Best Brushes for Varnish 2020 – Reviews

Best Brushes for Varnish 2020 – Reviews

As you may already know, you cannot do a good varnish job with a standard paintbrush. Varnishing is a very specific task that requires a specific tool.

It might be tempting to think that all paintbrushes are the same, and this is a common assumption. Indeed, they may appear to be identical on the surface while having very different performance qualities.

That’s why it’s so important to choose the best one. Without further ado, let’s look at the best brushes for varnish in the form of my top five picks.

Best Brushes for Varnish in January, 2020

#Brush for varnishAvailable sizes 
1Liquitex Large Scale Brush
Editor's Choice
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5.5 / 6 / 8 inch Check Price
2Purdy Flat Trim Brush1 / 1.5 / 2 / 2.5 / 3 / 3.5 / 4 inch Check Price
3Artist Flat Brush Set0.79, 0.98, 1.18, 1.57, 1.97, 2.36 inch Check Price
4 Pro Grade Brush Set1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3 inch Check Price
5Antrader Brush Set 2 x 6 inch Check Price

1. Liquitex Professional Freestyle Large Scale Brush – Best Brush for Spar and Polyurethane Varnish

Although this kind of brush is available in a multitude of sizes, we will be focusing on the 4-inch version because it is obviously their best seller. This one kind of looks like a hairbrush at first glance because of its slick and attractive handle. Still, looks don’t mean a whole lot for a tool…especially one that is sure to be covered in varnish or other paint before long.

Durability Test: Passed

We can see that this one is put together pretty solidly, which is obvious at a glance. That big steel band does a good job of holding the bristles in place. Upon testing this brush, I did not see any shedding or fraying. It kept a nice smooth consistency the whole time.

Gets It Done Quickly

Because it is such a large brush, this one can transfer a lot of varnish (or paint) to the surface at one time. This is very handy for big jobs because it allows you to cover a large surface in less time and with less effort. Speaking of large surfaces, this is an extremely wide brush. That makes it perfect for large open spaces. If you want to do that kind of job in a minimum of hand strokes, this is the brush for you.

A Specialized Tool

Naturally, a brush this large isn’t the best choice for all users. If you are doing fine detail work or filling in corners, this brush is going to be unwieldy. It would be like trying to thread a needle with a huge pair of pliers. Thus, we can see that this brush is not versatile enough to serve as one’s only brush. This is a good special-purpose tool, but its lack of versatility is a big problem when we consider its relatively high price tag.

  • Great for large surfaces
  • Durable construction
  • Transfers a lot of paint
  • Attractive finish
  • No good for tight spaces
  • No traction on the handle
  • A little bit expensive

2. Purdy Pro-Extra Flat Trim Paint Brush – The Corner Brush

This is a smaller brush, but it isn’t extremely small. Where the first choice lacked versatility (its main flaw), this one emphasized that same quality. Its size is neither particularly large nor particularly small. It’s a good medium size, and that makes it suitable for just about any job.

Fairly Durable

Its durability is very nice overall. The metal band that holds the bristles (which is called a ferrule, in case you were wondering) is extremely thick and held in place so tightly that I don’t think I could break that part of the brush if I tried. However, there is a weak point at the base of the handle where the wood becomes quite thin. Although this isn’t a problem for all materials, wood becomes easy to snap when it gets that thin.

I also think that the bristles of this brush might be a little too long. After a few uses, those hairs want to poke out on either side, and they often have to be trimmed. A slightly shorter brush would hold less paint but would be less prone to spreading out and fraying.

Holds A Lot Of Paint

These brushes hold a great deal of paint, as advertised on the packaging. For a brush of this size, it can transfer a great deal of varnish to the surface of whatever you are finishing. Unfortunately, this can be a curse as well as a blessing. If not used carefully, this brush has a tendency to sling paint all over the place. I would advise you to avoid dipping it too deeply in the paint can in order to avoid making a mess.

  • Very precise
  • Handle provides good grip
  • Holds a lot of paint for its size
  • Extra stiff
  • Prone to causing a lot of splatter
  • Prone to spreading as it frays

3. Artist Flat Brush Set – The Total Package

This is a set of brushes consisting of six different sizes. The set includes brushes that are well-suited for just about any kind of job. If you are looking for a good bargain, this is definitely the best one on our list. When I break the prices down on a cost per brush basis, this one leaves all others in the dust.

