Choosing the Best Oil Paint Brushes in 2022

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Apr 07, 2022 •  Guides

There are few artist tools as important as the paint brush, and even fewer that we as artists develop such a close, intimate relationship with, so finding the best paint brush, especially if you paint in oils, is extremely important!

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If you’re in a hurry and want to get right to the recommendations, here are my top choices:

  1. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Flats & Rounds
  2. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Flats & Rounds

    Best Natural Fiber Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting

    Chungking Hog Bristle Flats & Rounds, Size (Flat) 2, 8, 14 (Round) 2, 6, 12

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Creative Mark Synthetic Hog Bristle Paint Brush Set 20 PC
  4. Creative Mark Synthetic Hog Bristle Paint Brush Set 20 PC

    Best Synthetic Fiber Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting

    Paint Brush Set Mimik Hog Professional Synthetic Hog Bristle Brushes for Acrylics, Oils, Inks, Dyes, Gouaches, Watercolors, Easein & Egg Tempera - [Deluxe 20 Piece Set w/Leather Case]

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Creative Mark Hamburg Premier Professional Handmade Artist Paintbrush Set
  6. Creative Mark Hamburg Premier Professional Handmade Artist Paintbrush Set

    Best Brush Set for Oil Painting

    Proprietary Blend of Natural and Synthetic Hair Handmade in Germany

    Buy Now on Amazon

Table of Contents

As a part of my ongoing series of articles on oil painting, today I will talk about the different kinds of art brushes and what they are used for, as well as what to look for when selecting a good oil painting brush.

Then I’ll get into a list of recommendations for the best paint brushes for oil painting on the market today.

At the end of the article, I’ll also talk about how to clean and care for your new brushes.

What Are the Different Kinds of Paint Brushes for Oil Painting?

There are two basic factors you want to think about when selecting paint brushes for oils: shape and material.

Shapes of Oil Paint Brushes

There are actually lots of different shapes and varieties of paint brushes, but for oil painting I really want to focus on a few of the most important ones.

Flat Brush

This is a brush where the bristles come out to form an even line at the end, and is great for filling in larger areas as well as making straight lines and edges. Flat brushes are also used in oil painting for washes, impasto and some blending, and are nicely versatile, as they can be used for both bold strokes and fine detail.

Round Brush

A round brush has, as the name implies, a round shape to its bristles – as opposed to the more rectangular shape of the flat brush – and often comes to a fine point. Round brushes are perfect for most fine detail work, and are most popular in small sizes. But while the tip may be fine, the belly of the bristles is bigger, and can hold a lot of paint, making these brushes good for filling in at least smaller areas, and capable of bold as well as fine strokes.

Filbert Brush

A distinctive looking paint brush, the filbert is a kind of hybrid of flat and round, with bristles wide and flat at the base, rounded at the end and coming to a sharp, chiseled line. As such, filbert brushes are very versatile, and widely used in oil painting for lines, fills, fine details and broad strokes, mixing paint and more, and they are great for lines and strokes which vary in weight and thickness.

Bright Brush

Similar to a flat brush, the bright paint brush has shorter brush hairs and often a longer handle, and brushstrokes are often strong and visible. This stiff brush makes the bright great for creating textures and for fast, bold fills. They are awesome for working with thick oil paint, and the short hairs give a lot of control and feedback when you’re painting.

Fan Brush

Fan brushes are often overlooked in oil painting, but a fan brush can be great for textures and blending, and with a light touch can create very subtle and effective surfaces. Often used for grass, hair, clouds and the like, a good fan brush seems to lend itself well to natural subjects and effects.

Materials of Oil Paint Brushes

Like with the shape of paint brushes, we can get into a lot of different materials and varieties when it comes to what brushes – specifically their bristles – are made from, but it is most important to make one basic distinction: natural and synthetic.

Natural bristle paint brushes

Serious oil painting brushes are quite often sourced from pigs – hog’s hair bristles, which are stiff and hold tons of paint, and are used for backgrounds and large area fills, thick application, texture and bold, visible brush strokes.

Natural bristles can also come from sables, weasels, even squirrels. These brushes can have softer hair, which doesn’t hold as much paint but is much better for small detail, smoother strokes and lots of different subtle techniques.

That said, a lot of the very finest and most desirable brushes are, again, made from hogs, and if they use the best hog hair, and are made well, they can really give you incredible softness, finesse and micro-control and still the superior paint-holding and delivery we associate with hog’s hair, and which is so ideal for oil painting.

The best hog hair brushes for oil painting also have a perfect level of spring, and can hold their shape for a long time.

