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Best paint brushes – Wooster Alpha update plus …

Listed under Blog, brushes Posted Jan 16 2012

I have talked about the best paint brushes on the market before. Wooster Alpha, Picasso, Picasso, Wooster Alpha…They still stand. And just to add a bit of colour to the mix, there is a master painter in Marlborough who reckons he has found the best brush ever for high end painting kitchen cabinets with water-borne paint. And talking best brushes, a great brush for painting pebbledashing is?

Wooster Alpha revisited

At the Paint Show in November 2011, Wooster assured me that the bristles in a Wooster Alpha are as high spec and high tech as you can get in a synthetic brush. Having been drawn to another brush in recent months, (see Picasso below!!) I had almost forgotten what a cool brush the Alpha is.

The paint-holding capacity of a 2.5″ semi oval Wooster Alpha is mad. I used it recently when applying a low sheen acrylic varnish on 8 oak veneer doors. When worked in and charged up with paint, it is the brush that keeps on giving. And the bristles which feel as soft as sable, translate all your speedy paintwork into a beautiful smooth finish.

Alpha on speed

The 2.5″ Wooster Alpha is pretty quick for cutting in

just not as fast as a Picasso according to Jack Pauhl’s benchmark testing. I believe, however, that the 3″ Alpha is still Jack Pauhl’s choice as the best production brush for applying emulsion paints? Or if no longer the numero uno, it was.

Alpha on oil

The Wooster Alpha is easily as good as the Purdy Monarch Elites for applying oil paint. I prefer the Wooster because it feels better balanced and isn’t as bulky. But you can’t really knock that particular Purdy brush which has served kitchen painters well, me included, for years. I remember the days of simple brush selection from your Hamilton range. That was OK til a rush of competing US brush companies decided to confuse us Brits with their brushes specifically designed for paint formulae for 2011 and beyond – sadly, the evolution of paint is a detail lightly lost on UK brush makers?

Proform Picasso brush

Lately, the Proform Picasso has become the darling of painters looking to cut in super fast and dead straight lines with acrylic wall paints. It seems to be made of the same bristle as another fantastic brush for straight lines, the Wooster Silver Tip, except the brush makers have designed the Picasso to hold and lay off more paint than most professional painters have been used to. If I were marketing it, my catch lines would be –

Are your arms gibbon-like? Are you a presser-downer rather than a glider-onner kinda painter? Then the Picasso is for you.

If the Picasso is fully charged, you should run out of arm before the paint stops flowing from the Picasso. Definitely worth investing in the only oval angled brush del mundo on your next painting job and look at Jack Pauhl’s explanations of the best brush ever.

In a nutshell, the Picasso holds more paint than you could ever use to cut in a line from one position. It is fully charged when paint is held in the internal bristles right down to the metal ferrule. If you then dip the tip of the brush about 1″ into the paint, and wipe off the excess, you are set to cut in a very long line.

As you move your arm and press the brush against the wall, the reservoir dispenses a consistent flow of paint to the tip, and as long as you press incrementally harder along the line, the paint flow will stay consistent. The Picasso performs this basic paint brush action better than even the Wooster Alpha. One really long and even straight line, probably in one stroke. Nirvana.

If there were one criticism of the Picasso, I suppose you could say that the Picasso is effectively a orange bristle brush with cheap tips! The Wooster guys told me that as the bristles are CT Chemically tipped ie literally dipped in chemicals, two things happen. On the one hand this creates the shape that would give Picassos incredibly accurate cuts, but it also weakens the bristle, so they will wear down much quicker than crafted flagged tips as found on the Alpha bristles.

This makes sense, because the Wooster Silver Tip is my other fave for cutting straight lines. It feels the same on the tips, and is as accurate as the Picasso for cutting in. In terms of price, it is an economy brush in the Wooster range and is well documented that it won’t last that long in the hands of a busy painter.

(I do like the Silver Tip and recommend it to homeowners looking to step up a gear with their finished paint lines. The ST can’t hold nearly as much paint as the Picasso, and you can’t press half as firmly, so you have to cut shorter lines per dip – OK so on the downside, pros would say it is crap compared to the Picasso but on the plus side, it takes zero practice to work it.) The point is, the Silver Tip also uses a CT bristle, so the price reflects that it won’t last forever.


Update Wooster have made an oval angle sash version of the Silver Tip, presumably to go against the Picasso, with extra bristles, and extra paint carrying capacity. I haven’t tried it but see this first impressions review of Wooster’s new FTP angled Oval Sash brush, which includes a link to another TP specialist’s review after a couple of day’s painting with it. The 2.5″ is a big big brush!


My Picasso experience is with the rat tail (long handled version) which is really well balanced. When you are a little overstretched, it seems to work like a pendulum ie holding it at the end of the handle, the weight of the brush head just takes it along nicely almost under its own steam. Your mileage may vary with the standard length handle, same brush just different ergonomics.

*My Paint Brush supply every Picasso model for you to try!

Top Tip

Like all synthetic bristles, the Alpha, Picasso, Silver Tip et al definitely need to be damp before you first load them with paint, otherwise you won’t be able to easily form that lovely sharp chisel edge necessary for cutting in. And cleaning is easier too if the bristles start damp. An obvious tip if you have been using acrylic forever, but there has to be a reason why painters moan about stringy finishes with water-based paint, so maybe that is one place to start looking, to up your game?

Most important brush in a painter and decorator’s kit bag?

When I was at college, one “trick” question we had was, What is the most important brush you need to own? It wasn’t 1″ or 2″ or any inch. In those days the answer was “Jamb duster” or as we commonly call it, a dusting brush. Well, how things change. I don’t even own a dusting brush any more. I vacuum everything.

Best brush for pebbledash painting

For painting pebbledash, the best brush I have found is a soft sweeping brush from your local hardware store. £2.99 throw away at end of job, best solution.

Best brush for woodwork

Keeping the bestest best brush til last, Master kitchen painter, Mark Nash, was very excited to tell me about his latest brush acquisition. Painting a kitchen in a showroom for a very picky client, he applied Tikurila water-borne egggshell paint with a 3″ sable artists brush. Cost him £46. It was bloody brilliant, it was! Fantastic finish, best he ever had. Which is saying something, because Mark has one of the finest pedigrees of any kitchen painter in the UK. So we will be banging on his door asking where he got that brush from!

What are your best brushes? Do you have sable brushes, or hog hair stipplers, or badger softeners, or still hanging on with Hamilton Acorn Perfections… Or the Fox paint brush developed and used by Traditional Painters



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3 comments to “Best paint brushes – Wooster Alpha update plus …”

  1. Ji

    What is the best brush for painting oil based paint onto french doors with very thin glazing bars?

  2. Andy Crichton Andy Crichton

    Google “round sash paint brushes” (looks like a big artist brush) from various brush companies. Round sash is the standard shape on the continent. If you can get the hang of gently twisting the brush as you go along or down, you will get nice precise lines.

  3. Allen

    I’m a DIYer/handyman for friends. I have tried way too many paint brushes, Purdys and even the Alpha, however I find my self reaching for the Silver Tip more often than not. Definitely my favorite brush.

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