A reliable, oil-compatible brush can make or break a painting. Because oil paints are viscous, it’s important that you equip yourself with a tool with hairs sturdy enough to move this medium smoothly while maintaining its shape. Many modern brushes are made with synthetic filaments like nylon or polyester, but ones made of natural hair generally perform better and last longer. Made of hairs from animals such as pigs and ponies, these tend to be pricier, but you’ll find that good-quality ones are well worth the investment.
1. Robert Simmons Signet Brushes
These are heavy-duty brushes that can handle a lot of paint without losing their shape. Each features an elegant beechwood handle treated with five coats of lacquer and high-quality Chungking hog bristle that checks off all the boxes: they hold a lot of paint, don’t shed, and resist splaying even when used with super-heavy-body paint. As expected of any excellent brush, these also stand up to rigorous cleanup, making us confident in their ability to last through years of painting sessions.
2. Winsor & Newton Long Handle Brush Pack
Winsor & Newton’s brushes are almost as good as those in the Signet brush line, but their bristles can separate at times, if you are more heavy-handed. That aside, these hog hair tools are designed specifically for use with oil paints and have excellent spring to give you complete control over your strokes and application of color. The handset bristles are also properly packed and rarely shed even with heavy use. Plus, we like that these brushes come in a set of five, allowing you to test out different shapes at a decent price point.
3. Grumbacher Academy Hog Bristle 3-Brush Set
If you are just dipping your toes into oil painting, consider this economical set of brushes that includes one filbert, one flat, and one bright brush. Made of hog hair, they are sturdy enough to withstand the heaviness of oils and have sufficient springiness to them. We don’t expect these brushes to last years—they have a greater tendency to shed than our other picks—but as starter brushes, they’ll serve you well until you’re ready to upgrade.
4. Isabey Siberian Fitch Brush Series
For a brush with a different look, we are partial to these from French brush manufacturer Isabey, which uses only the finest materials. Made from pure kolinsky sable, the bristles are shaped into a triangular tip that makes them ideal for precise linework; they can also be turned on their flat side to make uniform broad strokes. The hairs are incredibly soft yet hard wearing, so they keep their shape even with rough use.
5. Silver Brush Grand Prix Brushes for Oil/Acrylic Set
Everything about these brushes screams top of the line. Each is individually made by highly trained brushmakers to essentially serve as an extension of the artist’s hand. It’s difficult to ignore the elegance of these brushes, which feature Chungking white bristles double sealed in a corrosion-resistant copper ferrule, so you don’t have to worry about shedding hairs; elongated, lacquered green handles; and a fine balance you have to experience yourself to truly appreciate. As for performance, the long bristles boast a large paint load and offer the ability to paint longer and more controlled strokes. The brushes also keep their tips no matter how much paint they push around. We wouldn’t be surprised if they last you years even with rigorous use.