Brushes vs Rollers: What's the Difference?

calander Jun 19 , 2020 user-icon Nash Painting

If you’ve ever watched professional painters work, you’ve probably seen them use a range of techniques and tools to get the job done. Most of us have seen both brushes and rollers in action -- but have you given any thought as to why either of these tools was used over the other? Aside from the obvious aesthetic differences between brushes and rollers, these paint applicators serve distinct functional roles for both interior and exterior painting projects. Depending on the situation at hand, a brush might be more useful and efficient than a roller, or vice versa.

Let’s go over the main functional and contextual differences between brushes and rollers so you know when and how to use either tool for your next house painting project.

Precision vs. Coverage

Most paint jobs call for both broad and precise tasks, and, therefore, both rollers and brushes. For instance, a standard deck includes a wide-open floor as well as thin, sometimes intricate fencing and/or rails. All of these surfaces must get covered, but painting the floor with a brush would take way too long, and rolling paint on the rails would result in numerous bare spots. The solution to this dilemma, of course, is to roll the paint on the floorboards and use a brush to coat the smaller, more precise areas.

Simply put, brushes are perfect for minor (but nonetheless crucial) painting tasks like cutting in edges, touching up coats, and covering small, thin, and/or angled surfaces (i.e. trim, moldings, frames, outlets), while rollers are designed to efficiently cover large, open, uninterrupted areas (walls, floors, ceilings, siding).

Holding More or Less Paint

This point is implied by the previous one, but still worth noting: paint rollers can hold onto a greater volume of paint at a given time than a brush can (even large brushes), because they’re more absorbent and bigger. This simply means that, with a roller, you can provide more coverage to a surface without having to reload, speeding up the process. Of course, while you’ll have to dip your brush into the bucket more frequently, you won’t need that much paint on the bristles to complete your precision work, anyway.

Achieving Even Coats

Professional home painting services can tell you that, generally speaking, rollers provide smoother, more even results with less effort than brushes. This makes sense, considering the size, capacity, and mechanics of rollers allow for more coverage with fewer strokes. The best painters can, of course, achieve highly even coats using brushes, too, but doing so takes more time and skill.

Different Texturing Possibilities

In the right hands, different textures can be achieved using both rollers and brushes, too. Because brushes are more portable than rollers, they are more easily controlled. Therefore, skilled local painters can flick their wrists this way and that way to create unique, faux finishes (often with the help of other tools, too). Using a roller, an equally skilled painter can produce various effects, too. Different nap sizes and materials can contribute to these different textures as well. A thicker, fluffier, nap, for instance, can dot a surface with ease.

When comparing brushes and rollers, it is not a matter of which tool is better -- rather, it’s a matter of which tool is better suited for the task at hand. Most painting projects require regular use of both types of tools (as well as sprayers). This is why you’ll see exterior and interior painting services routinely switch back and forth.

At Nash Painting, we’re always prepared for the job. We can fully, evenly cover the most complex surfaces using the many tools and techniques at our disposal. To learn more about us, our services, and our values, call us at 615-829-6858 today!