For the best results, it's important to choose the right brush for painting your trim. While a wide, flat brush is ideal for painting walls, paint brushes for trim—trim brushes, sash brushes, or angle brushes—are generally smaller and have bristles that form an angled front edge.
Jan Walter, a professional painter and owner of the blog Gocolorize says, "A trim brush is typically used for painting trim, molding, corners, and edges. I use a trim brush when I need to paint baseboards, doors (edges and around the handle), windows, and frames, for example. The trim brush allows me to paint precisely and get into tight corners and edges that may be missed with a larger brush. Additionally, a trim brush is perfect for cutting in or creating straight lines and edges between different surfaces, such as when painting walls."
Don't skimp when buying a trim brush. A good quality brush that yields a nice finish is going to have a higher price point. While researching dozens of options, we evaluated trim brushes based on their quality, type of bristles, versatility with different kinds of paint, longevity, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
Purdy XL Glide Angle Paint Brush
For use with both oil-based and water-based paints
Good for both smooth and rough surfaces
Doesn't leave brushstrokes
Available in multiple sizes
A few complaints of excessive bristle shedding
We love this versatile trim brush from Purdy, a top name in paint brushes. Made with a blend of nylon and polyester bristles, the brush is stiff enough to hold plenty of paint, yet soft enough to lay it down in a smooth, even coat that doesn't show brush strokes. It holds up well even on rough surfaces, and it's a good choice for both interior and exterior paint jobs. The copper ferrule (that's the metal band that secures the bristles to the handle) not only looks good, but also keeps the bristles from shedding into the wet paint. While any paint brush might lose a bristle or two during use, that annoyance is usually minimal with this high-quality brush, although a handful of buyers complained that the brush lost more bristles than expected.
We recommend the 2.5-inch brush for most trim-painting projects, as it's the most versatile size, but the brush also comes in 1-inch, 1.5-inch, 2-inch, and 3-inch sizes, should you need a smaller brush for more detailed work or a larger brush to cover bigger surfaces more quickly. The handle is made from alder wood that absorbs sweat and provides a good grip. Its fluted shape is comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver.
You can use this brush with both water-based and oil-based paints, primers, and stains, making it a do-it-all tool. It washes up well as long as you clean it as soon as you finish your paint job, but if you let it sit, it will be tough to get it clean. Take care of it, and this paint brush will last you a long time, making it worth the slightly higher price than many other lower-quality brushes.
Price at time of publish: $16
Dimensions: 2.5-inch bristles, 7.25-inch handle | Bristles: Nylon and polyester | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Pro Grade 4-Pack Variety Angled Brushes
Good range of sizes
For both water-based and oil-based paints
Versatile medium-stiff bristles
Handles somewhat rough
Not the smoothest finish
A good paint brush can be pricey, but if you are willing to go for a little less quality in favor of a great price, then you'll like this set of four angled trim brushes that includes a 1.5-inch, 2-inch, 2.5-inch, and 3-inch brush. All have nylon/polyester/PBT bristles that are medium in stiffness, making these good for both rough and smooth surfaces. The brushes lay paint down well, but they might not give you as smooth a finish as more expensive brushes, and you might have more shedding of bristles. Still, if your painting project doesn't require the most perfect finish, these are more than adequate for the job.
The brushes have wooden handles and stainless steel ferrules. The two smaller brushes have 8.5-inch handles, while the two larger brushes have 9.5-inch handles. A few customers have complained that the handles are a bit rough, but the fluted shape is comfortable to hold and easy to grip even during long painting sessions. You can use these brushes with both oil-based and water-based paints. As long as you clean them right away, the brushes are fairly easy to wash free of paint, but at this low price, you might simply choose to toss them.
