Gaining confidence as a DIYer isn’t just about mastering the tools—it depends equally on using the right products. There’s a huge variety of options at the lumber yard or hardware store, and it's easy to get lost trying to figure out which is right for you. Join me in this series as I shop the Dunn Lumber aisles for a few of my favorite products and share some tips and tricks for using them.

Brushes, rollers, painting pads—we’re covering them all today. Which applicator you buy depends on your project, paint, and surface. And there are different price points within each category. 

So how do you choose the right one for your project? 

What’s the difference between cheaper and more expensive paintbrushes?

There are inexpensive applicators and more expensive ones—and which you choose often depends on the scope of your project. 

If you’re just doing a quick touch-up or painting on a mastic (glue) of some sort, you don’t need an expensive brush. Instead, opt for a disposable kind. 

More expensive applicators are better for larger projects or something where you care more about the final results. They hold more paint (which means you need to dip them less often) and apply the paint more smoothly and evenly than an inexpensive product. 

How to choose a paintbrush

Like we said, go for a cheap brush if you have a small project. There are foam brushes that work well for a variety of projects or what’s commonly called a “chip brush,” which is an inexpensive, natural bristle brush.

For most projects, like painting a wall, you’ll likely use a more high-quality brush. First, consider the type of paint or stain you’re using. Is it oil-, water-, or latex-based?

Natural bristle brushes work best with oil-based paints or stains, while synthetic bristle brushes work best with water-based or latex paints or stains.

Then, look at the different brush lengths, widths, bristles, and angles. The wider the brush, the more surface you’re able to paint in one stroke. Angled brushes give you a little more control of where the paint goes and are better for corners and detail work, like around a door frame.  

What to know about paint roller covers

Roller covers are another way to apply paint to a surface. They are usually nine inches wide. You stick the hollow cover onto a frame, dip it in a paint tray, and start painting away. 

The differences in roller covers are primarily in the thickness of the nap. Thicker covers hold a lot of paint and are excellent at applying paint onto rough surfaces. If you have a smooth surface like an untextured wall, you’ll want to use a shorter or thinner nap roller for a smooth enamel finish. 

When using a paint roller, you also need a roller frame. The handle is usually threaded, so you can screw in an extension pole to reach higher places. 

What to know about paint pads

Finally, another way to apply paint is with a pad. They come in different widths and thicknesses as well. A thicker paint pad can be used for siding or decking. Just like rollers, they also can often be attached to an extension handle, so you can reach more places.

Looking for more DIY tips and tricks? Learn even more about how to choose the right paintbrush or how to remove paint from your deck.