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Best brushes for emulsion and acrylic paint on walls and ceilings

Listed under Blog, brushes, Corona, mypaintbrush.co.uk, Ron Taylor, Wooster Posted Apr 30 2013

Wall and Ceiling Brushes, KenilworthThis is one of two articles by Ron Taylor, Traditional Painter for Warwickshire about best brushes – for emulsion and acrylic paint on walls and ceilings.

Ron gives some background to the main variables that can affect your choice of brush for various wall and ceiling paint. He has persevered with many brushes and water-based paints, so has a well rounded opinion, built on trying & testing, re-trying, re-testing. He sheds some light on how so many diverse opinions can rage over one brush. XYZ are great, XYZ are over-rated rubbish, and everything in between!

Walloping or finesse work?

I rarely paint walls and ceilings with a paint brush. I will cut around the edge with a brush, but roll larger areas. So any kind of brushes I mention here would be brushes used for cutting-in emulsion and acrylic paint.

Angled brush or flat?

I only ever use an angled brush for cutting in and trimming around walls and ceilings. And there’s probably a 100% chance that that brush (and the roller) will be US made, or designed. Why the fixation on N. American brushes? Because they are better. They are better because in North America they grasp the need for specific brushes for specific paints and applications. The choice is better and the styles are better too. After extensive use, I rate angled sash brushes for cutting in emulsion.

Conditioners added to wall / ceiling paints

I am a big fan of paint additives for water-based trim paints, aiding with flow and levelling, but I am not so fussed in paint for walls and ceilings. This is mainly down to the amount of conditioner required for maximum benefits, and the cost thereof. Saying that, I do sometimes add Floetrol or XIM Latex X-Tender to the paint when I’m cutting round a room, to speed up the process. Again, how I play with the consistency of paint will affect performance (and an opinion) of a brush.

Choice of paint types on walls and ceilings

I’ve used loads of different emulsion and acrylic paints on walls over the years, but I’m now trying to just use a standard few. It’s very easy to over complicate your life, unnecessarily, trying to find something that’s a little better than something you are happy with. Believe me, I’ve done it.

I’ve totally stopped using contract matt, it may cover well but the finish isn’t good for redecoration. So my opinion of a good brush for wall painting also relates to my preferred paint types: vinyl matt, acrylic matt, acrylic eggshell and soft sheen finishes for walls.

My armoury of “emulsion” brushes

Wall and Ceiling Brushes, Kenilworth

For walls and ceilings I mainly use a 2.5″ Wooster Chinex FTP, Corona Chinex Excalibur and Proform Picasso. I find all of these brushes will cut a nice line and hold a fair amount of paint.

The Picasso is probably the easiest to use, as it will hold more paint than the other 3 brushes, because of it’s semi-oval design. 

The Chinex brushes are much easier to clean out at the end, or throughout the day, but none should give too many problems.

All three of these brushes will apply and spread paint easily and quickly.

An example of matching brushes to paint

The US-designed * Picasso (below) is seen in the picture with a tin of US style acrylic latex paint. This brush is an excellent match for applying these types of “thinner” coatings to walls and ceilings.

Dulux Wall Latex, Kenilworth

A new brush for vinyl matt emulsion, which has my interest

If you notice, I did say mainly use in the above paragraph. That’s because once in a while a brush will come along that might change the way you paint.

I recently was given a Wooster Alpha 2.5″ Semi Oval brush to test. It’s a big brush with a long handle and fill, but it definitely does the job. I haven’t used it extensively in different paint types, but I used it non-stop for a week in Dulux retail matt*, and was very impressed with the cutting-in and paint application.

I would certainly say it is one of the top 5 brushes currently available for matt and vinyl matt emulsions. It also comes in an FTP Chinex and Silver Tip version which I haven’t tried. (This FTP Angled Oval sash gives you an idea of the scale of the beast!)

Wooster semi oval FTP Chinex brush

I would guess that the Chinex would apply emulsions extremely well if the Alpha is anything to go by.

Look out for a second resumé of brushes for acrylic paint for woodwork / trim. And then we will try submit some guidlines about what brush is best suited for which paint.

* To clarify – as pointed out by our good friend and highly professional decorator, Lee Howen, when Ron says “retail matt” I should have been clearer, it is the Inspirations Matte pictured above. This is an acrylic matt, spatter and stain resistant retail paint from USA which he managed to secure and has been using on his work. Along the same lines as acrylic low spatter paints from the USA which we are more familiar with, like Mythic. Good stuff.

Ron taylor hand painted kitchens warwickshireRon Taylor, a specialist painter and decorator based in Kenilworth, is the Traditional Painter responsible for hand painted kitchens throughout Warwickshire.

Ron is one of the UK’s leading authorities on the specification and application of water based and waterborne paints.


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2 comments to “Best brushes for emulsion and acrylic paint on walls and ceilings”

  1. Charles Budd

    Interesting post Ron – and I agree with you. The speed of my cutting in has leapt forward since using 2.5″ angled American sash brushes – first the FTP, which instantly became my favourite all-round brush, then the Picasso, which is so fast and smooth for cutting in – altough the FTP is better for heavier emulsions I think. I’d be interested to know what you would use the 2.5″ oval FTP for. I find it holds too much paint if anything – and I find that harder to control. Great for quickly doing a ceiling edge though as it holds so much – it’s taken over from an old trusty Purdy for that job. I look forward to your next article.

  2. c montague

    When you say picasso do you mean the normal blend or the firmer blend???

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