Price at time of publish: $12
Dimensions: Various | Bristles: Nylon, polyester, PBT | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Exteriors
Wooster Pro Dupont Chinex Angle Sash Brush
Synthetic bristles act like natural bristles
Excellent for painting rough exterior surfaces
Use with oil-based or water-based products
The Dupont Chinex bristles of this brush are nylon, but modified to give them a texture similar to natural bristles. Because of the Chinex bristle stiffness and durability, this is an excellent brush for painting rough exterior surfaces such as stucco, aged wood, brick, or similar materials. Of course, you can also use the brush for interior work, as well. Either way, you'll get a smooth line and just the right amount of paint laid down with either water-based or oil-based products. And while any brush can be expected to shed a bristle or two, you won't have excessive shedding with this one.
The wooden handle is fluted for a comfortable grip and is 7.6 inches long. While we like the 2.5-inch bristle brush for most projects, you can buy the same brush with 2-inch bristles if you need a little more finesse or are just using the brush for touch-up work. As long as you wash the brush right after use, it cleans easily and can be reused for years. Like other Wooster brushes, this is a professional-quality paint brush with a higher price point than many other brushes, but it will serve you well as long as you take care of it.
Price at time of publish: $17
Dimensions: 2.5-inch bristles, 7.6-inch handle | Bristles: Nylon | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Baseboards
Stinger Brush Company Angled Brush
Very smooth application of paint
Gives precise control when painting edges and corners
For use with both water-based and oil-based products
Won't stick to magnetic brush holder
This unique brush from Stinger Brush Company has blue PBT bristles (a type of polyester that is very durable and lays down a smooth coat of paint) along with the red "Stinger Tip" of slightly longer bristles of varying weights. Put together, this is a highly durable, moderately stiff brush that picks up a good amount of paint and lays it down in a smooth coat that doesn't show brushstrokes. Its overall angled shape and Stinger Tip make it ideal for working around edges and corners of baseboard trim, as well as other trims that require a careful and accurate line of paint. This brush is best for interior use only.
The brush has a 6.5-inch beech wood fluted handle that's comfortable to hold. The ferrule is aluminum and solidly attached so bristles won't fall out while you work. While we recommend the 2.5-inch brush for most trim painting, the company also offers a 2-inch and a 3-inch version of the brush. All are suited to any type of paint, and they clean up easily as long as you wash the brush before the paint starts to dry. While this is undoubtedly more expensive than many other brushes, it wins rave reviews for its smooth performance. The one downside mentioned by several users was that the ferrule is not magnetic, so won't stick to a magnetic brush holder used by many painters.
Price at time of publish: $25
Dimensions: 2.5-inch bristles, 6.5-inch handle | Bristles: PBT polyester | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Rough Surfaces
Purdy Pro Extra Glide Angle Brush
Excellent performance over rough or abrasive surfaces
Not ideal for smooth surfaces
Not ideal for oil-based products
The bristles of the Purdy Pro-Extra Glide are a blend of nylon for improved paint flow, Chinex for durability, and polyester for stiffness. At a bit over 3 inches in length, the bristles of this brush are slightly longer than many similar brushes, which lets you pick up more paint. Put together, those features mean you get a brush that's superior for painting rough or abrasive surfaces, thanks to the stiff bristles that hold up even over drywall, brick, concrete, or similar surfaces and yet still lay down a very smooth coat of paint.
Like other Purdy brushes, this one has an alder wood handle that absorbs sweat and provides a good grip. The fluted shape is comfortable to hold. The ferrule is stainless steel and holds the bristles firmly in place, so shedding shouldn't be an issue. While you can use this brush with any type of paint, you'll get the best results with thick latex paints or primers. If the 2.5-inch size isn't best for your project, Purdy also makes the same brush in sizes 2-inch, 3-inch, and 3.5-inch.
Price at time of publish: $41
Dimensions: 2.5-inch bristles, 5.75-inch handle | Bristles: Nylon, Chinex, polyester | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based
Best for Semi-Gloss or Gloss
Purdy Nylox Glide Angle Paint Brush
Provides a very smooth finish
Cleans up easily
Not ideal for matte or eggshell finishes
If you're looking to achieve perfect results with semi-gloss or glossy paint, these finishes can be tricky to work with, as they are prone to showing every stroke of the brush—then you need a soft brush, like this great choice from Purdy. The 100-percent-nylon bristles are slightly flagged at the tips, making them just textured enough to pick up and hold paint, and then lay it back down in the smoothest coat possible. If you're painting cabinets, banisters, doors, or other highly visible surfaces, then this is the brush you want.
