Brush Care for the Meticulous Artist Painter

not everyone uses brushes to paint, but if you do...

21 June 2024

Brush Care for the Meticulous Artist Painter

Do you use paintbrushes in your art practice?

If so (and not everyone does), you know how much of an investment brushes can be. No matter what paint medium you use, caring for your brushes will extend their life.

In general, paints are hard on brushes. Even watercolors. Paint pigments are composed of abrasive materials, even if finely ground and well-prepared. Over time, this abrasion can dry out and roughen the bristles (natural or synthetic). Solvents or binders stick to the bristles. If all materials aren't completely removed after each use, your bristles will stiffen. This stiffness can cause the bristles to split or break at the tips and at the ferrule.

Cleaning after each use protects the brush's pliability. We don't want any solvent or binder or pigment hanging out in the bristles or ferrule.

A Simple Trick To Extend The Life of a Paintbrush

A great tip I picked up some years ago at a paper arts workshop: hair conditioner! Why didn't I think of that? I started using a hair conditioner after a thorough cleaning. It amazed me how much better the bristles looked and felt, and how well they kept their shape. (Old school had us licking the brush tips to preserve their shapes. Yikes. Don't do that.)

It doesn't take much. Just a teeny daub worked through the bristles and you're set. 

Try it, and let me know how it works for you.

Julia O'Reilly