Synthetic bristle paint brushes

Synthetic paint brushes are not sourced from animal hair, but are made to mimic the properties of either stiff hog hair brushes or more soft and subtle sable brushes. Some of the best synthetic brushes can actually have a bit of both, and can be good for lots of different techniques and applications. They also have a good amount of spring and can hold their tension and shape for a long time, in this being very much like good hog bristle brushes.

Which Are Better for Oil Painting – Natural or Synthetic Brushes?

There are lots of assumptions made about the differences between natural and synthetic – for example, natural brushes are “better” in that they hold more paint and let it flow more consistently and can be more subtle and expressive, while synthetics can be cheap and good, more versatile and longer lasting, but never as good as a natural bristle brush.

But, as with so many assumptions, while some of this is true, or at least tends to be true, it isn’t always so. In fact, the best synthetics are really fantastic these days, with great absorbency and flow, and allow for wonderful control and expressivity – they can also be as expensive as, or even more expensive than, natural bristle brushes.

Still, natural bristle brushes – especially if you get the best natural brushes for oil painting – can be in many ways superior, even if only slightly and subtly so, and are used by the top fine artists all over the world. If budget isn’t your biggest concern, and/or you are experienced and already painting at a pretty high level, I would strongly consider getting the finest natural brushes available.

If, on the other hand, you are just starting out, are on a fairly tight budget, or if you would prefer not to use products sourced from animals, then synthetic bristle brushes can really be fantastic – again, especially if you can find and buy the best synthetic paint brushes for oils.

In fact, they are so good these days that you might notice little or no difference compared to natural brushes, and can certainly paint and create with a good synthetic brush at the very highest level.

Finally, there are sets of paint brushes which combine both natural and synthetic – sometimes a few of each, sometimes both types of bristle on a single brush – and these are being used more and more, and often really raved about, by serious fine and commercial artists, offering a real “best of both worlds” solution. 

In this buyer’s guide for oil paintbrushes I will in most cases offer recommendations for the best natural, the best synthetic and the best combination choices.

Best Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting 

Our list of best brushes for oil painting will be divided into two sections:

  1. Best Paint Brush Sets for Oils
  2. Best Individual Paint Brushes for Oils

I will say that if you are just starting out, an art student or new to oil painting – or even if you’re a seasoned and serious artist looking to replace your brushes – a set may be the best way to go.

They can give you the very best value, and focus on the most important and useful brushes to have, and sets from one maker – especially if it is a good company – will offer a consistency and familiarity that can make painting easier, more effective and even nicer.

At the end of the article, in the Bonus section, I will talk in some detail about how to best clean and care for your precious new paint brushes, but now let’s get right to the recommendations!

Best Paint Brush Sets for Oil Painting

Best Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting – Natural

  1. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Flats & Rounds
  2. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Flats & Rounds

    Best Natural Fiber Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting

    Chungking Hog Bristle Flats & Rounds, Size (Flat) 2, 8, 14 (Round) 2, 6, 12

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Brights
  4. Escoda Clasico Series Chungking Hog Bristle 6 Brush Set Brights

    Oil & Acrylic Brush Set in Wood Box, Chungking Hog Bristle Brights, Size 0, 2, 6, 10, 14, 18

    Buy Now on Amazon

The Escoda Clasico are among the finest paint brushes I’ve ever used, with ideal shape, spring, control and flow, incredible feel in the hand and superior fit, finish, durability and overall quality.

The Clasico oil brushes are made from the finest Chunking hot bristle, which holds lots of paint and delivers it with superbly even and predictable flow, and has an ideal balance of firmness and softness – incredible softness, in fact, which will absolutely amaze you if you’ve ever used inferior hog bristle brushes.

When brushes are this good, and this consistent from brush to brush, from session to session and from year to year, you can really count on them to be a natural extension of your hand and your artistic effort, and you can fully drop into your creative zone with a mind free of thoughts of technique or mechanics.

Advanced fine artists or top level professional painters should never settle for anything less than this, and even students and beginners who want the best, and want to make sure that their paint brushes will never hold them back, should strongly consider this lifetime investment.

Best Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting – Synthetic

My Pick
Creative Mark Synthetic Hog Bristle Paint Brush Set 20 PC

Best Synthetic Fiber Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting

Paint Brush Set Mimik Hog Professional Synthetic Hog Bristle Brushes for Acrylics, Oils, Inks, Dyes, Gouaches, Watercolors, Easein & Egg Tempera - [Deluxe 20 Piece Set w/Leather Case]

Buy Now on Amazon

While Escoda also makes a superb set of synthetic brushes – the Escoda 1526 Ultimo Synthetic Squirrel 6 Brush Set – they may be a little too soft for many oil painting techniques (fabulous for acrylics and watercolor, though, and for fine details and subtle effects in oil painting).

