Oil painting as a medium has been around for a very long time. Recent archaeological research has shown that oil painting dates back to at least the 7th century AD. Since then, oil paints have helped to create some of the finest artistic masterpieces in history, including da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’.
However, an artist should never rely solely on the quality of their paints to carry their work. In addition to the fundamentals of creativity, skill, imagination, and perseverance, an oil painter should always use the tools that are best suited to their medium and style. In other words, a good oil painter will need a good oil painting brush - or preferably, several.
The visible effect of high-quality painting tools has inspired us to put together this guide to the best brushes for oil painting. In addition to reviews of the 5 best oil painting brushes on the market, we’ve also created a buyer’s guide of all the most important brush features to look out for. You may also be able to find the answers to any questions you might have in our FAQ section.
Bristling with excitement to start using your new brushes? Save time and check out our top pick:
- Excellent for beginners
- Features most brush shapes
- Natural wooden handles
- Enhanced nylon brush hairs
- Chrome copper ferrules
- Easy cleaning
- Carry case included
- Includes 2 sponges and a palette knife
OUR TOP PICK
If you’ve been on the hunt for a set of brushes that also includes just about all the tools you need for oil painting, then we have just the product for you!
Artify’s 15 pcs Paint Brush Set includes 15 brushes in a selection of liner, round, flat, fan, glaze, angle, and filbert shapes. These are pretty much all the brush types you’re likely to encounter while oil painting, so you’ll be able to try out as many styles and techniques as you want! If one of your goals is to diversify your work, this brush set is an absolute must.
The natural wooden handles of these brushes make this set an eco-friendly choice - although the rest of the brush parts aren’t recyclable, once the brushes have reached the ends of their lives, you can recycle the handles separately.
Another great thing about these handles is that they’re very smooth to the touch, so they’re comfortable to work with. Because of the 3-layer coating applied to the wood, the handles are also water-resistant enough to be soaked for up to 48 hours at a time for thorough and stress-free cleaning.
The enhanced nylon bristles, held in place by chrome copper ferrules, don’t fall out easily, making these brushes a long-lasting investment. However, the bristle construction is better suited to beginners and hobbyists than to serious professional work.
These brushes come packaged in a handy carry case, which can be propped up for use as a stand if necessary. Purchase of the brush set also includes a palette knife and 2 sponges for texturing.
- Includes most brush types
- Smooth, natural wood handles
- Enhanced nylon bristles
- Strong chrome copper ferrules
- Easy to clean
- Includes carry case
- Palette knife and 2 sponges included
- Perhaps not for professional work
This set of paintbrushes from Virtuous Arts is perfect for creating detailed oil painting pieces because of their very fine construction. These brushes really come into their own when it comes to painting thin, delicate lines and accents.
The Virtuous Arts Fine Paintbrushes are available as a set of either 15 or 20, so you can select the set size that works best for you based on how big of a supply you want, as well as the versatility of your work. However, the most popular (and budget-friendly) set is the 15-brush collection.
This set contains the 3 most common types of brushes used in oil painting. These brushes are rounds, liners, and flats. We’ll go into these brush types in greater detail in our buyer’s guide, so be sure to check it out! For now, you just need to know that the round and liner brushes are available in sizes 0, 1, 2/0, 3/0, and 4/0, while the spot and flat brushes come in sizes 0 and 1. Again, there’ll be more on this later, but these 3 brush types in these sizes will allow you to master all the basic small-scale brush strokes for oil painting.
The handles of these paintbrushes have been constructed to ensure that each brush is ergonomic to work with. These shorter, thicker handles are easy and comfortable to grip for long periods of time, so you’ll be able to maintain control and precision in your work from start to finish.
Another impressive feature of these brushes is the use of synthetic Korean filament bristles which are highly durable and resistant to shredding.
We should note, however, that although the suitability of these brushes to very detailed artwork is a huge benefit for fine-line artists, this set probably won’t be the best choice for painters looking to create bolder works with thicker lines and accents.
- Ideal for fine, detailed work
- Available as 15 or 20-pack
- Contains rounds, liners, and flats
- Durable, synthetic bristles
- Short, thick handles for ergonomic use
- Only for fine lines
VIKEWE’s set of 16 brushes is suitable for creating professional-grade art from a variety of paints, including acrylics and watercolors, but they’re especially good for helping you to get the most out of your oil paints.