The alder wood handle is durable, and it absorbs sweat, so you'll have a secure grip even after hours of painting. And the stainless steel ferrule holds the bristles securely in place so you won't have annoying strays marring your finished project. This brush is best with water-based paint, and you'll find that it cleans up especially well as long as you tend to it before the paint starts to dry on the bristles. Along with the 2-inch size, Purdy also makes this brush in 1.5-inch, 2.5-inch, 3-inch, and 3.5-inch sizes, so you can find one to suit any interior trim painting project.
Price at time of publish: $16
Dimensions: 2-inch bristles, 5.75-inch handle | Bristles: Nylon | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based
Best for Crown Molding
Richard Goose Neck Paint Brush
Can be used with universal extension pole
Easy to clean
Only available in one size
Bristles might be too soft for some uses
If you've ever tried to paint crown molding or other high-up trim features, then you've probably quickly discovered how tricky it can be to perch on a ladder and try to angle your wrist properly to achieve a clean brushstroke. With the Richard Goose Neck Paint Brush, however, you'll find the job is much easier. This ingenious paint brush has a flexible handle that can angle just how you need it, as well as a threaded base that accepts any standard extension pole. So now you can stand on the ground or on the lower rung of a ladder and easily get that trim painted. If you don't need to use an extension pole, you'll find that the soft-grip handle is very comfortable and secure in your hand.
The brush has synthetic bristles that pick up a good amount of paint and lay it down smoothly, whether you are using oil-based or water-based products. A few buyers have felt that the bristles were too soft, though. But the brush doesn't shed, and it washes up well. One of its few downsides, however, is that it only comes in the 2.5-inch size. The total length of the bristles and handle when the brush is straight is 13 inches.
Price at time of publish: $19
Dimensions: 2.5-inch bristles, 13 inches overall | Bristles: Synthetic | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Windows
Pro Trylon Thin Angled Paint Brush
Thin bristles are good for tight corners
Rat-tail handle gives more control
Can be a little harder to clean off oil-based paints
Only available in small sizes
Thin angle brushes are not quite as thick in the bristles as regular angle brushes, which makes them ideal for painting tight corners, such as you find in the trim around a window. This brush has bristles made of Trylon, which is a synthetic material that picks up paint and holds it well, and then lays down a very smooth coat of paint. The softness of the bristles makes it easy to achieve results without any visible brushstrokes, even when using semi-gloss paint. You can use this brush with both oil-based and water-based products, but it can be more challenging to clean if used with oil paints.
The brush has a wooden "rat tail" handle. Rat-tail handles are long and thin, and they should be held like a pencil for the best control and precision. If you need even more control for painting into corners or around trim edges, then you might want to try the 1-inch or 1.5-inch version of this brush, but for most tasks, the 2-inch should be ideal. The handle of the brush is 7.5 inches long. This is a very reasonably priced brush, as well.
Price at time of publish: $10
Dimensions: 2-inch bristles, 7.5-inch handle | Bristles: Synthetic | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Tight Spaces
Wooster Shortcut Angled Brush
Good for confined spaces
Can be used with water-based or oil-based products
Lays down a very smooth coat of paint
Only available in one size
Some users have found it awkward to hold
When you're painting within a confined space, such as inside a cabinet, a piece of furniture, or trim that's near a corner, it can be very difficult to maneuver a paint brush with a handle that's the typical 5 or more inches in length. If that's your problem, then the Shortcut from Wooster is the solution. This angled brush has a handle that's a mere 2.25 inches in length. Add in the 2.2-inch-long bristles, and the entire brush is less than 5 inches long, letting you easily fit the brush and your hand into even the tightest spaces. And the handle is covered with a rubbery material that is very easy to grip, even if your hands get sweaty. A few buyers have found the handle awkward to hold, but the majority have found it very easy to use.