Luckily there is a set that is, while slightly less expensive and actually bigger, on a similar level in terms of overall quality, consistency and durability, fit and finish and performance while painting – the wonderful Creative Mark synthetic hog bristle 20 piece set, with a perfect selection of brush sizes and shapes.

These Creative Mark brushes emulate natural hog bristle in their firm texture, spring, paint holding and delivery, and like the best hog hair brushes are amazingly soft at the same time – working perfectly for the entire range of oil painting techniques.

To me the Creative Mark synthetic hog bristle paint brush set is not only the best set of synthetic paint brushes for oil painting on the market today, it is one of the supreme values in the art world, and very highly recommended.

Best Paint Brushes for Oil Paints and Painting – Natural and Synthetic

My Pick
Creative Mark Hamburg Premier Professional Handmade Artist Paintbrush Set

Best Brush Set for Oil Painting

Proprietary Blend of Natural and Synthetic Hair Handmade in Germany

Buy Now on Amazon

Let’s not beat around the bush here – the Escoda Clasico are without a doubt superb brushes, and the Creative Mark synthetic hog brushes are an incredible value, and suitable for any artist on any level.

But the Hamburg Premier handmade paint brushes – also from Creative Mark – are the best of the best, and clearly the best brushes I’ve ever used!

The Hamburg Premier brushes are actually a unique and proprietary mixture of natural and synthetic bristles to closely match the performance and wonderful feeling of mongoose hair – which has been a favorite of master oil painters for centuries because of their ideal balance of firmness and softness, and the amazing control mongoose allows with all oil techniques and processes.

But by combining natural hair with specially engineered synthetics, the Hamburg Premier have much better paint retention and better and more consistent paint delivery, as well as much more consistent finish, better retention of shape and spring over the years and absolute reliability on every level.

A perfect choice for the fine artist on any level, and one of the best and most intelligent investments you will ever make, the superb Hamburg Premier oil painting brushes come as a set of 21 paint brushes in an ideal range of shapes and sizes, with a nicely made combination carrying case / stand. Made for a lifetime of use, these are premium products in every way, and without any doubt the best set of oil paint brushes on the market today!

Best Affordable Oil Paint Brush Set – Natural

Creative Mark Pro Stroke Set of 15 Premium Long Handle Paint Brushes

Value Set of 15 Long Handle Bristle Brushes Finest Quality Pure White ChungKing Hog Bristle Hair - Set of 15 Assorted Long Handle Brushes

Buy Now on Amazon

I have never tried a Creative Mark product I haven’t just adored, and the more things I try from them, the more I love the company!

And even though these Pro Stroke brushes are much less expensive than many of their premium and professional artists products, they are in many ways on the same level – wonderful fit and finish, consistency in performance from brush to brush and over time, and amazing value for the money.

Yes, the company’s Hamburg Premier synthetic oil paintbrushes may offer that nth degree of control and a sublime expressivity that these Pro Stroke brushes don’t quite match, but these are in fact incredible in just those areas, especially for the low price, and absolutely blow away other brush sets at this level – even from the best and most respected art companies.

If you’ve ever been a bit dissatisfied by the over-stiffness of some hog hair brushes – even ones a lot more expensive than these – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how nice and soft the Pro Stroke natural hog bristle brushes are, while still offering the qualities we love best from premium hog hair – firmness and control, paint holding and even, consistent delivery, long life and retention of shape and spring over the years. best oil paintbrushes

With an ideal selection of flats, rounds, filberts and brights in various sizes, and with performance and quality far better than you would expect at this price, the 15 piece Creative Mark Pro Stroke natural white hog bristle paint brush set is a really good deal, and a great choice for pretty much any oil painter on any level.

Best Affordable Oil Paint Brush Set – Synthetic

Kingart Original Golden Taklon Acrylic Handle 12 Paint Brush Set

Oil and Acrylic Handle Set of 12 Paint Brush Set, Assorted, Black, Gold, Silver

Buy Now on Amazon

I have to admit that I was only able to try these Kingart Golden Taklon brushes briefly, but in that short time I was pretty much blown away.

They are soft, and really designed to work well with any kind of paint, from watercolors to heavy oils, but at the same time they also have a wonderful spring, and a consistency and what I might call a “firmness of finish” which makes any oil technique not just possible, but surprisingly easy and effective – even those we normally associate with stiffer brushes.

