Looking for some new oil paintbrushes, without breaking the bank?
Whether you’re an experienced painter or just starting your painting journey, most artists understand the importance (and the struggle!) of finding the best brushes for oil painting.
While it can be tempting to continue working with cheap, old paint brushes, it’s 100% possible to find top-tier brushes that suit your needs and budget.
Below, you’ll find our top recommended brushes to create your next – and best! – piece of work.
- Our Top 5 Picks: Best Oil Paint Brushes Compared
- Reviews: Best Brushes for Oil Painting
- What Types of Brushes Are Best for Oil Painting?
- Are Natural or Synthetic Brushes Better for Oil Painting?
- How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes
- Which Oil Paint Brush Would I Choose?
Our Top 5 Picks: Best Oil Paint Brushes Compared
#1. Princeton 6500 Series Synthetic Bristle
Best oil paint brush set overall
Overall Rating: 5/5
- Paint glides off bristles for optimal control + color placement
- Synthetic fibers replicate the stiffness and strength of natural bristle
- Impressive range of brush sizes: artists can mix and match 50+ brushes from this series for the perfect brush stroke
#2. Artify 15-Piece Chungking Bristle Oil Paint Brush Set
Best professional oil paint brushes
Overall Rating: 4.9/5
- Affordable & portable – storage box is included
- Minimal shedding, so you won’t have random bristles in your painting
- Wide assortment of brushes for every phase of painting: lots of rounds and flats
#3. Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brush Set
Best synthetic brushes for oil painting
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
- Excellent for painting en plein air or fast figure studies
- Super-stiff Polytip bristles easily hold and release paint
- Affordable compared to other synthetic options
- Springier and softer than natural hog brushes, which is superb for smoothing paint
#4. Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes Set
Best brushes for detail oil painting
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
- Set of 5 offers an ideal range of sizes
- Durable even after years of use
- Perfect handle length for fine detail
#5. Da Vinci Oil & Acrylic Series 5269 College Synthetic Paint Brush Set of 5
Best oil paint brushes for beginners
Overall Rating: 4.4/5
- Can be used for both oils and acrylics
- Keep their shape after washing
- Affordable – especially for student artists who work daily but haven’t found their “perfect” paintbrush (yet!)
Reviews: Best Brushes for Oil Painting
1. Princeton 6500 Series Synthetic Bristle (4-Piece Set)
Overall Rating: 5/5
Ease of Cleaning: 5/5
This brush collection is like the Goldilocks of brush sets. By starting with four brushes, you can determine which ones work best for you before purchasing more. Princeton’s professional-grade set features one Bright 2, one Flat 6, one Filbert 4, and a Round 2/0. For the multitasking artist, it’s also helpful to have brushes that can be used with oils, acrylics, and water-soluble oils.
- Feel like natural hog hair bristle: These oil brushes feel like natural hog hair – but without the splaying and shedding.
- White bristles: Beyond looking elegant, white bristles make it easier to check that brushes are clean after each use.
- Stiffness: In the brush world, stiffness is a great quality! A stiff brush increases control and precision.
- Suitable for both oil and acrylic: Synthetic bristles make for easy cleaning between acrylic and oil paintings
- No protective case: Compared to other brush sets on our list, there’s nothing between these brushes and your studio – so treat them carefully!
The Princeton 6500 Series is one of your best options if you’re looking for a solid starter set of synthetic oil brushes.
2. Artify 15-Piece Chungking Bristle Oil Paint Brush Set
Overall Rating: 4.9/5
Ease of Cleaning: 4.9/5
If you’re a professional painter, you’ve probably met a hand cramp (or two) in the course of your career. As the “workhorses” of the oil brush world, hog bristle brushes traditionally have longer handles – which means freer hand movement, less wrist pain, and less dirty work for you.
And, Artify’s Chungking brush set is super versatile and a pleasure to work with.