The bristles are a blend of nylon and polyester and are moderately soft, so the brush lays down a clean coat of paint without visible brushstrokes and works well with any paint sheen. You can use the brush with oil-based and water-based products, and it washes fairly easily at the end of your project. On the downside, the brush is only available in the 2-inch size, so it's best for fairly small projects. Still, for the right situations, it's a great brush at a very reasonable price.
Price at time of publish: $7
Dimensions: 2-inch bristles, 2.25-inch handle | Bristles: Nylon and polyester | Shape: Angled | Paint Type: Water-based and oil-based
Best for Details
Richard Elegance Trim Brush
Unlike the flat, angled bristles of most trim brushes, this brush from Richard has bristles that are rounded and come to a gentle point, making it perfect for highly detailed work or touch-ups. The polyester bristles are moderately stiff, although a few buyers have said they became overly stiff after the brush was used a few times. The bristles pick up a good amount of paint, but not so much that you can't lay down a very clean and precise line of paint on trim, in tight spaces, in corners, or anywhere else that calls for a careful hand with the brush. And it doesn't shed, unlike some other trim brushes.
The handle is ergonomically shaped and has a grippy covering that makes it easy to hold. We like the 3/4-inch brush for most delicate trim work, but the company makes the same brush in 1-inch, 7/8-inch, and 5/8-inch sizes, as well. Whichever size you choose, the brush is best used with latex or water-based paints only. It cleans up easily with soap and water, as long as you wash it right after using it.
Price at time of publish: $6
Dimensions: 3/4-inch bristles, 6-3/4-inch handle | Bristles: Polyester | Shape: Rounded | Paint Type: Water-based
Bates 16-Piece Foam Paint Brush Set
Good for touch-ups
Can also use to apply adhesives
Don't hold up well to reuse
Can apply paint too thickly if you aren't careful
If you just need a disposable brush to paint a small section of trim, take care of touch-ups, or tackle another small paint job, then a foam brush, like these 2-inch brushes from Bates, is a great choice. You get a bag of 16 brushes, each with a foam head that's 2 inches wide and 6.5 inches long. The foam has a slightly chiseled edge that's similar to the edge of a bristled paint brush. The handle, which is basically a stick that's around the same length as the foam, is very secure, so you won't have the annoyance of the foam falling off, which can happen with lesser foam brushes.
You can use these brushes with any type of paint, or even with glue and other adhesives. The foam holds the liquid well without dripping, and it lays down a thick coat of product, so you'll need to work carefully to avoid a sloppy line or overly thick coat of paint. Once you're finished with your project, it's best to toss the brush. While you might be able to rinse out some of the paint, the foam will not hold its shape well for reuse.
Price at time of publish: $7
Dimensions: 2-inch foam, 6.5-inch handle | Bristles: Foam | Shape: Chisel | Paint Type: Water-based or oil-based
Best Natural Bristle
Wooster Pro White China Angle Brush
Ideal for oil-based products
Creates a very smooth coat of paint
Requires mineral spirits for cleaning away oil paint
Only available in 2-inch size
With bristles made of hog hair, the Wooster Pro White China Angle Brush is an excellent choice for use with oil-based products. The natural bristles have slightly "feathered" edges that create a very smooth application of oil-based paints, varnishes, stains, and polyurethanes. The softness of the boar hair holds a lot of paint and then lays it down very smoothly, without obvious brush strokes or imperfections. And the brush isn't prone to shedding. The wooden fluted handle is comfortable in your hand and absorbs sweat for a secure grip.
It's best to use this brush for interior use on fairly smooth surfaces, as the bristles can become ragged. Remember that cleaning oil-based products from a paint brush requires the use of mineral spirits or turpentine; you cannot wash away oil paint with soap and water. But if you take care to clean the brush properly, it will last for a long time and through many painting projects. Along with the 2-inch size, Wooster also makes a thin-angle version of this brush, as well as a short-handled version for painting in confined spaces. However, this standard White China brush is only available in a 2-inch size.
