Of all paint mediums, acrylic paint is my favorite. The texture is smooth, easily mixed, and the colors tend to be more vibrant than oil or watercolor. The texture of acrylic paint can also be brilliantly transformed by dozens of medium mixins and varnishes.
Your brushes are just as important as the paint you’re using. As the great Thomas Carlyle once said: “Man is a tool using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” However, not all tools (in this case, brushes) are created equal.
I’ve been through the horrors of using cheap, flimsy brushes. I’ve pulled all-nighters finishing projects for final critiques that would make their mark on my academic career. In my sleep deprived dementia I’ve looked at my finally finished paintings with pride and exhaustion.
I’d leave them to dry and wake up the next morning to find them coated in a fine layer of displaced bristles that left my pieces looking cheap and my malnourished college student mind in utter despair.
A little too dramatic? Maybe. But I did go the cheap route for a lot of my art supplies and that was a poor decision on my part. If you do your research and invest in supplies that are a little more expensive, it makes an enormous difference in the quality and longevity of your work.
If you’re ready to invest in brushes that will help you take your acrylic painting to the next level, check out my top 5 acrylic brushes below!
What to Look for in Your Acrylic Brushes
- Quality synthetic bristles: You have the option of expensive luxury fur brushes with bristles made from mink (known commercially as sable) and squirrel fur, but synthetic nylon bristles tend to work best for the acrylic medium and are much more economical and ethical.
- Brush tip shape variety: A solid brush collection will have a strong variety of brush shapes. In addition to the brushes we’re covering in this article, you should have several sizes of flat, round, filbert, bright, fan, angle, mop, and rigger brushes to create a wide range of strokes and textures.
- Strong glue and a tight ferrule: There is nothing more mindnumbingly frustrating while working on a painting than bristles sliding out of your brush and sticking to your canvas. Quality brushes will have very strong crimp in the ferrule and strong waterproof glue within it to hold the bristles tightly inside the brush and not all over your artwork. I usually put bristles to the test by gently tugging on them when they are dry. If any breakage occurs or any bristles just slide out, you’ve got a cheap brush that’s going to drive you nuts once you put it to work. It’s also important to wash your brushes thoroughly after use and never leave them sitting in water for long periods of time.
The Best Acrylic Paint Brushes
Here are the best acrylic paint brushes for all types of uses, from background blending to large-scale painting.
- MyArtscape 15 Piece Synthetic Short Handle Paint Brushes
- MyArtscape 12 Piece Detail Paint Brush Set
- Royal and Langnickel Zip N’ Close 12 Piece Brush Set
- Martin & F. Weber Bob Ross 2 Inch Background Blender Brush
- Liquitex Professional Freestyle Large Scale Brush 5 Piece Set
Best Budget Brush Set
MyArtscape 15 Piece Synthetic Short Handle Paint Brushes
The MyArtscape 15 Piece Synthetic Short Handle Paint Brush Set has the best variety of brush types out of everything on this list. They include filbert, flat, angular, bright, round, liner, and fan brushes. They even include the rare rake brush that creates really interesting strokes for painting grass or hair.
Made with synthetic bristles and featuring a short handle for tiny hands and easy packing for travel, this set packs a punch for a low price. If you’re a beginner, chances are you’re not ready to invest in tools that are too incredible. I’ve made the mistake of overspending at the onset of hobbies that lost their luster pretty quick.
Once you’ve given painting a shot and decide you love it, you can spend the cash for something a little better. However, this set is cheap, diverse, and doesn’t fall apart after your first painting experiment.
- Excellent performance, no shedding and perfect painting
- Feel good, easy to grip and get the hang of
- Work well, even after many hours and days of use
- Bristle quality is very nice and firm
- Great variety in paint brush sizes, well-suited to many painting methods
Best Brush Set for Detailing
MyArtscape 12 Piece Detail Paint Brush Set
MyArtscape makes the list again with this set of stiff synthetic brushes designed for creating small details. It can be a struggle to find tiny brushes that can apply acrylic paint smoothly and without globs falling over the edges, effectively ruining a clean line.
