Picking the right painting tools

June 04, 1997


Most brands of paint come in at least four levels of sheen. Gloss paints have the highest light-reflective characteristics. In declining order of sheen are semigloss paints; eggshell, satin or low lustre paints and flat paints.

They have the following characteristics:

  • gloss - tough, durable and stain resistant; tend to highlight surface imperfections
  • semigloss - resistant to stains and easy to clean
  • eggshell, satin or low lustre - gives an appearance of greater warmth and depth; stain resistant
  • flat - conceals surface imperfections; a good choice for ceilings because of low reflectivity


There are two general categories - those with natural-hair bristles and those made with synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. Both types can be used with oil-based paints. When applying latex paint, use only brushes with synthetic bristles.


Bristles should:

  • have split ends to create a finer, more even finish
  • have a definite flex at their tips so they will spring back into shape easily
  • be shorter on the outside and longer in the center to provide more control over where the paint is applied
  • measure at least one and a half times as long as the width of the brush; the bristles on a 2-inch-wide brush should be 3 inches long


Standard roller widths are 7 1/2 inches and 9 inches, and the larger size is suitable for most interior wall and ceiling jobs. Mini rollers about 3 inches wide are convenient for doing trim and narrow areas.

When applying latex paints, use roller covers made with a synthetic nap, or fiber surface. For oil-based paints, use synthetic or natural fiber covers.

High quality roller covers apply paint more easily and are less likely to leave nap fibers on the surfaces being painted.

Test the quality of a roller cover by squeezing it. A high quality cover will quickly return to its original shape. Be sure it has no obvious seams, as they leave streaks when paint is applied.

Paint pads

Paint pads can be used in hard-to-reach places where neither brushes or rollers will fit, such as corners and the areas where walls and ceilings meet.

Most are made of foam or mohair, which can be used to apply both latex and oil-based paints.

- National Decorating Products Association

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