Price at time of publish: $15
Dimensions: 2-inch bristles, 7.25-inch handle | Bristles: Hog's hair | Shape: Angle | Paint Type: Oil-based
If you want a highly versatile trim brush that is stiff enough to create a clean line, but soft enough to hide brush strokes, works with both oil-based and water-based paints, cleans up easily, won’t drop a lot of bristles into your paint job, and lays down a smooth and even coat of paint, then our top choice, the Purdy XL Glide Angle Paint Brush, is the one for you. But if you need a brush specifically for painting exterior or rough surfaces, then the Wooster Pro Dupont Chinex Angle Sash Brush, which is highly durable and has very stiff synthetic bristles that replicate the performance of natural bristles, is our recommendation.
What to Look For In a Paint Brush For Trim
Paint brushes are sized according to the width across the bristles. Trim brushes, like other types of paint brush, come in a range of sizes, but the most commonly used are 2-inch brushes and 2.5-inch brushes. These are small enough to handle curves and edges, get into corners, and create a sharp line of paint along the edge of trim, but not so small that it takes overly long to complete the painting job. Of course, there are also smaller trim brushes for more detailed work, such as the Richard Elegance Trim Brush, which is only 3/4-inch wide, and larger trim brushes for correspondingly larger surfaces, but as a general rule, either a 2-inch or 2.5-inch brush will serve you well for most trim projects. Jan Walter, a professional painter and owner of the blog Gocolorize, adds, “The size of the brush should be appropriate for the job at hand. A smaller brush is ideal for narrow areas and detail work, while a larger brush can cover more surface area quickly and will hold more paint.”
The bristle material is a key factor in how a paint brush will perform with various types of paint, and there are many different types of bristles to choose from. While most bristles today are made from synthetic materials, there are natural-bristle brushes as well. Jan Walter says, “The type of bristles is an important factor. Synthetic bristles are more durable and suitable for painting with latex paint, while natural bristles work well with oil-based paint. A high-quality synthetic paintbrush is what I personally use in almost all of my painting projects.”
The following are some of the most common bristle materials.
Nylon bristles are soft, so they apply a smooth, even coat of paint. They are best used for interior surfaces and with water-based paints. We especially like Purdy’s Nylox brush, which is 100 percent nylon.
Polyester bristles are much stiffer than nylon, making them suitable for exterior use or for painting rough surfaces. Like nylon, polyester is best with water-based products, but it can also be used with oil-based paints as well as stains, lacquers, and shellacs. The Stinger Brush Company’s angled brush is all polyester.
Polyester/nylon combinations are often called “all-purpose” brushes, as the blend of the polyester’s stiffness with the nylon’s softness makes these brushes very versatile. You can use these brushes on just about any surface that’s not too abrasive, either indoors or outside. These brushes pick up a good amount of paint and lay it down very smoothly, and they typically can be used with both oil-based or water-based paints. Our top pick, the Purdy XL Glide, is a poly/nylon brush.
Natural bristle brushes usually are made from hog hair. Typically, these brushes are called "white China brushes." These brushes are ideal for oil-based products, as they hold oil paint better than synthetic bristles do. White China brushes are quite soft and lay down a very smooth coat of paint. While not nearly as common, there are also black China brushes, which are made from stiff bristles. You can use natural-bristle brushes for most oil-based products, including paint, shellac, lacquer, and polyurethane. However, these brushes should only be used for painting smooth surfaces, as rough surfaces will damage them. Our favorite natural bristle brush is the Wooster Pro White China Angle Brush.
Chinex bristles are a synthetic imitation of natural bristles. They can be used with both water-based and oil-based products, and they create a very smooth and even coat of paint. Chinex brushes are easier to clean and more durable than real natural bristles. We recommend the Wooster Pro Chinex Angle Brush.