What also blew me away was the luxurious fit and finish of these truly beautiful brushes. Of course I can’t personally attest to their long term consistency in performance, maintenance of shape and tension, retention of bristles and overall life, but happily I’ve heard glowing reports from friends and colleagues in all of these regards.

With an amazing feel in the hand, and against a canvas, these general use Kingart Golden Taklon brushes are a great set for oil painting, with 12 brushes in a nice and highly useful range of shapes and sizes. Professional quality and performance and premium fit and finish at an affordable price – what’s not to love?

Best Affordable Oil Paint Brush Set – Natural and Synthetic

ZenART 14pc Professional Oil Paint Brush Set

14pc Professional Set of Chungking Hog & Badger/Japanese Synthetic Bristles incl Filbert, Flat, Rigger, Palette Knife + Travel Pouch, Long Birchwood Handles

Buy Now on Amazon

One of the most highly rated sets of affordable paint brushes on the internet, the ZenART oil painting brushes are, I’m thrilled to say, just as good as all the hype suggests!

With an ingenious and perfectly employed combination of natural hog bristle for larger brushes and combination natural badger / synthetic fiber for the wonderfully soft smaller brushes, the ZenART 14 piece set can provide top performance with all oil painting processes and techniques at a very low price.

There is a nice selection of different brushes in this set, with 5 filberts, two rounds, two flats, a bright, an angle brush, a rigger and a fan – really everything you need, and with size and firmness ideally matched to the shape, as well as to the corresponding technique.

If you are just starting out, and want a really premium – even professional level – set of synthetic oil painting brushes, but don’t want to go through all the trouble of figuring out what exactly you need and which one to buy, this ZenART 14 piece Renoir Collection paint brush set is a perfect choice, and an amazing value.

And even if you are a professional or a serious advanced amateur, looking for a superior quality second set of brushes, or a set for your travel kit, this is also an excellent choice, and will give you everything you need and more.

Best Cheap Set of Brushes for Oil Painting – Natural

Budget option
Fuumuui Professional Oil Paint Brushes 11pcs 100% Natural Chungking Hog Bristle

11pcs Professional 100% Natural Chungking Hog Bristle Artist Paint Brushes for Acrylic and Oils Painting with a Free Carrying Box

Buy Now on Amazon

Some cheap natural bristle oil painting brushes are pretty awful, it must be said, but the Fuumuui 11 piece set is, for a very low price, surprisingly high quality.

Though not offering the level of finesse, or the consistency in finish or performance, of the premium sets in our buyer’s guide to best paint brushes for oil painting – some of which are, to be fair, like ten times this price! – these are surprisingly nice brushes, with great control, good retention and smooth, consistent flow of paint, and a wonderful feeling in the hand.

And, quite importantly – and pretty amazingly at this price – the Fuumuui hog bristle brushes hold onto both their shape and spring, and their bristles, over time!

With a great selection of rounds, filberts, flats and fans, this 11 piece set has all you need to get started, but more than a mere beginner set also has the kind of feel and performance that makes you want to keep and use them for many years. And based on the overall quality, that should be no problem at all.

A very nice cheap set of natural Chungking hog bristle brushes for oil painting, the Fuumuui 11 piece set is a great value, and highly recommended.

Best Cheap Set of Brushes for Oil Painting – Synthetic

If you are an oil painter or art student on a tight budget, and prefer synthetic bristles, you can’t do much better than these super affordable Arteza premium synthetic paint brushes.

A 12 piece set of nice feeling brushes that work surprisingly well, this Arteza set comes with 3 round (1, 4, 8), 2 angular (5, 10), 2 filbert (2, 7), 2 flat (6, 11), 1 cat’s tongue (8), 1 rigger (0), and 1 fan brush (8) – a great selection for oils or any other kind of painting.

And while they are not as firm as premium hog bristle, or even the top tier synthetics, these brushes still offer a great spring, and hold and flow paint beautifully. Where they really shine, though, is in the finesse and subtlety you can get.

If you are really serious about oil painting, and want the best affordable set of synthetic paint brushes, you might want to consider the stunning Kingart set above, but if you are on a tight budget, and especially if you want brushes for more than just oils, this Arteza 12 piece premium set is easily the best available at this price level, and will serve you beautifully for a long time to come.

Best Cheap Set of Brushes for Oil Painting – Natural and Synthetic

Budget option
Mont Marte Premium Paint Brush Set 15 Piece

Includes 15 Different Brushes in a Roll Case with Magnetic Closure, Suitable for Watercolour, Acrylic and Oil Painting

Buy Now on Amazon

I have to say that while I think the Arteza and Fuumuui paint brush sets are both splendid kit, and supreme values, this Mont Marte 15 piece set of natural and synthetic brushes is my personal favorite, and an amazing, and amazingly versatile, set for the money.

