Painting signs with a paint brush

How to hold a paintbrush when painting signs

Sign painting with a brush
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In this beginners’ guide, you’ll learn the fundamental techniques for how to hold a paintbrush when painting signs. Enabling you to paint large areas quickly and neatly.

When painting large areas with a paintbrush, the painter must work steadily. Otherwise, painted areas will begin to set and leave marks in your finish.

A wet edge

Paint with a wet edge at all times. A wet edge is the edge of the area you’ve just painted. If you’re right handed, you’ll paint from right to left with a wet edge on your right. If you’re left handed, you’ll paint from your wet edge on your left.

The painter must also smoothen out the paint to leave an even finish. With minimal or no visible brush strokes when the paint is dry.

Knowing how to hold and control a paintbrush will help you achieve an evenly painted finish. As well as saving paint, allowing you greater flexibility and saving your wrist from straining.

Hold it like a pencil

Fit the handle snug into the base of your thumb

Holding your paintbrush like a pencil provides the most control for your painting hand. Especially when painting signs with mouldings, frames, and dimensional objects.

Fit the handle into the base of your thumb and lock the brush with your index finger. Support the brush with your remaining fingers.

Relax your wrist

How to control a paint brush
Your wrist will steer the paint brush

Relax your wrist. Your wrist is the axis that will steer your arm and the brush. Allowing your hand to pivot freely and quickly when spreading paint. A stiff hand or wrist will hinder movement.

Bend the bristles

The bristles should be flexible on large flat surfaces – not stiff

Apply firm hand pressure when spreading the paint. The bristles should bend onto the surface. Push down with your supporting fingers, then flip over and push down with your thumb. Alternate between diagonal and horizontal strokes to evenly coat the area.

When painting the sign or panel edge, use only the tip of the brush. Skim with enough paint to cover the edge. Don’t bend the bristles as the panel edge may disfigure the bristles.

Finishing strokes

How to hold a paintbrush when painting signs’ finish

Steady your wrist when finishing the brush strokes and apply light pressure with your hand. Smoothen the spreading brush strokes and lead up to the wet edge. Even the paint neatly. If you can still see the brush strokes from when you were spreading the paint, finish the area again.

You can finish your brush strokes vertically or horizontally. Plan this before you begin painting

Practise holding the paint brush

Painting signs with a paint brush
More control holding the paintbrush at the neck of the handle

Once the paint is smoothened and the area is finished, turn your hand and brush upside down. Pull the brush tip smoothly, on the panel’s underside edge and remove any drips of paint. This will prevent hardened drips of paint on the underside of the panel.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the size of brush you are using. Practice how to hold and turn it. Test how firm the bristles are by pushing back and forth on a flat surface.

Key points

Hold the brush like a pencil

Maintain a flexible wrist when spreading the paint

Firm your wrist when finishing the strokes

Your wrist is the pivot that should steer your arm

Top Tip

Remove pesky stray hairs from your wet paint with the tip of the bristles.

Simply tilt your brush so that it’s almost horizontal with the painted surface. Then scoop the stray hair off of the surface, before flicking the hair away from the painted area.

See some examples of signs painted by hand.