The MyArtscape 12 piece Detail Paint Brush Set has good variation, yet all the brushes included are the perfect design for creating tiny dots, lines, and strokes. You get several different kinds of liner, round, and flat brushes in this set.
The lightweight wooden handles that these brushes have are a little less than seven inches long, which may not be favorable for those who enjoy a long sturdy handle while painting.
I do find that shorter, lighter brushes are actually better for detailing when you’re pressed close to your canvas and creating small strands of hair or highlights on detailed objects.
- Superior detail paint brushes
- Keep shape very well, no loose hairs
- Work well for acrylic, watercolor and other oils
- Ideal variety of detail-sized brushes
- Great price for what you get
Best Travel Brush Set
Royal and Langnickel Zip N’ Close 12 Piece Brush Set
The bristles are made of gold taklon and the handles are made of a wood that is lightweight yet sturdy enough the grip tight while painting. The brushes aren’t super short or super long, and don’t take up a lot of space.
This set is good for art students commuting between classes or the art teacher in need of brushes that are of good quality that won’t break the bank. This set comes with a neat little pouch and is the ideal choice for traveling.
Royal and Langnickel is a popular brand that can be found at most arts and crafts outlets. Their products are usually very inexpensive while maintaining decent quality. Their brushes too, I’ve found, are unusually pretty.
This set features bright blue handles and goldtinted ferrules that are really aesthetically pleasing. Prettiness may be a useless quality for a set of paintbrushes, but who doesn’t love to look at pretty things? Come on!
The ferrules are made of tinted aluminum, so it’s especially important to remember to wash and dry them thoroughly after use to avoid corrosion and loose bristles.
- Little to no shedding over time
- Brushes are easy to use and master the motion of
- Bristle quality is great and above-average for price
- Have a good elasticity so that the brushes move well when painting
- High quality build and construction of brushes
Best Brush for Background Blending
Martin & F. Weber Bob Ross 2 Inch Background Blender Brush
I remember as a young artist going to art supply stores and checking out the Bob Ross display, overseen by his gentle smile on a large cardboard cutout. I loved his show and learned a lot from the guy, but I couldn’t really afford $50 to $60 for a 4 piece brush set made of fancy white sheep hair.
It may seem like the Martin & F. Weber line of Bob Ross painting products is an expensive nostalgic novelty, but their brushes really are of impeccable quality. I’ve struggled to find a background blender with bristles soft enough to blend colors without leaving streaks.
The Martin & F. Weber Bob Ross 2 Inch Background Blender Brush was given to me as a gift several years ago, has gone through much use, yet barely shows any deterioration. This brush was designed specifically for Ross’ signature “wet on wet” technique used for oil painting.
This technique doesn’t work so well for the fastdrying acrylic medium, but this brush blends colors beautifully and works just fine for the acrylic painter.
- Brushes are somewhat pricey, but well worth it for the performance you get
- Standard of Bob Ross products has not gone down since Bob passed
- Can hold a good amount of paint, great bristle retention
- One of the highest quality brushes out there
Best Brush Set for Large Scale Painting
Liquitex Professional Freestyle Large Scale Brush 5 Piece Set
Liquitex is a brand that has been highly revered by professional artists and novices alike. I’m a huge fan of their paint products and have been buying their pigments for years. Their brushes, similarly, are incredible.
The Liquitex Professional Freestyle Large Scale Brush 5 Piece Set is a stylish brush set that showcases the quality and durability of Liquitex products.
If you’re a fan of creating largescale paintings on canvas or painting murals on walls, this flat and angled brush set is fantastic. The bristles are made of quality blended synthetic nylon and the handles are smooth, classic, and comfortable.
This set also includes a splatter brush and it’s literally the most fun brush to use ever. Create interesting spots and splatters by slapping the loaded brush a few inches from your canvas. Use acrylic ink to create watery, drippy, surreal effects. Embrace the messiness!
- Gorgeous brushes, top of the line filament
- Great parts – stainless steel metal around the brush end
- Work well with Liquitex paints and other good quality paints
- Perfect for beginning or seasoned painters
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