Types of Oil Painting Brushes

Updated: 04 Feb 2019

Oil painting brushes types

Oil paints are thick!

When painting on a canvas, there is a need for brushes that can move the oil paint against the grip of the fabric fibers.

The "working horses" are hog bristle brushes.

When subtlety or precision is needed, brushes with soft natural bristles or brushes from synthetic hair are used.

Linseed oil or other thinner materials can be added to the oil paint, allowing the paintbrush to move smoothly.

Natural Brushes

Hog Bristle Brushes:

filbert paintbrush for oil painting Filbert brush
Flat and round brushes from hog bristle Round brush & flat brush

Bright & Long Flat:

Bright, short flat brush for oil paints Bright brush (short flat)
Long flat brush from hog bristle Long flat brush

Fan Brush:

Hog bristle fan brushes for oil paint Fan brush
Grass oil painting with a fan brush Grass with fan brush

Large Flat:

Hog bristle large flat paintbrushes Hog bristle large flat
Large goat paintbrush for blending Goat blender brush

Synthetic Brushes

Flat Synthetic Brush:

Flat synthetic brush for oil painting Flat synthetic brushes
Painting tree trunk and leaves Flat brush for trunk and leaves

Round Brush

Round synthetic brush with short handle Short handle round brush
Round synthetic brush with long handle Long handle round brush

Liner Brush:

Synthetic liner brush for oil paints Liner brush
Painting grass with a liner brush Grass with a liner brush

Angular Brushes:

Angular dagger brush for oil paint Dagger brush
Angular synthetic sword brush for oils Sword brush

Soft Brushes:

Mop brush for blending oil paint Mop brush
Soft synthetic brush for blending colors Soft blender brush

Brush Size

Paintbrushes come in different sizes. Different brands use different numbers for the size of brushes.

Therefore, it is better to look at the brush size in centimeters or inches rather than the number written on the brush.

The numbers will usually be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

Numbers smaller than 0, will be written like that: 00, 000, 0000, etc. Alternatively, in short: 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, etc.

Oil painting paintbrush size 00 Paintbrush size 00
Oil paintbrush with size 3/0 Paintbrush size 3/0

Brush Handle

Paintbrushes come with long or short handles. Typically, for oil painting, the handle will be long, while for watercolor painting, it will be short.

A long handle allows the painter to keep distance from the canvas while painting, making it easy to see the big picture.

When painting in a realistic style, it is sometimes necessary to get closer to the canvas in order to paint small details.

Therefore, to gain better control during painting and to avoid harming the eyes from the tip of the brush handle, it is advisable to use a short handle brush.

Paintbrushes with short handles Brushes with short handle
Paintbrushes with long handle Brushes with long handle

To paint in a realistic style, read about the 8 key factors for painting realism.

Recommended Brands

For any craft, having the right tools for the job can be helpful.

Here is a list for some recommended brands of paintbrushes for oil painting:

Palette Knife

A palette Knife or a painting knife is a tool designed to mix oil paints on an artist's palette, but can also be used for painting.

Usually, the blade of the palette knife will be flexible.

Oil paint can also be mixed with a paintbrush while painting. It is a matter of personal preference and the type of task.

Palette knives for mixing colors Palette knives
Palette knife mixing oil paints Recommended palette knives


A palette knife is easy to clean after mixing colors while paintbrush takes time to clean so, when mixing colors in advance, it is recommended to use a palette knife.


There are many types of brushes for oil painting.

Choosing the type of paintbrush is a matter of personal preference and the painter's painting style.

The bristles of brushes split with time. Old brushes have an advantage in creating randomness, but, for precision, it is recommended to cut or tear off the hairs that split.

In addition, it is possible to cut some brush hairs and create a new brush structure as needed.

Additional Resources

For an in-depth tutorial about oil paints and pigments, visit How to Mix Oil Paints - The Color Wheel.

For a guide on helpful oil painting materials, visit Oil Painting Supplies for Beginners.