Jackie Garner shares top tips for choosing and using acrylic brushes.

Mostly we use brushes to apply acrylics, although alternative tools are available.

These are the main acrylic brush shapes to consider:


So named because this brush looks round when viewed end-on.

The bristles taper to a point, allowing the artist to produce strokes of varying widths. Sizes vary from Nos. 00000 (or 5/0) to about No. 20. The larger the number, the larger the brush.


Like a Round, but with much longer bristles, the Rigger is used for making long, thin lines.


Imagine your Round brush has been flattened at the end. The longest bristles are in the centre and the shortest at the sides so the tip becomes a rounded shape. The more pointed shape is sometimes called a Cat’s Tongue brush.


Like a filbert, the flat’s bristles are all the same length. It is also called a One Stroke brush. Both filberts and flats can be numbered 0, 1, 2, 3 and so on, or in fractions of an inch. The latter refers to the width of the bristles, not the length.

Sword liner, dagger or angled

Like a flat, but the bristles are arranged at an angle, shortest on one side, longest on the other.


As the name suggests, the bristles are arranged in a fan shape. It is also known as a blending brush, referring to its original purpose. I recommend hog’s hair for this brush.

Key- 1 Round; 2 Rigger; 3 Filbert; 4 Flat; 5 Sword liner; 6 Fan

Any of these brushes are available as natural (animal) hair or synthetic. For acrylic painting, synthetic brushes are usually best, as their robustness stands up better to the rigours of acrylics. Save your beautiful sables for watercolour.