Foam brushes are typically disposable brushes made from a soft piece of foam glued to a small wooden handle. These brushes are slightly chiseled along the front edge, so they are useful for painting nooks and crannies, touching up damaged paint on furniture or other surfaces, or carrying out very small paint jobs. The Bates Foam Brushes hold up well and come in an inexpensive pack of 16.
Typical trim brushes are often called "angle brushes," thanks to their slightly angled shape across the ends of the bristles. This is the tool of choice for painting trim, working around nooks and crannies, painting in corners or other tight spots, or “cutting in,” which is a common painting technique where a brush is used to paint a border along edges where it will be difficult to use a paint roller.
There are also rounded trim brushes, which are useful for touch-ups, detail work, and similar tasks where precision and control are most important.
Flat paint brushes, also called "wall brushes," have a straight, flat edge across the ends of the bristles. These are the brushes of choice for painting walls or other large, flat surfaces.
Jan Walter comments, “An angled brush is good for painting edges and corners, while a flat brush is better for broad, flat surfaces.”
Handle Comfort and Size
A trim brush handle is generally between 5.5 and 8 inches in length, which balances the brush and provides good control. It is comfortable for most people to grip. There are also brushes with short, stubby handles, which are useful when painting in a confined space where a regular handle would get in the way, such as the Wooster Shortcut.
Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy Painters of Riverview, notes that you should pay attention to the handle’s feel in your hands, as well. “It’s important to consider the comfort of the handle. Not many people pay attention to the handles, but if you are painting a long-term project and are prone to wrist pain, a comfortable or ergonomic paint brush will be extremely advantageous in getting the job done right.”
Should I use a soft or firm brush for trim?
The right stiffness for a trim brush depends on the type of paint being used and the surface being painted. As a general rule, the stiffer the brush, the more precise a line you can paint, but the softer the brush, the smoother the application. Most trim brushes are medium in stiffness, which strikes the perfect balance between control and smooth application. When painting a surface that is rough or abrasive, it’s better to use a stiffer brush, as a soft brush will quickly become frayed. When painting with glossy finishes or when looking to achieve the smoothest finish possible, a softer brush is ideal.
What kind of paint brush doesn’t leave streaks?
As a rough guideline, the softer the brush, the less likely it is to leave streaks. But your own technique plays a part, as well. Andre Kazimierski says, “The key to not leaving streaks when painting trim is to recognize the direction of the grain you are painting, and to always paint in that same direction. Also take your time. Being hasty leaves more room for mistakes. Be patient and start with the most delicate areas of trim first, and then finish with the middle space. Sanding the area and doing proper preparation before painting will also help your paint dry smoothly and streak-free. The consistency and value of the paint product you choose may also influence the smoothness of your paint.”
Jan Walter adds, “Avoiding streaks when painting trim can be tricky. Use a high-quality paint and high-quality paintbrush with synthetic bristles. While painting, make sure to use even, long strokes. Apply paint on a couple of feet of trim, and then brush back and forth with a light touch. You can also use a paint roller with a short nap or a foam cover to paint the trim. I use this combination myself in my day-to-day paint projects.”
How long do paint brushes last?
A paint brush’s lifespan is greatly dependent on how well you take care of it; if you use the brush roughly and don’t bother to clean it right after finishing your paint job, then that brush is unlikely to last beyond one painting session. However, if you properly clean and store your brushes, then they can potentially last for a few years, depending on how often they are used. You’ll know that it’s time to replace the brush when the bristles become ragged or frayed, the brush is losing excessive amounts of bristles, you can no longer achieve a smooth, even line of paint with the brush, or the handle is damaged.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Michelle Ullman is the home improvement/tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs around the house and yard.
For this roundup, she considered dozens of trim brushes of various types, evaluating each for quality, bristle material, paint type compatibility, longevity, the handle's comfort, and overall value. She also considered feedback from customers, both positive and negative, as well as reviews and information on painting and home improvement websites. Jan Walter, a professional painter and owner of the blog Gocolorize, and Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy Painters of Riverview, also contributed extensive helpful input and expertise.