How to Clean Paint Brushes

Artist Paint BrushesOne of the most import tools in an artist’s tool box, in my opinion, is a good set of quality brushes. No craftsman can produce quality work with inferior grade tools. High quality paint brushes can range from a few dollars for a small round to nearly $100 for a large synthetic bristle.

No matter how much you pay for your brushes, they will not last very long if you don’t take care of them. The single most effective way to care for brushes is to keep them clean. When I’m finished painting for the day, I always wash my brushes thoroughly to keep any paint residue from building up in the bristles, especially near the ferrule.

Windsor and Newton Acrylic Artist BrushesIf I’m painting with acrylic paints, I keep a wash can, that has water and a wire screen inside, on my paint table. The water in the wash container is never deep enough to allow water to go above the top of the ferrule. Most paint brush handles are not painted inside the ferrule so water can penetrate into the wood if you submerge the brush above the ferrule. This causes the wood to swell and crack the finish painted on the wooden handle.

I take my brushes to the sink for my cleaning process. I place a few drops of dishwashing liquid in the palm of my hand and scrub the bristles of the brush in a circular motion in this soap against the palm of my hand. I rinse the brush and repeat the process until the soap stops removing color from the brush. I then rinse the brush one last time and shape the bristles of the brush while there is still water in the bristles. This helps the bristles hold their intended shape and prevents frizzing of the brush. If you dry the water from the bristles, they will frizz out like a head full of unkempt hair.

Windsor and Newton Artist Oil BrushesI then lay the brushes flat down on my paint table until the next morning. If the brushes are placed back in the brush caddy with the bristles pointing up while there is still water in the bristles, water from the bristles can drain down onto the unprotected wood inside the ferrule and cause swelling.

The only difference between cleaning the brushes when using acrylic paint and cleaning the brushes when usng oil paint is the thinner that goes in the wash can. When using a solvent based paint, I still wash my brushes with soap and water to remove the solvent from the bristles.

So as I tell you each time you come by, keep your brushes clean, your colors pure, and as always, thanks for stopping by the North Forty.


5 Ways to Improve Your Art

Thank you.

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One Response to How to Clean Paint Brushes

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