The 16 brushes in this set include liners, rounds, angles, filberts, fans, and flats, so you have a good selection to work with for achieving different textures and styles.
VIKEWE’s brushes are designed with thick wooden handles to enable the most comfortable and balanced grip. The high-quality nylon bristles, meanwhile, are soft and supple for smooth brush strokes. Thanks to the rust-resistant aluminum ferrules, these bristles will stay firmly connected to the brush handle and won’t fall out either during painting or working.
The brushes in this set come in a carrying case that can also double as a pop-up stand. A palette or oil painting knife is also contained in the set, as well as a sponge for textural variety.
An additional bonus to these brushes is that their sleek, black handles and gray-and-black bristles are visually very beautiful and will make an aesthetically pleasing addition to your collection of art supplies.
- 16 brushes
- Liners, rounders, fans, flats, filberts, and angles included
- High-quality nylon bristles
- Thick, wooden handles
- Comes in carry case/stand
- Includes oil paint knife and sponge
- Some customers have noticed a strong chemical smell
Looking for a versatile set of reasonably-priced oil paintbrushes? Mont Marte’s Art Paint Brushes Set is one of the best affordable oil paintbrush selections money can buy.
These brushes are actually suited to most paints, from watercolors to acrylics and even gouache, but they’re particularly well-suited to oil painting. This is because of their precision and durable construction, which make a notoriously tricky paint to handle and clean much easier to work with!
There are 15 brushes included in this set, which vary in shape from liners to fans and range in size from 3/0 to 12/0.
The wooden handles of these brushes are very durable, so they can be used and cleaned regularly without too much concern. The anti-corrosive aluminum ferrules also help with this as they can be exposed to water while keeping the bristles firmly secured. The bristles themselves are made of synthetic Taklon fibers, which are both soft and thick for smooth paint application and durability.
Because these stunning gold-and-black brushes come in a convenient zip-up case, they make a lovely gift either to a loved one or to yourself!
- Includes several brush styles
- Zip-up carry case included
- Soft and durable Taklon bristles
- Rust-resistant aluminum ferrules
- Some artists find the handles too long
Mluchee has produced an incredible set of oil paintbrushes for a very affordable price in this 18-pack of Oil Paint Brushes. You get a lot of brushes for your money, and best of all, they’re perfectly suited to working with oil paints.
There are brushes in this set to cater to all styles, from angle and liner brushes to flat, filbert, round, and fan brushes. The sizes of each brush are clearly marked on the brush handles to make them easier to identify.
These brushes are constructed with thick, rounded, wooden handles that are ergonomic and intuitive to work with. The nylon bristles are connected to the brush by rust-resistant aluminum ferrules that grip the bristles firmly while remaining easy to clean.
All of the brushes come in a zip-up carry case and are sold alongside a free sponge and palette knife to help you master all the different textures that oil paints can achieve.
- 18 brushes
- Rounded, ergonomic wooden handles
- High-quality nylon bristles
- Anti-rusting aluminum ferrules
- Sold in zip-up carry case
- Sponge and palette knife included
- Some reports of a strong chemical smell
Best Brushes for Oil Painting Buying Guide
Any kind of painting, oil painting included, is a very individual and self-expressive process. Therefore, it’s important to understand the different features of oil painting brushes so that you can purchase the tools that will best enhance your work. This buyer’s guide will supply you with all the information you need, so read on!
Bristles, also referred to as brush hairs, are probably the most important part of an oil painting brush. This is because the quality and construction of the bristles will determine how well the brush picks up and distributes paint, as well as how smooth the brush strokes are.
First of all, bristles can either be natural or synthetic. While natural bristles are widely considered superior to synthetic bristles purely because they are made from high-quality, natural materials, there are many advantages to synthetic bristles. For one thing, they’re much more affordable, and the technology used to create them has become more advanced, allowing synthetic brushes to recreate the properties of natural bristles at a lower cost.
We’ve been referencing some of the typical shapes of oil paint brushes throughout our reviews, but it’s useful to have some more detailed information about what each type of brush is for.
Depending on your personal art style, certain brush shapes might be better suited to your work than others, so it’s a good idea to go into your search for oil painting brushes with some idea of what kind of brush strokes you want to work in.
Brushes are usually named for the shape of the ends of their bristles. Round brushes, for instance, have rounded tips that make them good for more delicate strokes. Due to how much they range in size, however, they’re all great all-purpose brushes.