While it seems like every cheap set of paint brushes on the market claims to be “premium” or “professional,” these Mont Marte brushes actually look and feel both premium and professional level, and inspire confidence that they will last for many years.

In fact, given how wonderfully well both the hog bristle and the synthetic taklon bristle brushes perform – really holding and nicely delivering paint, with superior finish, ideal shapes and spring, and such a wonderful feeling in the hand, it is hard to imagine how little they actually cost.

With a nice selection of flats, rounds, filberts, angles, and washes, and one particularly handy wide brush, this is an intelligent and very useful set of brushes, and while Mont Marte is happy to claim that they are great for any and all media, they seem to me the perfect cheap brushes for oil painting.

But whatever I’ve used them for, both the synthetic taklon and natural hog hair brushes are a joy to use, and my top  recommendation for cheap brushes for oil painting.

Best Individual Paint Brushes for Oils

Best Individual Oil Paint Brushes – Natural

Natural Bristle

Best Individual Oil Paint Brushes – Synthetic

Synthetic Bristle

Escoda paint brushes are as good as it gets, and their Modernista series, using synthetic mongoose hair, as well as their Clasico series, which use the finest hand-selected Chungking hog bristle, are among the most popular and beloved brushes among top tier fine oil painters.

Perfect shapes and optimal body, incredible flow and paint delivery, an amazingly natural and satisfying feeling in the hand, and built for a lifetime of use.

Best Affordable Individual Oil Paint Brushes – Natural

Natural Bristle
Winsor & Newton Winton Hog Bristle Brush

Student Grade Natural Bristle

Filbert, Size 4

Buy Now on Amazon

A superb student level paint brush for oil paints, the Winton series natural hog hair brushes are probably the ones I recommend most often to students, friends and associates, and are just wonderful to work with – controllable, consistent, with beautiful flow and a great feeling in the hand.

Best Affordable Individual Oil Paint Brushes – Synthetic

Princeton Catalyst Long-Handle Synthetic Polytip Bristle Paint Brush

Catalyst Polytip Brush Set for Acrylic and Oil Paint, 5 Piece Set

Buy Now on Amazon

Princeton Catalyst paint brushes seem well on their way to becoming the most popular synthetic brushes on the market, and if you try them you will understand why.

Few, if any, synthetic brushes come as close to replicating the experience of using natural bristles as the Catalyst do, and nothing at this price comes even close.

How to Clean and Care For Your Paint Brushes

Now that you’ve clicked your way to a set of beautiful new oil painting brushes, or at least one or a few individual brushes, the most important thing to consider and learn is how to best take care of them.

So I thought it would be a great idea to close this article on best oil painting brushes for oil painting by talking a bit about just that – how to clean, store and maintain brushes for long life and best performance.

Because really, any of the brushes on our list are so good that you are going to fall in love with them, and adore using them, and so you’ll want them to perform their best and last a lifetime – and, following a few simple suggestions, they definitely will!

How To Clean Art Brushes

How To Care For Artist Paint Brushes

And while we could devote a small section to caring for your brushes, it is really very simple:

Or, to put this all in a more concise way, clean them immediately, dry them thoroughly, store them vertically and use them lovingly!

A little care and maintenance can make your beloved oil painting brushes last as long as you do, and work just as well after years of service as they did when new.

Bonus: Evolve Artist Program

I would also like to recommend that if you are new to oil painting, and want a great way to learn everything from the basics to the most advanced techniques – and also get a great overall art education while you’re at it – you check out the Evolve Artist Program.

Possibly the best online learning platform I know, for its amazingly complete curriculum, its great teachers and one-on-one feedback, and the ingenious and highly effective overall plan, Evolve is fun, fast and surprisingly affordable.

And, quite brilliantly, the Evolve Artist Program uses oil painting as its primary focus and medium – not just for learning how to paint with oils, but for pretty much everything, including basic skills, composition, color theory, perspective and relationship, light, range and value, all of it.

If you’d like to find out more, you can go to their website – Evolve Artist Program – or find out more on my site, at my Evolve Artist Course Page.

Either way, I really hope you visit our website – Art Side of Life –  for more articles, buyer’s guides, fascinating interviews, tutorials and lots of other resources for artists, crafters and all kinds of creative folk!

Thanks so much for reading this  article – Choosing the Best Oil Paint Brushes – and again please check out my other articles in this series on oil painting:

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.