When it comes to paint brushes there is one question that we get asked more than any other, do I need a synthetic or natural bristle brush? The short answer to this question depends on the type of paint you are using. Natural bristle brushes or Pure Bristle brushes as they are also known are most suited to oil-based paints and not water-based paints due to the fact that they will absorb the water in the paint and swell making them hard to work with. Most modern synthetic bristle brushes can be used with both oil-based and water-based paints.
That was the short answer, however, this is not the full answer. These days there wider variety of paint brushes than ever before, with new brands and products coming into the market every day. Modern technologies has allowed brushes to become more advanced, with new filament materials, handle shapes and manufacturing processes being used, brands are constantly trying to find new ways to improve the faithful paint brush.
The natural-bristle paint brush has been a staple part of many toolboxes over the years but now the number of natural-bristle brushes on the market has reduced, this is in part due to demand. The advancements in synthetic materials mean that many synthetic brushes like the Purdy Pro-Extra brushes are now more versatile than they have ever been and can be used for all types of paints. Previously it was quite simple, natural for oil-based paints and synthetic for water-based.
Paint is changing
This is also changing because more and more paint manufacturers are reducing the number of oil-based paints in their ranges, oil-based paints like glosses and varnishes produce a great finish but come with the caveat that they have that strong 'paint' smell and take a long time to dry, whereas water-based paints have shorter drying times and contain less VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) which makes them safer for the environment but also for the user as it is mainly the VOC's that are responsible for the strong paint smell that we are all familiar with whilst painting.
Saving the hogs
Another reason for the reduction in natural bristle brushes stems from where the bristles come from. Most high-quality pure bristle brush filaments come from either badgers or Chinese Hogs, the cost of obtaining the hair and fibres for the brushes has increased over the years which means producing a reasonably priced paint brush is becoming more difficult for brands. There is also an ethical side as people are not keen to use products that come from animals, even if it is obtained responsibly.
A downside to natural bristle brushes is that they can take a bit of time to wear in as the ends of the bristles can take a bit of time to soften and shape. Many professional decorators will give their new pure bristle brush to their apprentice to paint with initially in order to knock off the hard edges of the brush and then once it is worn in they will take it back. This is not the case with synthetic brushes, because they are produced to a specification they are pretty much ready to use straight out the box and can be tailored to have a stiffer or softer feel.
Blended Bristle Paint Brushes
As with most situations, there is another option. Many manufacturers produce what they call blended paint brushes which contain a mixture of natural bristles, usually Ox hair and synthetic bristles. There are really good for producing an ultra-fine finish when using oil-based paints but can be quite pricey.
The answer to the question is no, natural bristle brushes are not a thing of the past and are still loved by many decorators but in most cases, synthetic brushes can be used for most painting jobs and it is more a choice of which size you require and what level of finish you require.
If you would like any more information or need any more help then you can call us on 01827 255250