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Care of Paint Brushes

Paint Brush Care

Always dampen brushes BEFORE use unless they are specified dry brushes. If you load a dry brush with wet colour, the colour begins to dry in the centre of the bristles down close to the ferrule. Dampening the bristles reduces paintability to dry in the centre. But do not just dip the brush into the water and then go into the colour, the moisture needs to be worked into the hair/bristles of the brush. Working the brush on the palm of your hand and forcing the moisture into the bristles helps, it also transfers some of the oil from your hand and helps to condition the brush. Following that, dab the brush on a towel to remove excess moisture before dipping into the colour.

Never place brushes loaded with paint aside and allow them to dry in the hair/bristles. It is better to wash the brush immediately when done using them, even if the brush is only going to be inactive for a few minutes. When rinsing brushes, it is not advisable to scrape the brush around the bottom of the cleaning jar/container. Firstly, paint pigment drops to the bottom of the container, secondly, doing this can damage the hair/bristles. Some cleaning containers have drainage sieves or coils at the bottom so that any brush washed is kept away from the pigment sediment at the bottom, but rigorous cleaning on these can still damage hair/bristles. Gently swish the brush back and forth in the bowl and allow it to brush against the sides or bottom. Brush basins with rounded, textured bottoms are perfect for aiding the process.

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Paintbrush with green paint dipped into
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dirty water in a dirty  glass jar with a

It is good practice to change the water on a regular basis and to have separate containers to wash different paint types. Being mostly involved in model kit builds, and do a great amount of airbrushing, I only use De-Ionised water.

I have washpot/rinse pots for:

  • Acrylic paints an initial wash in between paint colour changes.

  • Acrylic paints second rinse, following finishing with a particular colour, before proper cleaning and conditioning of paintbrush before putting away.

  • Metallics.

  • Decal brush, Washes, or Glazes.

Do not leave any brush in water for extended periods because with wooden brushes the wetness can cause the handle to swell, resulting in cracking paint and unstable ends. Synthetic brush hair is glued into position, and prolonged standing in water can break down the glue making the hair loose.

After rinsing, brushes do not allow them to dry with the bristles/hair face upward or flat on a rack or table, as this can damage the ferrule and can possibly soften the glue them as mentioned above. Drip drying racks are plentiful, these allow users to place brushes with their bristles/hair face facing downward, allowing the moisture to drain away.

After washing the brush, check to see if any colour remains in the hair by brushing across a paper towel, do not push forward, as this will damage the bristles/hair. If the colour appears on the towel, rinse again. Cleaning materials advised are:

  • Brush Paint Cleaner or Purger

  • Brush Conditioning Soap

  • Brush Conditioner Gel

When storing natural haired brushes for long periods use a brush conditioner soap to thoroughly clean them. Brush Conditioning Soap or Gel can also be used to reshape the bristles/hair and stored in this way.

With Brush Conditioning Soap, moisten the dip the bristles/hair and gently work the bristles/hair into the soap, rinse and when no further paint pigment is visible in the Conditioning Soap, either twist into its original shape or use a Conditioning gel to do the same.

When storing brushes do not store them in confined containers where the hairs can get pushed out of shape or break.

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