Paintbrushes are an essential tool in any artist’s arsenal. Though at times it can get confusing and overwhelming to shop for paintbrushes, especially if it’s your first time. For one, there are so many different shapes, hair types, and sizes.
If budget isn’t a problem, it’s easy just to grab every size brush you see at the art store. After all, can you really have enough paintbrushes? Still, we’d recommend purchasing what you need and investing in quality over quantity. You’ll find that cheaper, poorly manufactured brushes are more likely to fall apart faster. That’s not to say expensive is better. There are professional-grade brushes and brush sets out there that’ll cater to both budget and creative needs.
Confused? Overwhelmed? We’re here to make your purchase easier. In this guide, we’ll go over paintbrush measurements and sizes plus some size guides for our brushes here at Zen Art Supplies.
And in case you missed it, we’ve also got a guide to brush sizes specifically for watercolor and a more in-depth guide to the types of brushes you’ll find in art stores.
How do paintbrush sizes work?
Usually sizes range from 20/0 to 30. The bigger the number, the bigger the brush size. If you see sizes listed like 10/0, 5/0, and so on—the bigger the fraction, the smaller the brush size.
Some brush sizes refer to the width of the ferrule—that metal part that keeps bristles attached to the handle. You may find sizes in ¾”, or 1”.
Unfortunately, there are no standardized measurements and dimensions for paintbrush sizes.
Artist paintbrushes have numbered sizes printed on their handles. It’s kind of like clothing sizes, too. It all depends on the maker. One brand’s size 10 can easily differ from a size 10 of another brand. Similarly, a size 10 flat brush might seem bigger than a size 10 round brush.
Brushes may also vary in thickness and shape. In these cases, manufacturers may use different bristles or hair combinations to achieve a certain shape like a filbert or a cat’s tongue.
When in doubt, look for a size guide. More on that below.
How do I measure my brush size?
Let’s talk about that tiny number you see printed on the handle. It’s more a general size guideline than an actual measurement. As we mentioned, paintbrush sizes aren’t regulated or standardized. It depends on the manufacturer.
For the most accurate results, you can measure your brushes with the following dimensions.
- Brush Length: The length of your brush from end of the handle to tip of the brush.
- Hair Length: The distance from the heel or end of the ferrule to the brush’s tip.
- Diameter: The distance around the ferrule
- Width: For flat brushes, this is the length of the brush across the ferrule.
Zen Art Supplies paintbrush size guide
As for how we size our brushes here on Zen Art Supplies, we provide size charts with our brush sets.
We understand the confusion that may come with choosing the perfect selection of brushes, so we did the choosing for you! Each of Zen Art’s paintbrush sets is carefully curated and designed by artists, for artists. These brushes were crafted specifically for certain media. There really isn’t one brush to rule them all.
You’ll notice a variation in some of these brush measurements, even if they’re the same size on the handle. A natural-bristled brush and a synthetic-bristled brush of the same size may differ slightly in measure. For example, our brushes for oil and acrylics have longer handles to make vertical painting easier. Our fine liner brushes, meanwhile, have shorter handles and shorter bristles as they’re easier to use when doing up-close detailed work.
We’ve compiled all our brush size guides in this article, to help you choose the right set for your creative needs. You can take a look on our product pages as well for more info!
Artist’s Choice: 6-piece Filbert Brush Set for Acrylic and Oil
If you’re looking for only filbert brushes, we highly recommend the Artist’s Choice brush set. The longer wooden handles are made with your fullest expression in mind—the length helps you work at ease on an easel or canvas. Plus, the bristles are semi-stiff, made of a blend of badger and Japanese synthetic bristles to help not only with your brush strokes but also with your blending.
These brushes can handle thicker paints like oil and acrylic. And the set comes with brush sizes from 2 to 12.
Black Tulip: 6-piece assorted vegan brush set for acrylic and water media
This one’s for beginner watercolorists and acrylic painters! Here’s a versatile and vegan-friendly brush set made with the finest synthetic bristles that mimic the qualities of squirrel and kolinsky sable hair. Perfectly snappy so you can paint with watercolor, gouache, and in. But the brushes also maintain their shape well, so they’re excellent—and easy to clean—with acrylics!
The set comes with two round brushes, two flat brushes, a rigger brush, and a large cat’s tongue brush.
Turner Collection: 14-piece assorted brush set for water media
Our Turner Collection is another set that’s well-loved by watercolor artists for a reason. Inspired by the British watercolor artist, J.M.W. Turner, this expansive set of handcrafted brushes was designed for use with fluid media like watercolor, gouache, and ink. The handles are tapered, weighted, and shorter than our brushes for acrylics and oil, to aid with horizontal painting.
Eight brushes are made with a blend of 70% squirrel-mix hair and 30% synthetic fiber so they perform like sable brushes. The other five brushes are made with Japanese synthetic bristles for extra snap and smooth flow. You also get a size 2 palette knife.
Fine Line: 12-piece synthetic fine paintbrush set
Sometimes, you do need all these shapes and sizes for detailed work! Especially if you love making small paintings or highly detailed portraits and landscapes. This is a comprehensive collection of synthetic brushes—four round brushes, three rigger brushes, two flat brushes, two filbert brushes, and one angled brush—spanning sizes 5/0 to 2.
Made with high-grade Japanese synthetic fibers, these brushes hold their precise points even after heavy use. Because they’re synthetic, they can work with both fluid water media and heavy paint. Not to mention, the handles are expertly sculpted to improve your grip and comfort. No more hand fatigue after hours of work!
Renoir Collection: 14-piece assorted brush set for acrylic and oil
Inspired by the great impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, these brushes were designed to handle heavy paints like acrylics and oils. Like the filbert brush set, the brushes in the Renoir Collection have longer handles so you can fully express yourself upon an easel or canvas.
The set has six brushes made with stiffer, natural Chungking hog bristles in sizes 4 through 1” for painting base coats and adding texture. The other seven brushes in sizes 00 through 10 have a blend of semi-stiff badger and Japanese synthetic bristles which are good for blending and expressive brush strokes! The set also comes with a palette knife for paint mixing or techniques like impasto!
What’s your go-to paintbrush size?
Do you have a go-to paintbrush shape in your arsenal? What brush sizes do you gravitate towards the most? Have you found said perfect paintbrush? If not, come and take a look at our brush sets here on Zen Arts!
Do check out our other useful guides to navigating the paintbrush aisle at your local art store. Read our Toolkits on Watercolor Brush Sizes and how to care for your brushes on the Zen Art blog. Happy painting!
- MEET THE AUTHOR-
Belle O. Mapa is a writer and artist based in Manila, Philippines. She believes that everyone is born with an inner creative spirit—we just need to nurture and discover it on the blank page. Currently, she lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness.
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