If you want to incorporate really fine detailing in your work, you’ll need a liner brush with a very fine point. Anything particularly finicky (think corners and complicated shapes) can be worked on with a small-sized angle brush.
Broader strokes can easily be achieved by using flat or filbert brushes. If you have a lot of space to cover, a fan brush is likely to be the best choice because the very wide tip covers a lot of ground in a single stroke.
Oil painting brushes don’t just vary in terms of shape - they also come in a wide range of sizes.
The largest brush size is 24, and the smallest is 4/0 (also expressed as 0000). Smaller brushes will work better for finer details and thin linework, whereas larger brushes are ideal for painting large swaths of color or filling in backgrounds.
Most brushes will have their size marked somewhere on the handle so you can quickly and easily pick exactly the right brush for your task.
Most paintbrush handles (at least, good quality ones) will have wooden handles. This is because wood is natural and pleasant to work with as well as being quite a durable material. These wooden handles will usually feature some kind of coating (the more layers the better) to make them suitable for water exposure.
Generally speaking, the shorter the handle, the easier it will be to control your brush strokes and work with precision. Rounded handles are also preferable for grip comfort. However, it should be said that some artists prefer longer brush handles because it allows more room for optimal hand positioning, so this one is ultimately down to your preference.
When most people think about the features of a paintbrush, they’ll think of the handle and bristles automatically. However, the ferrule often gets forgotten about, despite being the feature that essentially holds the brush together.
Ferrules should be made from a strong, corrosion-resistant metal such as aluminum and chrome copper. Tough and water-resistant metals make ferrules more effective at holding the bristles in place to prevent fallout, and they’re also easier to clean because they won’t rust when exposed to water.
You’d be surprised how many additional accessories you can get out of the purchase of a set of oil paintbrushes!
Because brushes for oil paints usually come in sets (buying by the brush is time-consuming and more expensive), it can be helpful to have a carry case to keep them in. Sometimes, carry cases for brushes can even double as pop-up stands!
One of the big advantages of using oil paint as a medium is that it can be manipulated to create immersive, even life-like textures. If you want to really take advantage of this aspect of your chosen medium, we recommend choosing some brushes that come with texturing tools such as sponges and/or a palette knife.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use any brush for oil painting?
Even though you’re now fully aware of the benefits of using brushes that are designed specifically for use with oil paints, as well as all the incredible options out there, you might still be wondering whether you can get away with using other brush types for oil painting. Maybe you want to start painting right away before your new brushes arrive, or maybe you need to save up a little for your perfect brush set.
Either way, we should point out that there are no rules set in stone to dictate what brush you can or can’t use for what medium. The brushes we’ve reviewed have been selected based on how well they perform under the conditions and styles typical to oil painting, but that’s not to say you can’t produce good results with brushes geared towards other mediums. However, if you are using brushes that aren’t constructed for oil painting (either specifically or as one of several mediums), you should expect your work to look and feel a little different.
How do I clean my oil paintbrushes?
Caring for the brushes you use for oil painting is a fundamental part of maintaining their ease of use as well as enhancing the artwork they help you to create. Cleaning your brushes well after every use is one of the most important steps you can take towards extending their longevity.
First of all, please remember to check your manufacturer’s care guidelines as the first port of call. All the different materials used to make paintbrushes mean that the right maintenance for one brush may not work for another.
However, the best way to clean most oil paintbrushes is by using a combination of paint thinner and good old fashioned water. If you have a lot of excess paint in your brushes, you may also need a paint comb, and you’ll definitely need some kind of blotting paper or kitchen towel. Simply soak your brushes for 5 minutes at a time in a pot of paint thinner, blotting them thoroughly after each soaking. Repeat this as many times as necessary until your brushes look and feel clean, and then rinse and press the bristles until all product is removed.
WonderStreet is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned in this article. However, we sometimes receive a referral fee from online retailers when our readers buy on their website after clicking from our website to theirs. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases, which supports the operation of our blog and helps to keep all our content free for everyone. In any case, when we conduct our analysis, our intention and focus is to remain objective and unbiased at all times.
What’s your favourite Brushes for Oil Painting? We’d love to hear from you... Please leave your comments below.
WonderStreet is an invite-only community where artists connect with customers. Sign up and showcase your artwork. It's free and only takes a minute!