Paint Brush vs Roller

Brush or Roller

Before you start any job it is important to make sure you have all the right tools. This rings true for all jobs. Knowing which tool works best for each project you want to do. Knowing when to  use a brush or a roller can save you time which means you also save money, not to mention, it can make your project look like a professional did it.
Rollers and brushes are two very different tools but essentially do the same job. But both brush and roller have their time and place. A brush is ideal for smaller areas and where more precision painting is needed. A brush is for trim, corners, and edges, those areas that a roller just won’t fit. A roller is designed to cover large areas and holds more paint. Paint rollers are what you would want to use for walls, ceilings, and any large size flat surface.




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Brushes come in many styles, sizes and thicknesses. Choosing the correct one for the job you are doing will give you the best result. You may think that one brush fits all and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. When picking a brush, consider the surface area of where you want to paint. Another consideration is the bristle thickness. The thickness of the bristles determines how much paint the brush holds. The last thing to look at in the brush is the tip. Does it have a flat or angled tip? Angled tip brushes are for doing the cutting in and are generally more expensive. So why spend more when you don’t have to.

Basic brush sizes:

  • 1"-2": small spaces, tight trim areas, touch-ups and detail work
  • 2.5"-3": trim or corner work
  • 4"-5": larger areas like walls




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Brushes are not the only tool that comes in different sizes. Roller size, length of nap and different materials, they all vary and have specific uses for the surface you are painting. So choosing the correct roller cover doesn’t seem like it’s that important but the nap is one of the factors with the final outcome of the texture left behind. (The paint is also in the final factor of the finished look but that’s a different topic that will be covered on another page) The material used for each roller has specific functions and to know the difference is pretty important. (See Below)
So when choosing a roller, consider the size of the area you need to paint, as well as the surface area. You’re probably going to want a different nap depending on your surface type.


Basic roller nap lengths:

  • 1/4-inch-3/16-inch: smooth surfaces like plaster, with little to no texture
  • 3/8-inch-1/2-inch: smooth and semi-smooth surfaces like drywall with a light sanded hand trowled texture
  • 3/4-inch: semi-rough surfaces with a knockdown texture
  • 1-inch-1 1/4-inch: rough surfaces like stucco
  • 1 1/2-inch: extremely rough surfaces like a concrete block or brick

Roller nap types:

  • *Wool or mohair roller covers, with natural fibers, are the best choices for applying oil-based paint.
  • *Synthetic roller covers—including polyester, nylon, or Dacron—is the right choice for water-based latex paint because they resist matting.
  • * Roller covers that blend wool and polyester can be used with latex or oil-based paint, so they are a great choice if you often switch between oil-based and water-based products.
  • * Microfiber roller covers (identifiable by the diagonal stripes on the plush cover) work with latex as well as oil-based paints with a matte, eggshell, or satin finish.
  • * Foam roller covers don’t last as long as the other options and, for that reason, are sometimes considered “single-use” covers. They are best for rolling semi-gloss or high-gloss latex paint over smooth—not heavily textured—surfaces.


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