If you’ve ever grabbed the cheapest paintbrush, figuring they were all the same, you now know what to blame for the disappointing results.

High-quality brushes hold more paint and apply it more evenly, won’t leave you with bristles stuck in your paint, and are easier to clean.

Here are some paintbrush pointers from the experts at Consumer Reports.

Find the Best Brush for the Job

Match Material to Finish
Brushes with synthetic bristles made from nylon, or nylon and polyester, are best for water-based latex paints. That’s because natural-bristle brushes will soak up too much water and go limp. Use natural-bristle or blended (natural and 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.

“In quality brushes, the bristle ends are split, or ‘flagged,’” says Rico de Paz, the engineer who oversees Consumer Reports’ paint and stain testing. “This helps create good paint release and a smoother finish.”

The bristles should vary in length, allowing the brush to come to a point for more detailed work. When shopping, run your hand over the brush and pull gently; you shouldn’t find more than a couple of loose bristles.

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Pick the Right Type
For wide, flat surfaces, such as siding, use a 3-inch to 4-inch flat brush. A 2-inch angled sash brush is ideal for cutting in around doors and window frames. Paint trim with a 1-inch to 2-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,” de Paz says. “Try a few to get a feel for how each brush balances in your hand and how easy it is to control.”

Best and Worst Paints in CR's Tests

You’ll find a variety of brands and more than 20 paints in CR’s interior paint ratings. Years of testing have found that a brand’s flat, eggshell, and semigloss formulas perform similarly overall in our tests, so we’ve combined the scores to make it easier for you to shop.

In our test of interior paints, durability is an important factor in our evaluation. We test how well a paint repels stains, holds up to scrubbing, and keeps its sheen—and of course how smoothly it goes on.

We give higher marks to paints that cover an old color with just one coat. And to help you pick the right paint for your project, we evaluate how well a paint resists fading and mildew.

We also test exterior paints, gauging how they hold up over three, six, and nine years of exposure to the weather. See “Exterior Paints That Best Weather the Elements” for details.

And whatever project you’re tackling, take a look at our paint buying guide—it’s the ultimate primer.