View Full Version : Brush care and conditioning

08-26-2001, 10:22 AM
Since this topic was touched on in another thread I thought it might be useful for people to post their brush care routines all in one spot where it will be easier to locate for future searches.

Currently I do most of my painting with Winsor & Newton Series 7 sables but I use a couple of synthetics for more robust applications (scumbling, stippling etc.), rougher surfaces and larger areas - some Daler-Rowney Dalons and a couple of Crylas and I've recently tried W&N Galerias for the first time which I like a lot (for synthetics!) I also have a few squirrel mops but I use these infrequently, usually relying on an airbrush to do their sorts of jobs.

I use a double bath system for brush cleaning - two jars of water each with a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid - the first to rinse the bulk of the paint out, the second to rinse the dirty water from the brush. The detergent helps loosen pigment particles and improves flow slightly too. The second jar stays clean for ages and doubles for thinning the paint with, very important to prevent colour contamination when you paint very thinly. I always wet my brushes before loading with paint (with rounds I do this by rolling into the edge of the puddles of paint on the palette) and periodically during painting I rinse the brush clean and re-load. During use I try as much as possible to keep the paint to the top half of the bristles which helps minimise buildup of dried pigment near the ferrule. When I am finished with a given brush I rinse it thoroughly and dab it out on white kitchen paper, if any colour shows I rinse it again until it doesn't stain the paper. After each painting session I point the brushes with saliva, not in my mouth I hasten to add. All of this is designed to help maintain condition which is all-important for point-retention.

Every now and again, maybe three times a year, I will clean all the brushes I am using regularly by rinsing in isopropyl alcohol (acetone can be used to soften tougher buildups but this is very tough on natural bristles), doing the blotting test on paper and repeating if necessary. Then I lather them in normal handsoap (as W&N and most other sources recommend), rub in a little hair conditioner or moisturiser (feel a bit silly doing this with the synthetics!) shape the points and stand them up to dry. When I use them again I just rinse the brush and work as normal.

I have read in a number of places, including here in an old thread, that a mix of water and ammonia (about 3:1) is very good for cleaning brushes used for acrylics but I have not been able to try this for myself yet.


08-26-2001, 10:45 AM
cool, i usually wash my brushes out with soap.....i have one cup just to get the paint out and the i rinse under the sink. i shape them after i am done. well i might have to try some of the things you do. thanks for all the great info.