Synthetic vs Natural Hair Brushes

Synthetic vs Natural Hair Brushes


What is the best synthetic brush for painting scale models and miniatures?  How do synthetic brushes measure up against natural hair brushes?  How can you make your synthetic brushes last longer?   We’re here to share our opinion. So, which is better for painting scale models and miniatures: synthetic or natural hair brushes?

The short answer is...both.  Let’s go over some pros and cons...

Natural Brush Pros:

-Tend to absorb and carry more paint

-Are generally well-suited to oil-based paints.

-Can be stiff or flexible, depending on the animal hair.  (Hogs hair is a common fiber used for stuff brushes, while kolinsky sable hair brushes are valued for their softness and durability.)

Natural Brush Cons:

-Since natural hair fibers absorb so much water, they are not the best brush to use with water based or acrylic (latex) paint.

-They tend to shed more than synthetic brushes.

-Natural hair filaments typically split or develop flags over time, which is not ideal for painting small details.

Synthetic Brush Pros:

-Are great for both water-based, latex, and enamel paints, and are still useable with oil-based paint.

-Come at a much better price point than natural hair brushes

-Offer durability and longevity, provided they are properly washed and dried between use.

Synthetic Brush Cons:

-Synthetic brush tips will not split or flag, which means you may have to apply more coats of paint to your model.

-Synthetic filaments are not ideal for oil-based paints.

While the cheap, low quality synthetic brushes don’t hold a candle to their natural counterparts, there are tons of affordable well-made nylon and polyester brushes that are totally worth adding to your tool kit.

So, if you’ll be using primarily acrylic modeling paints such as Citadel, Vallejo, or Army Painter acrylics, you’ll want to look for a set of quality synthetic brushes that won’t shed or break down after the first time you use them. You know those incredibly affordable sets of brushes at the hobby stores?  The ones that come with 20 different sized brushes and only cost a few bucks? It’s best to avoid those.

One of our personal favorite brands is AMMO by Mig Jimenez.  We actually did a review of them on our YouTube Channel, where Wayne demonstrates what he loves about these brushes.  By the way, the brush set he’s using in this video isn’t brand new.   He’s been using those brushes for at least 4 months now, and they’ve held up beautifully.  Watch it here!

Oh, and by the way, you can find the AMMO brush set collection right here, if you’re interested.  

Shop our selection of AMMO brush sets!

By following just a few simple rules, you can get a lot of life out of synthetic brushes like these.   Don’t allow paint to dry on them, don’t let them soak in water for more than a minute or two, and don’t let a wet brush dry while it’s sitting upright in your brush holder.   Laying your brushes horizontally on a dry surface, far removed from any sources of heat,  is the best way to dry them.  Once they’re dry, they can be stored upright. Letting your brushes soak for too long in room temperature water can soften the glue that keeps the bristles in place, and you definitely don’t want your brush to leave pieces of hair on your project. 

Whichever brushes you end up using on your next project, we hope this article has been helpful.  If you have any questions about tools, painting, or modeling in general, let us know in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you.

 Thanks, and see you next time,


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