Chungking refers to the Chinese city of Chungking, where hogs are traditionally raised to provide bristles for paintbrushes…
With these long, thick, and coarse bristles, you can cover more ground during the first layers of the painting. This particular set features 15 common brush shapes and sizes, so you’ll have a brush for every step of your painting.
- Versatile brush assortment: The 15-piece set includes some of the best professional brushes available. You’ll get several flat and round brushes and two fans, which are ideal for painting natural shapes and details. (Think fluffy clouds, soft grass, and other landscape elements!)
- 100% Chungking hog bristle brushes hold a lot of paint
- Stiff bristles: These are better suited for textured areas than softer brush fibers. The bristles can also endure the wear-and-tear of daily painting and maintain their shape with proper cleaning. Admirers of this brush series appreciate their stiff bristles for impasto work. The wide range of sizes gives you room to explore!
- No filbert brushes: This set doesn’t include filbert brushes, which are helpful for blending.
This collection is hard to beat if you’re in the market for long-handled, high-quality, and affordable bristle brushes.
3. Princeton Catalyst Polytip Bristle Brush Set
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
Ease of Cleaning: 4.8/5
If you think high-tech and fine art exist in separate worlds, think again! Princeton’s 4-piece set includes some of the best oil paintbrushes.
The tip of each individual fiber is split to mimic the behavior of natural hog bristles. Because each brush fiber has two to three distinct tips, you can hold more paint on the brush and apply it more smoothly and consistently.
You’ll get a size 4 Bright, size 10 Flat, size 8 Filbert, and Size 2 Round, all with long handles: a great choice for artists who tend to work larger. The Flat and Bright are stiffer and help move oil paints around on the first layer; the rounded Filbert helps blend smaller areas, and the fine-pointed Round Size 2 lets you fit those tiny details.
- Stiff yet responsive: These brushes provide the stiffness of natural bristle brushes for controlled mark-making. At the same time, they hold and release paint with ease: one of the key benefits of synthetic brushes.
- Works with water-based mediums: Use these synthetic oil brushes with oils, acrylics, and even gel mediums.
- Hold & release more paint than traditional brushes: Expect to move paint around the canvas smoothly and efficiently!
- Take longer to clean: Since they hold more paint, they may also take longer to clean.
Add this versatile brush to your studio lineup for a synthetic version of the traditional hog bristle brush.
4. Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes Set
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Ease of Cleaning: 5/5
In the niche world of oil paintbrushes, sable brushes are often considered to be the best.
After reviewing these Winsor & Newton sable brushes, it’s easy to understand the hype! Featuring wooden handles and finely-tapered points, these brushes are a pleasure to work with. With proper cleaning, sable oil paintbrushes will retain their original points after years of painting. The soft fibers deliver fine lines of paint with ease and consistency.
- High-quality sable fibers: Sable holds and releases paint more easily and quickly than other brush fibers.
- Longevity: Sable also lasts longer than most synthetic fibers
- Short handle brushes: Time to get up close and personal with your painting! These short handle brushes maximize your hand control.
- Cost: Sable brushes are usually the most expensive due to the rarity of the hair, which comes from the tail of a kolinsky weasel. That said, sable is usually worth the effort & cost to the artist
These sable brushes are the perfect sidekicks for detailed oil painting such as rendering small portraits and miniatures.
5. Da Vinci Oil & Acrylic Series 5269 College Synthetic Paint Brush Set of 5
Overall Rating: 4.4/5
Ease of Cleaning: 4.5/5
Da Vinci brushes have even been described as the BMWs of brushes – and their starter oil painting brushes are no exception. This set allows amateur artists to invest in five high-quality, handmade brushes at an affordable price. Soft, springy, and wallet-friendly: as far as starter options go, these are some of the best brushes for beginners or anyone who paints in a class setting.
- Versatility: Excellent for an artist practicing both oils and acrylics.
- Easy to clean: Paint slides right off the sturdy synthetic fibers.
- Environmentally friendly: Artists will appreciate the long, non-slip sustainable wood handle and synthetic fibers.
