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Nine tips on great brushwork

From choosing the right brush for the job to getting a feel for technique, it’s important to know your brushes. We’ve put together nine of our best tips to help take the mystery out of brushing and make sure your project gets off to a clean start.

  • Avoid cheap brushes with short, sparse bristles.

  • Before using a brush, remove any loose bristles by giving it a good tease with your fingers. It's a good idea to moisten the brush with the same liquid that's in your paint. For example; water for water based paints, and turps for oil based paints.

  • Water based paints are best applied with a long-bristled, full-bodied brush, while oil-based paints, undercoats and primers need a medium-bristle length.

  • Rough wood, brickwork and cement render is easily painted with a synthetic fibre brush.

  • Fill the brush by dipping in up to half the length of the bristles. This is important as it stops the paint getting back into the top of the bristles where it will harden them. 

  • If you’re painting a larger area by brush, apply the paint in vertical or diagonal strips until the brush runs out of paint, then brush horizontally until the area is evenly covered.  Finish off with very light vertical strokes using the tip of the brush, this is called ‘laying off'.

  • If you’re using a brush and a roller, the first step is to paint the edges roughly 5cm wide around any flat area you’re about to paint; known as ‘cutting in'. Try to roll the open or wet areas before the brushed out paint dries to minimise ‘picture framing' or ridging around the edges.

  • Like all painting, try to start at the top and work down, painting with light, even strokes and feathering the edge of the wet paint as the brush empties. Recharge the brush and work back into the wet edge.

  • Don’t try to paint over an area that has partially dried, as the brush will leave unattractive marks on the surface. The base of skirting boards can be a trap. Always use a shield – a bricklayer's bolster, a piece of metal or stiff cardboard works well. Hold the shield into the base of the skirting and paint down to it, moving it along as you go. Even if you have no carpet to protect, it will stop the brush picking up dust and grit from the floor.