mm, 38mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm. Pick the size to suit the surface you're decorating - thin for window glazing bars, medium for panelled doors and wide for walls and ceilings.

Speciality Brushes

A cutting-in brush - is a standard brush, usually 19 or 25mm wide, with it's brushes trimmed at an angle. It's ideal for painting into internal angles such as around window panes and door panels.

An emulsion brush - is a wide, thick brush with synthetic bristles, designed to aid the speedy application of emulsion paint on walls and ceilings.

Masonry brushes - have coarse strong bristles that won't wear out as quickly as an ordinary brush when used for painting brickwork, rendering or concrete.

A shed and fence brush - as the name implies, this brush is designed for applying preservatives and stains to exterior woodwork.

A radiator brush - has a long wooden or metal handle and an angled head. It is designed to allow you to easily paint the back of a radiator and the wall behind it.

Fitches - are fine hogshair brushes made in a variety of round and flat bristle shapes with long, slim beechwood handles. They are ideal for creating paint effects such as marbling, tortoiseshelling and for freehand painting.

Artists' brushes - are smaller and finer than Fitches, often with squirrel-hair bristles, and are used mainly for veining and lining effects.

Decor brushes and stencil brushes - these small brushes are perfect for use when creating decorative paint effects.

Paint Rollers

A paint roller consists of a handle attached to a rotating hollow wire cylinder called a cage, and a hollow cylindrical sleeve covered with a stuck-on fabric layer that fits over it and actually applies the paint to the surface. The handle may be metal or plastic.

The sleeve fabric may be a natural fibre such as mohair or sheepskin, or more likely a synthetic fibre. The pile may be short, medium or long. The type you use depends on the smoothness of the surface you're decorating - short pile suits smooth surfaces and medium or long pile is best for textured ones. You can also buy textured rollers that create raised patterns in the paint as you apply it.

Rollers come in two standard sleeve widths of 180mm and 230mm wide. Check the diameter when buying replacement sleeves to ensure that they will fit your cage. You can also buy mini-rollers with slim sleeves 100mm in length, these are ideal for applying paint quickly in confined spaces where a standard roller is awkward to use.

Whatever size roller you're using you'll need a matching roller tray to load the sleeve with paint. Plastic trays are better than metal because they're easier to clean and don't rust. An alternative is a paint scuttle kettle, a slim rectangular bucket that can be hung from your steps when painting walls or ceilings - these devices hold more paint than a tray.

Paint Pads

Paint pads are plastic handles fitted with small short-pile fabric pads. They can be used instead of a brush or roller to apply solvent or water-based paints and other decorative products. The fabric is usually a synthetic fibre, and the pad can be slid off the handle for cleaning or eventual replacement.

A range of sizes are available, from large rectangular wall and ceiling pads to smaller square pads for woodwork and slim wands (with fixed fabric pads) for fiddly areas such as window glazing bars. They are often sold in sets complete with a tray for loading the pad with paint.

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