- Student-grade quality: A small amount of shedding and bristle splaying can be expected from student-grade oil brushes.
These are some of the best oil paintbrushes for students, beginners, and even professionals (or hobbyists!) on a budget.
What Types of Brushes Are Best for Oil Painting?
The best types of brushes for oil painting are durable, easy to clean, and make the painting process easier and more enjoyable. In a perfect world, your favorite brushes offer all of these benefits at a reasonable price.
When deciding on the best brush for your painting needs, one of the most important considerations is the shape of your brushes.
Brush Shapes and What They Do
If you’re an artist who works with both dry and wet media (*raises hand*), you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of brush types. While pencil and pen shapes are fairly universal, oil painters face a daunting array of brush types.
If you’re struggling to understand the functions of various brush types and shapes, you’ve arrived at your destination.
1. Flat Brushes
A Flat brush holds a lot of paint and creates bolder, broader, and bigger strokes. It can also be used on its edge for smaller details. Because Flats are so versatile, the best paint brush sets – like the Princeton 6500 Series – usually include at least one.
2. Filbert Brushes
These are similar to Flats but more oval, making them great for blending!
3. Bright Brushes
Think of a Bright as a Flat with shorter bristles, resulting in shorter strokes.
4. Fan Brushes
Fans are generally softer and thinner-bristled than other brushes, which is perfect for adding texture and even blending paint smoothly on the canvas.
I mostly use a fan brush to blur and create smooth gradients. If you want to learn how to blend your oils and create gradients, this free training shows how to paint gradients in oil, alternate brush strokes for different shapes, and other basic concepts!
5. Round Brushes
A round brush is actually quite pointy! It’s typically used for thin lines and details.
6. Angled Brushes
These are incredibly versatile: use them to transition between thick and thin lines (great for a rugged landscape painting!) or add details with the defined edge.
7. Mop Brushes
Mops look like mops: they’re soft-bristled with a rounded head. I often use a mop brush for blending, softening hard edges, and glazing.
8. Other Specialized Oil Brushes
In your brush search, you may also find:
- Mottlers: big, broad brushes to prep the painting surface or add blocks of color,
- Daggers: perfect for tear-drop shapes!
- Stipplers: often used to replicate textures for fur and foliage
- A Rigger brush: great for creating hassle-free long lines.
Selecting the Right Size Oil Paint Brushes
Finding the right size oil brushes is not unlike shopping for jeans. While higher numbers indicate larger brushes, sizes are not consistent across different brush brands. To select the right size brush, ask yourself the following questions:
What Type of Marks Will I Be Making?
As expected, large bristles make larger strokes, so they’re great for washes, thick oil paint, or priming the canvas. Mid-size bristles are a bit more versatile: for example, an angled brush can create both large marks and fine detail.
How Big Am I Working?
If you’re working on a large canvas with varying levels of detail, an expansive set like the Artify 15-Piece Set may be your best choice.
How Does the Brush Feel in My Hand?
When in doubt, go to the art store! In the era of online shopping, it’s easy to forget the magic of holding a new brush in your hand for the first time. Ask other artists, art school students, and teachers for their opinions on the best brushes for oil painting.
Are Natural or Synthetic Brushes Better for Oil Painting?
Natural hair oil brushes are often considered to be better for oil painting. Traditionally, they’re softer than synthetic oil paintbrushes and hold more paint.
That said, synthetic brush technology has come a long way. If you can’t decide between the two (it’s a tough decision!), here are some of the main differences between natural and synthetic brushes.
Natural Oil Paint Brushes
Natural hair brushes are divided into two types:
- Sable brushes, which are soft, delicate, and expensive
- Bristle brushes are stiff, springy, and very durable
Some of the most common natural brush hair types include:
- Red Sable or Kolinsky Sable, which come from a weasel
- Hog bristle
- Fitch (also tail hair from weasel-like animals – just rarer!)