Short And Sweet

I like the fact that the bristles are not particularly long. You don’t really have to worry so much about fraying or spreading of the bristles, as shorter brushes don’t do this as much. As a result, these brushes can be used a little bit more roughly without fear of ruining them. As a nice little side effect, shorter brushes are less likely to shed their bristles.

Unfortunately, this comes with a negative side effect. These brushes aren’t able to soak up and transfer all that much varnish on a single stroke. Thus, you might need a few more strokes to accomplish the same task.

A Good Travel Set

These brushes are incredibly small and lightweight. Each one is flat and thin, so you could stack them together with no problem at all. As for weight, all of these brushes are light as a feather. Even when bundled together, these brushes are so small and light that you will likely forget they are even there.

Still, they seem to have sacrificed ergonomics in favor of portability. The small and squared handles of these brushes do not feel very comfortable in hand. They are so light that they can be hard to control when there is a glob of varnish on its end.

  • Bristles are not excessively long
  • Best value on our list by far
  • Very compact for easy travel
  • Doesn’t transfer a lot of varnish
  • Not very comfortable in the hand

4. Pro Grade 5 Pack Brush Set – The Synthetic Gang

This is another multi-package deal, although this one has only five brushes. Still, it’s about the same price as other set on the list, so it also represents a great value for the money.

Simple And Effective

I don’t see anything fancy about these brushes, and that is a good thing. Fancy gimmicks would be completely pointless for an item like this, so I like the barebones nature of this construction.

However, I do think that the wooden handles are awkwardly shaped and much too smooth. Without rough gloves, it can be hard to keep a steady grip on these things. Nevertheless, I like the fact that the handle doesn’t taper like some other wooden-handled brushes. This avoids the creation of a weak point, and that is worth a little bit of discomfort.

A Very Soft Yet Stiff Brush

The synthetic bristles of these brushes have a rare combination of stiffness and softness. Because they have a very soft feel, they are able to glide across the surface of the varnish. Fewer streaks will be left by a brush with smoother bristles, so this is a slight advantage. The overwhelming majority of reviewers also said that this brush held its shape well.

The Ferrules Need Reinforcing

Although these brushes are not weak by any means, I found that there was just a little bit of wiggle when I tugged on the ferrules (the metal band in the middle). While it may not be a big problem, I would recommend that you add one small nail or screw to the ferrule so as to reinforce it firmly.

  • Also a great value
  • Simple and functional
  • Soft, stiff synthetic brushes for less streaking
  • Very durable construction
  • Handles are too smooth
  • Ferrules are easily loosened

5. Antrader 6-Inch Wide Brush Set – The Big Beast

This is another wide brush, but it ‘s even wider than the first one we examined. At a whopping six inches wide (not that big really, but huge for a paintbrush), this one can varnish wide surfaces in no time flat. I would particularly recommend it for deck and patio jobs, as it would allow you to use long, sweeping brush strokes that will lay down the varnish much quicker.

Comfort And Balance

This one is much more comfortable in hand than our other choices. With a larger head, it obviously has to be a little better balanced in order to avoid being a pain in the hand. We like the shape of the handle, as it manages to create a good grip without the use of ruts or ridges. Ruts or ridges are not a good idea for a paintbrush, as they make the handle much harder to clean. That’s why all the brushes on the list have smooth ones.

Durable In Most Ways

The handle is made of strong and dense wood, and it seems pretty durable. The ferrule is wide and thick, and it seems pretty durable. It is held in place by several small nails, so we can see that it’s firmly attached. However, there seems to be a problem with bristles falling out periodically. It’s not all that bad, but we did lose one or two of them after a couple uses. Thus, I have to say that this model may be prone to shedding.

For Big Jobs Only

This is a high-quality brush in most ways. However, it is not the kind of thing that can serve as your all-purpose brush. This brush is kind of like a sledgehammer or a monkey wrench in the fact that you would never use it for a small or medium-sized job.

  • Comfortable ergonomic handle
  • Great for large surfaces
  • Good for many re-uses
  • Suitable for all types of varnish
  • Too big for detailed work
  • Sheds bristles too easily


Whatever your painting project, I hope that you can bring it to fruition. I hope that you will heed my advice and think carefully about your choice in a varnish brush. You need something that is durable enough to last, able to transfer enough material to the surface, and smooth enough to create the slick surface that you want. I hope that this short article has been helpful to you and that your project turns out to be a great success. I thank you for reading, and I will see you next time.

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