8 Best Paintbrushes for Railings + How to Paint Metal Railings

Last updated: January 8, 2021

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A beautiful loft with a nicely painted railing

Whether interior or exterior, railings can really add to the look of your home. If their age is starting to show, it might be time to start a new DIY paint project. This means investing in the right tools for painting or staining your railings.

Before you begin, it’s important that you know what your painting options are and how to get the most out of your work. This article will help you to find the best paintbrush for railings and how to use it by covering the following:

Before we get into the best ways to paint your railings, let’s explore the top brushes for railings currently available. If you’re painting additional areas of your house, you can also check out our guide to the best thin paintbrushes for walls.

8 best paintbrushes for railings

Whether indoors or outdoors, you need to know your paint tool options to make your railings look great. These are our recommendations for the best brushes for painting railings.

1. Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush

Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Brush

Quantity: 1

Size: 2-inch

Material: Nylon-Polyester

Best Feature: Short handle

The Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush is ideal for those working on wooden railings. The bristles are perfect for applying paint with a smooth finish. The short, flexible handle also makes it a great choice if you have to paint your railings in tight spaces or tricky angles.

2. Presa Premium Bristle Paintbrush Set

Presa Premium Bristle Paintbrush Set

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Brushes

Quantity: 5

Size: 1-inch to 3-inch

Material: SRT filaments

Best Feature: Quality

For those wanting to purchase multiple brushes for their railings, the Presa Premium Bristle Paintbrush Set is the way to go. This set comes with 5 brushes of various sizes and designs to help you with your specific needs. The quality bristles are also great at picking up and applying paint for a quality finish.

3. Magimate Paintbrush Set

Magimate Paintbrush Set

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Brushes

Quantity: 5

Size: 1-inch to 2.5-inch

Material: Synthetic

Best Feature: Variety

The Magimate Paintbrush Set is good for wooden railings both indoors and outdoors. The set comes with 5 paintbrushes (3 angled and 2 flat), giving you options when working on your project. These brushes help create a smooth finish with a variety of paints.

4. Purdy XL Elite Angular Dale Sash Brush

Purdy XL Elite Angular Dale Sash Brush

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Brush

Quantity: 1

Size: 1.5-inch

Material: Polyester and SRT Chinex

Best Feature: Simulates natural bristles

For a beautiful finish on your metal or wooden railings, check out the Purdy XL Elite Angular Dale Sash Brush. It is a great size for working with thinner railings and will help give you a smooth finish. It's also been approved for use with all paints.

5. Graco TrueCoat 360 DS Electric TrueAirless Sprayer

Graco TrueCoat 360 DS Electric TrueAirless Sprayer

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Spray

Quantity: 1

Size: 2.04 kg

Best Feature: Efficiency

If you want to try using a spray on your railings, the Graco TrueCoat 360 DS Electric TrueAirless Sprayer will give you the most benefits. It allows you to easily adjust the speed, helping you get the right amount of coverage on smaller projects. It's also easy to hold and maneuver while using.

6. FoamPRO Fine Finish Roller

FoamPRO Fine Finish Roller

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Roller

Quantity: 1

Size: 2-inch length

Material: Foam

Best Feature: Smooth finish

If you're working on thinner metal or wood railing, you can consider the FoamPRO Fine Finish Roller. This roller is the perfect size for quickly applying paint to your railings with little mess. It also works great with various paints and stains.

7. Wooster Foam King Paintbrush

Wooster Foam King Paintbrush

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Brush

Quantity: 1

Size: 2-inch

Material: Polyurethane foam

Best Feature: Quality

For those wanting to stain or paint their wooden railings with a foam brush, opt for the Wooster Foam King Paintbrush. The foam is super absorbent and easily applies your paint or stain smoothly. It's also been approved to work with all paints and stains.

8. Graco Magnum X5 Electric TrueAirless Sprayer

Graco Magnum X5 Electric TrueAirless Sprayer

Image credit: Amazon.ca

Type: Spray

Quantity: 1

Size: 6.8 kg

Best Feature: Easy to use

Also from the Graco family, the Magnum X5 Electric TrueAirless Sprayer can help your railings look beautiful. It allows you to control the paint flow, reducing the amount of mess made. It also allows you to spray directly from your paint bucket and works for both indoor and outdoor use.

What’s the best type of brush for railings?

When choosing a brush for painting your railings, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Size: Paintbrushes should be around 1-inch for control. If you want to try using a roller, you should opt for a 4-inch mini or smaller.
  • Material: The best paintbrush for metal railings will be one with natural bristle and the best roller brush will be one with a ⅜-inch nap. For wooden railings, consider using brushes or rollers made from foam or synthetic bristles.
  • Bristles: If painting with a brush, opt for one with angled sash bristles. This will help you maintain control and create a smooth finish.
  • Sprayers: If you want to use a spray instead, make sure you’re using an airless sprayer that is HVLP (high volume, low pressure) or allows you to adjust the paint flow to avoid huge messes.

Best way to paint railings: brush, roller, or spray

In most cases, a paintbrush will be the best tool for painting your railings. Given the size and design of railings, using a brush will give you the most control while painting. It will also allow you to better achieve full coverage and give your railings a smooth finish. If your railings have a simpler design, you can try using a mini roller brush. This will allow you to cover your railings faster, but might not result in the same quality or efficiency that you’d get from a paintbrush.

A closeup of a small pile of different paintbrushes

You can also try using a sprayer, if you want to rent or invest in one. However, be warned that this might result in some major messes to clean up.

Choose a brush if…

  • You’re painting detailed railings.
  • Your railings are smaller in size.
  • You want the best coverage and finish.

Choose a roller if…

  • You’re painting railings with a simpler design.
  • You’re painting wider railings.
  • You want to speed up your painting.

Choose a spray if…

  • You’re in a hurry.
  • You want great coverage in less time.
  • You’re not worried about having to clean up afterwards.

Best way to paint metal railings: safely and with no marks

If your railings are metal, it’s normal to be nervous about painting them. Not only is quality a concern, but there are also safety concerns to be aware of. Being aware of what you’re working with beforehand will ensure that your painting project goes smoothly.

One of the biggest concerns when working with metal railings is the presence of lead. Before the 1980s, many metal railings were painted with lead paint. Lead is especially dangerous due to the ways it can affect your body, so it’s important to test your railings before you begin painting. Make sure to wear the proper safety equipment - such as a mask, gloves, and coverall suit - and invest in a lead testing kit to confirm whether or not it’s present.

Safety is only one of the reasons you might be considering painting your metal railings. If you find you’re dealing with any of the following, it might be time to grab your brushes:

  • Rust: This is a good indicator of weather damage and will require removal and a new coat of paint to help your railings look brand new.
  • Cleaning: Removing stuck on dirt and debris will likely result in the original coating being removed, so you’ll want to prepare to add a fresh coat of paint afterwards.
  • Old age: Over time, your railings will likely show cracks, scuff marks, peeling, and other signs of wear and tear; which is the ultimate invitation to paint them.
  • Lead paint: Following all protocols to have your old paint removed and replaced with new paint will make your railings safer for use.

How to paint or repaint a metal railing

Given the nature of the project, painting a metal railing requires a few more steps than most other DIY paint projects. Follow these steps to safely paint or repaint your metal railings and achieve a smooth finish:

  1. Test for lead: Wear the proper safety equipment (mask, gloves, and coveralls approved for lead exposure) and follow the instructions on your test kit to check if lead is present in the original paint.
  2. Prep: Once you’ve confirmed it’s safe to move forward, place cloths or other protective materials underneath your railings.
  3. Scrape off the old: Use a metal scraper and/or wire brush to remove the old paint, rust, and debris from the railings.
  4. Clean: Use a scrubbing pad to clean any remaining dirt and dust off the railings.
  5. Sand: Use 150-grit sandpaper to help prepare your railings for new paint.
  6. Clean again: Use a damp cloth to remove the debris caused by sanding. If your railings tested positive for lead, make sure to safely dispose of the cloths after use.
  7. Prime and let dry: Apply a coat of primer to your railings using your preferred paintbrush or roller, then allow it to dry.
  8. Paint: Now it’s time to apply two coats of paint using your preferred painting tools to your railings. It’s recommended that you apply two coats of paint.

Now that you’ve learned everything about painting your railings, it’s time to get going. If you’re thinking you’d like to go the professional route instead, the City Painters is here to help. Contact us here or give us a call for a quote.