- Camel (no camels are harmed in the making of these brushes: camel actually refers to squirrel, goat, ox, pony, or a blend of several hairs)
- A blend of natural hairs
Why Choose a Natural Oil Paint Brush?
You should choose a natural hair oil brush if:
- You’re prepared to properly clean & store them. Regular cleaning makes natural hair brushes last just as long as synthetic fibers.
- You’re comfortable working with longer handles. Natural brushes traditionally have longer handles, allowing artists to work larger and at a distance from their paintings.
- You want more control over your brush strokes. Natural hair brush fibers are stiffer and firmer, which gives artists more control over their brushstrokes.
Synthetic Brushes for Oil Painting
Synthetic oil brushes are usually manmade with either nylon or polyester filament, which is often marketed as “Taklon.” Compared to natural hairs, synthetic fibers are generally more durable against solvents and paint, easier to clean, and less likely to break.
Why Choose a Synthetic Brush for Oil Painting?
- You’re frugal. Synthetic brushes are usually more affordable!
- You have ethical concerns. Some artists prefer synthetic brushes over natural brushes for ethical reasons.
- You’re shopping for versatility. Unlike natural sable brushes, which can’t be used with water media after using them with oils, a synthetic sable equivalent lets a painter switch between water and oil-based media.
- Longevity. Synthetic fibers are also more resistant to turpentine and other chemicals used with oils.
How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes
You can clean your oil paint brushes using solvents, brush soaps, natural oils, or natural cleaners. Regardless of which brush you select, any brush will benefit from some regular TLC.
1. Solvents Such as Paint Thinner, Mineral Spirits, & Turpentine
Solvents are the traditional way to remove paint from oil brushes. While solvents are super effective, they’re also one of the main reasons many people consider oil painting toxic. If not used in a well-ventilated area, solvents can damage your brush bristles – and your health – over time.
- This brush cleaning tank is an artist’s dream: I fill mine with Gamsol, an odorless solvent that cleans brushes and thins paints.
2. Brush Soaps
Speedball Pink Soap is a go-to brush cleaner among oil painters. It also works for water-based media and contains a conditioner that helps my brushes look (and smell!) their best. Masters Brush Cleaner is another highly-recommended brush cleaner: it comes in a small, round, and remarkably affordable container, and you don’t need to use much to get the gunk out of your brushes.
While soaps designed to remove oil paints are excellent, you can always do a final rinse with some dish soap and warm water to remove any stubborn residue.
3. Natural Oils
To avoid damaging their brushes and their lungs, many painters opt for eco-friendly oils to clean their art brushes. Popular oils include linseed, walnut, safflower, and even baby oil. Use your fingers to work the oil into the brush bristles, and then soak them in soapy water before letting them dry.
4. Natural Cleaners
Your kitchen cabinet might already contain the perfect brush cleaner. Here are some of my favorites:
- White vinegar can remove finicky dried paint stuck in the bristles.
- Murphy’s Oil Soap: You might use this to clean your wooden floors, but thanks to the power of pine oil, it also removes paint from brushes!
- Eco-Solve is like a natural, soy-based paint thinner without the toxic smell.
Remember: after cleaning your paint brushes, it’s important to store them vertically (bristles up!) in a well-ventilated space so they’ll retain their original shape and stiffness.
Which Oil Paint Brush Would I Choose?
Based on my painting experience, I’d choose the Princeton 6500 Series Synthetic Bristle Brush.
Compared to other products listed, these brushes are the most versatile and accessible to artists who want to avoid natural hair brushes. They work for traditional and water-soluble oils, function in both plein air and studio settings, and they’re a breeze to clean. As a portrait artist, I also appreciate that they hold their shape beautifully for precise color placement.
We can’t have a winner without a runner-up: the Artify 15-Piece Chungking Bristle Oil Paint Brush Set. This is an excellent natural hair brush option for professional-level oil painters who use a wide range of oil brush sizes.
Every artist works differently – so hit the studio and try as many brushes as your time & budget allow. Experimenting with brushes can be one of the most joyful parts of oil painting.