View Full Version : Brush Life?

04-20-2010, 01:05 AM
I have been using oils since I started painting last Nov. and have just made the switch over to acrylic and am finding that my brush life seems to be short. I really don't know for sure as I am completely new and have had no classes etc., but how long should a brush last? For instance, I seem to get no more than 2 paintings from a no.2 filbert if attempting a small 11x14 wildlife painting. Typically the brushes start to curl outwards at the tips. I clean the brushes after every use with brush cleaner and reshape.

I appreciate that there are huge variables depending upon brush make and technique etc., but was just wondering if there is anything general I should be doing different? I apologize if this is a question that has been answered in depth before, but I failed in my attempts to find anything through the search function :o.

I should add that although this is my first post, I have been lurking since Nov. and appreciate the excellent information and inspiration that I have received from this forum! Truly an excellent resource for newbies like myself!:)

04-20-2010, 06:38 AM
Could you share what kind of bristle is being used. Some of the organic ones are harder to keep. Many use synthetic bristles and they seem to last the best. In particular talkon in either red or white seems to work well. I have brushes that are now over 20 years old and still doing fine. Others are only good for a year or so. Acrylics are notorious for being a bit rougher on brushes but what you are experiencing seems a bit excessive if you can only get two paintings out of a brush.

You might consider trying different brands until you find what works best for you.

Zoe Sotet
04-20-2010, 06:54 AM
Some of my brushes are the same ones I've been using for 15 years. And I'm Rough with my brushes.
Unlike with oils with acrylic paint you have to rinse while you're painting otherwise the paint starts to dry in the brush.

04-20-2010, 01:35 PM
I have been using Loew-Cornell 7000 and 7500C as well as Expression Robert Simmons (?). I have just been using whatever I can find at Michaels that are rated for acrylic and are the size and style I need. These brushes are synthetic, but maybe they are of poor quality?

I assume that my brush life will extend as I learn more and improve technique, but I was a bit surprised by how fast this last one (Robert Simmons) began to curl out at the tip. I thought it may just be due to my blending attempts with the acrylics :eek:.

I will have a search for brush recommendations as I am sure that is a subject that will return a ton of threads, but thank you for your help! Now I know that there is something wrong!

04-20-2010, 05:42 PM
I love all the Loew-Cornell brushes in the 7000 - 7500 series. :heart: They are quality brushes, but meant for certain kinds of techniques. I do a lot of strokework, like calligraphers do, making "S" strokes, comma strokes, etc. I need brushes in which the bristles flair out full & wide when pressed down, flattened against the canvas, the ferrule straight up at a 90 degree angle to the flattened bristles. The strokes are pulled in the natural direction of the bristles. Then when I release pressure and stand the bristles straight up, the bristles straighten & spring back immediately to a tight chisel edge, so I can finish painting in a thin line. I can't buy cheapy brushes as they are too mushy and have no spring.

The Loew Cornell 7000 series brushes are designed specifically for that technique. They are the favorite brushes for decorative painters. One of my favorite decorative painting teachers (who has been painting for 30 years,) has been using the same brushes for years. They still have plenty of spring to them. She let me borrow one of her well used ones, so I could test it out against one of the cheapy brushes I had, that was total mush and had no spring.

Are you trying to use these brushes for scrubbing techniques? Scrubbing and rubbing the brushes against the direction the bristles flow? They aren't designed for that. They really are meant for stroking. Also, these bristles aren't really meant to be used on canvases, especially for scrubbing and pushing the base coat of paint into the texture of the canvas, nor for laying down an underpainting layer right on a canvas. The abrasive texture of the canvas wears down the chisel edge in no time. They are meant more for the upper layers, (applying paint to paint,) and especially for detailed finishing strokes.

You might want to switch to cheap white bristle brushes to lay down base coats, underpainting layers, scumbling/scrubbing techniques or for drybrushing. The natural hairs will wear down quickly, too. But the extra body in those bristles are better for those techniques. Plus you can get them so cheap! If you buy from Michael's, remember to download & use a 40% off coupon for each brush. Just Google "Michael's Coupons" for one. There's usually one almost always available. :thumbsup:

I just cut up a bright bristle brush I had and turned it into a scrubby filbert, so I can do some scrubbing techniques and drybrushing. But, they do make white bristle filberts. :thumbsup:

Also, why are you using a #2 filbert for a 11x14 painting? You should use the largest brush you can comfortably use for an area, then try one size larger. Try a #8 or #10 size brush. (You can always go smaller for more detailed work.) But, for underlayers, the point is to try to be free and loose for layers that won't show as much. Otherwise you will be unnecessarily painting for days. For the basecoats, try a 1/2" or 1" brushes.

Since you are doing wildlife, do try out a Loew Cornell rake brush. Either 3/8" or 1/2" filbert or flat head. They are wonderful for painting fur & feathers. :clap: Instead of having to individually paint each stroke of hair, the rake brush paints several wispy hairs in one stroke. Makes you look like you did so much more work than you actually did. ;) :thumbsup:

Also, some people here have been recommending using hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to clean their brushes. Be careful which kinds of bristle brushes you use them on.

It does a great job on removing paint from brushes (and clothes, if you catch the spot while it's new.) But, you have to be careful with some of the synthetic hair brushes. Some brands of brushes you can only leave it on for 5 minutes as it starts to dissolve the glues or bristles, some you can't use it on at all.

I was in a class several weeks ago and about 4 people said do NOT use the hand sanitizer/cleaner on Royal & Langnickel synthetic brushes because the bristles will dissolve instantly. I made a note of it, as I do have a few Royal brushes.

But, a couple weeks ago, I was cleaning some brushes and used the hand sanitizer for about a minute, rubbing each brush in my palm then rinsing.

As soon as I did one particular brush, I saw the golden color from the Golden Taklon instantly dissolve into my palm and the sheen come off the bristles. Sure enough, it was one of my cheap Royal brushes. I washed it out right away but, the golden color has been continually coming off since as the bristles really are disintegrating. I ruined a great filbert brush. I was using it on a WIP, painting hydrangeas and couldn't complete the painting until I bought a new filbert. (I replaced it with a Loew Cornell 7000 filbert, and do not expect to replace it again for years. :thumbsup: )

The hand sanitizer also killed one of my Blick white bristle fan brushes as soon as I put it on. It will no longer "fan" properly, no matter what I use to coat and try to re-train the bristles into position. :confused:

I switched to using the Master's brush soap. For what I spent on replacing & ruining brushes, it's better to go with the proper, quality products. It's gentle, but works great at removing the residue of acrylic mediums, like glazing medium, which really coats the bristles and makes them stiff.

04-20-2010, 09:29 PM
Wow! That is starting to explain some of my problems. I am doing a fair bit of light scrubbing. I definitely am not doing the entire painting using the no.2, but do work down to this when beginning the detail portion of the painting. Would most people doing detailed wildlife paintings use canvas or am I better off using a masonite/hard board surface instead? I imagine my brushes would last longer on a smoother surface from what you mention.

Thank you all for the help!