Brushes for Varnishing

Over the years, many people have asked me about the brushes that I use for varnishing paintings. Unfortunately, the brushes that I found most successful for me are no longer available. They are Dick Blick Masterstroke 82 Nylon Flat sizes 16 and 22 (A). In terms of strength/resistance (or “spring”), these synthetic brushes seem to be somewhere in between a hog bristle and the softer type of synthetic flat one might use with watercolor.

Due to the amount of inquiries I have received on this topic, I have started searching for some contemporary substitutes and I’ve found a few that might work just as well (at least, with the varnishing process that I have come to use.)

The first that I found is the Blick Economy Golden Nylon Brushes (B). These brushes seem to have an almost identical composition (and spring) as my long-standing nylons—however, they are limited in size. The largest size that I found on the Dick Blick site was one inch. This would be fine if you are doing very small works—but I would want something larger for mid-to-large size paintings (say, 16x20” and over.)

The second is the Creative Mark Mural Max Masterstroke Flat 55 (C). From Jerry’s Artorama: “Designed as an upgrade from the already popular Creative Mark Mural Brushes, Mural Max Large Scale Brushes offer excellent control and a longer handle for reach. Mural Max features multi-diameter synthetic filament hair that is resilient and bouncy, holds it shape well, and can withstand constant use on rough surfaces like brick, stone, plaster, and drywall.” These brushes look pretty durable and match the size range of my Dick Blick Masterstrokes—however, they are much softer (must less spring.) Still, I am excited to give these ago.

The third option is the Dick Blick MEGA White Nylon 40 (D). This brush is right in the middle of the aforementioned Economy Golden and the Mural Max. It has decent spring and also hits the target size I like for varnishing. This might be the ideal middle ground—but I still plan on further testing with all three.

The prices on these brushes as of 8/8/2018 is not bad at all:

Blick Economy Golden Nylon Brushes size 1”: $4.00-$7.00
Creative Mark Mural Max Masterstroke Flat 55 : $10.00-$20.00
Dick Blick MEGA White Nylon 40: $11.00-$20.00

As always, I would love to hear about any experience you have with these brushes or if you have other recommendation you’d like to add. Happy Painting!


I recommend Polar-Flo Watercolor Brush Wash Mate brushes for varnishing. I have had them (in different sizes) for about 15 years & they’re still good (also shows you how ■■■■ I am about keeping them clean). Dick Blick doesn’t sell them, but Jerry’s does:

Scroll all the way down in the price list for the three flats I have.
Note: These days I varnish with airbrush for the ultimate smooth finish, of course I work in acrylics so less hassle to spray than oil-based mediums.

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Awesome Lorena!!! Thank you~! :heart:

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p.s: Forgot to mention that the red handles on these Polar-Flo brushes don’t hold up as well as the bristles. I ended up putting tape on them.

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I varnished 4 different paintings today and experimented with different brushes. The brush that worked best for me was Mural Max (purchased at Jerry’s Artarama). Number 2 was Blick Mega Brush. Number 3 was Creative Marks Pro Control. I used the DaVinci Spin brush to fine tune at the end. All did a good job. The Mural Max left the smoothest finish and great first time coverage.

Remember your results may vary. Just my experience.

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Fantastic Diane! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with these brushes here!

For those looking for more information on these brushes you can explore this post: