If you’ve ever grabbed the cheapest paint brush figuring they were all the same, you now know what to blame for disappointing painting results. High-quality brushes hold more paint and apply it more evenly, they’re easier to clean, and they won’t leave you with bristles stuck in your paint. Here’s how to buy right.

Match Material to Finish
Synthetic brushes made from nylon or nylon and polyester are best for water-based latex paint. Natural-bristle brushes will soak up too much water and go limp. Use natural-bristle or blended (natural/synthetic) brushes for oil-based paint and finishes.

Consider Quality
Look for tightly packed bristles all the way through the ferrule (the metal part at the base of the handle) that spring back when you bend them. Bristle ends should be split or “flagged,” which helps create good paint release and a smoother finish. And the bristles should vary in length, allowing the brush to come to a point for more detailed work. Run your hand over the brush and pull gently; you shouldn’t find more than a couple of loose bristles.

Pick the Right Type
For wide, flat surfaces like siding, use a 3-inch to 4-inch flat brush. A 2½-inch angled sash brush is ideal for cutting in. Paint trim with a 1-inch to 2½-inch angled sash brush.

Look for Comfort
A brush should feel good in your hand, so the size recommendations above are only a guide. “When you’re in the store, pretend you’re painting,” says CR’s paint expert, Enrique de Paz. “Try a few to get a feel for how each brush balances in your hand and how easy it is to control.”

The Best Paint for the Job

You can find a good can of paint at your nearest hardware or home improvement store. Here are some of our top interior paints and where to find them: