Mini Tips Tuesday #1: Brush Care

It’s here! Our very first Tuesday Tips. I’ll be doing this on the first Tuesday of each month. (Apologies for being a day late, I had some technical issues to fix.)

First up is brush care! It is one of the most important things in painting. There is a lot to know and consider when it comes to care. 

“Why is brush care so important anyway?”

Brush care is important because if you don’t care for them properly or at all you will be going through brushes like they’re nothing. Some brushes, especially real hair brushes, can run upwards of $20USD for one brush. So like all of your tools you will want to keep them in working shape. You can be a little rougher on brushes that are meant for jobs that may be for dry brushing and similar painting techniques. A little extra care after painting is probably the most important thing. Not only will it save you hassle later one but it will save you money.

“What should I do to prepare my brushes for painting?”

When you first get your brushes you will want to clean them before you even start painting. Many manufacturers will put a glue of sorts in the bristles. This is to keep them from fraying and getting ruined in transit to you. Most paint brush companies will put a plastic tube over the tip for extra protection. Warm, not hot, water should suffice but if you want to use a soap as well then do it.

“What should I do while I paint to keep them in working order?”

While you are painting there are several things you can do to keep brushes in good shape. One thing to do is never let paint get up into the ferrule(the metal bit that holds the bristles to the handle). If you see the paint start getting too far up the bristles stop what you are doing and rinse as well as you can. If paint dries in the ferrule it can cause the bristles to split and splay out. If it gets to that point you will want to use a restorer to fix it. 

Next, if you are using paints from pots, use a cheap brush to move paint from the pot to the palette. You will want to use this brush or another cheap one to also mix and/or thin your paint. These two things are very hard on brushes. If you don’t want to use another brush for mixing just use the other end of the handle to stir it up. It is also a good idea to rinse your brush frequently, even if using the same color. This will help keep paint out of the ferrule. Also, never leave your brush sitting tip down in your water cup. This will cause the bristles to bend and become misshapen. Pick a specific brush for dry brushing. This is very rough on brushes and can ruin them quickly. Speaking of separate brushes you can use a different brush for metallic paint which can be harder on brushes than other paints.  Lastly, and this is a big one don’t let paint dry on your brushes, this again will make them unusable. 

“What do I do after painting?”

Always use warm, not hot, water to rinse well after a session. Many paint brushes have wax inside the ferrule that keeps it attached to the handle. This can loosen up over time if you use hot water regularly. After your initial rinse use your brush soap and gently massage it into the bristles. Rinse and repeat this until the water runs clear. Once it is clean use a little bit of the soap to reshape your brush and let it dry. This will not only condition your brushes but will keep them in the proper shape and will most likely keep it from splaying out. Of course you want to remember to wash it out before you start your next painting session.

“What kind of product(s) do I use to clean my brushes?”

There are many, many, many types of cleaners out there for cleaning your paint brushes. The most common thing I have seen recommended is Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver. This works as both a soap and a conditioner. If you have real hair brushes it is highly advised to use something that is both. For synthetic brushes you can get away with just a soap. I would also strongly suggest you get a soap specifically for brushes and not just use whatever you have lying around the house. For this post I’m going to focus on two types of soap. The Masters soap and Pink Soap. 

Masters soap is a hard puck, like a bar of soap, that comes in a small tub. For these purposes you probably don’t need more than a 1 or 2.5 ounce tub. It is intended to help clean after a painting session and then to be left in after cleaning as a conditioner. 

Pink Soap is a liquid soap and conditioner. I find it has similar cleaning abilities as the Masters soap but I feel it’s a little easier to work with in some cases because it is a liquid.

“How often should I clean them?”

It is recommended that you wash them every time you are done painting. The cleaner your brushes are when you start a painting session the better your brushes will work for you. 

“What is a brush restorer and how do I use it?”

Brush restorer is when you need to clean paint out of a ferrule. I’ll talk about the Winsor and Newton brush restorer. It is a water based cleaner that you soak your brushes in for a short amount of time. You want to ONLY soak the brush tip and the very end of the ferrule. If you get this on the handle or anything with paint on it it will strip that away. In some cases getting it on the handle will leave the paint tacky and rendering the brush unuseable. You also want to make sure that you use this in a glass container because it can melt plastic.

To use, pour some restorer into your glass jar first. Then you will set up your brushes so the tips won’t rest on the bottom of the jar, this will make them misshapen. I have found you only want to soak in 5 minute intervals. The bottle says to soak them overnight, I have done this and ruined more than one brush. After 5-ish minutes you will want to gently push the ferrule against a clean paper towel and pull towards you. Do this several times and then rinse with warm water. Then you may repeat pulling it across the paper towel. Once no more paint is coming out you should rinse the brush thoroughly to make sure all of the restorer is out of the bristles and then make sure to use a conditioner to restore the oils, in natural hair brushes, keeping them in working condition. 

There are other types of restorers out there. Such as the Mona Lisa Brush Shaper. This works more or less like a conditioner. You put some in after cleaning and then shape the tip and let dry. It seems to work well on brushes that are pretty beat up. It can’t save everything though.

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