Read these 10 Artist Brush Care Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Art Supplies tips and hundreds of other topics.
My Brush is Dried Out! New Tip: Did you let your brush dry with paint all over it? First, you need to remember the rule to clean your brushes immediately after working! Second, there is a way to get your brush back in working order with something you most likely have in your home already! If you have liquid fabric softener, try soaking your paint-caked brush in it for awhile to loosen up any paint. After you have allowed it to soak and soften, simply rinse it and wash with soap and water for a nice clean brush!
Every paintbrush you purchase will have a number associated with it. Every number on every paintbrush stands for something. The numbers on the brush usually are found in mm or inches and usually represent the width of the paintbrush's head. An artist's brush usually is represented by numbered sizes 000 to 20 as the most common artist brush size. A very fine brush would be the size of 20/0 but brushes this fine are not commonly used.
A painter does not hold his paintbrush one specific way all of the time. He also doesn't just grasp his brush like he would if he was writing a letter and holding his pen to do so. A painter can hold his brush in several different ways to get several different results. If he holds the brush near the bristles like a pen or a pencil he will get the artist very detailed results. If the artist holds the paintbrush higher up on the brush will get the artist a completely different result. If you purchase long handled paintbrushes you can try holding your paintbrush several different ways while painting to see which one you like the best.
Taking care of your brushes is simple, and can save you a lot of money. Don't leave your brushes sitting in a cup of water or cleaner, this will ruin the brushes bristles. Missing just one wash can mean that you will need to buy a new brush. Washing your brushes properly isn't hard. Wash your brushes using soap specially formulated for washing fine art brushes. Put some of the soap in the palm of your hand and swish the brush back and forth over your palm. Then, rinse the brush and wash it again. Keep washing and rinsing the brush until the rinse water runs clear. Store all of your brushes so that they are laying flat to keep the bristles from flaying.
Brushes come in a variety of shapes and each are better used for a specific painting purpose than another. A round brush is actually more pointed and used for very detailed painting, such as making words or letters. A flat shaped brush is used for putting paint on something quick and even. A bright shaped brush is actually a flat brush that has very hard or stiff bristles and is a good way to put paint into the canvas weave when working with a thinner paint. A rigger is a round brush with long bristles and traditionally is used for fine lines and when painting with an oil based paint or with a watercolor.
When choosing your brush to work with you must think before you paint! If you are painting something that requires a lot of detailed work than you won't want to paint with a fan paintbrush because those types of brushes are for working with a larger surface. Instead you will want to choose a brush that is made for detailed work, such as a round brush. It also works the other way, if you are painting a large surface and you want to cover it quickly, you certainly wouldn't use a brush made for detailing. Instead you would choose a brush that allows you to paint larger surfaces in a quick amount of time, such as a flat brush.
Artists do not typically use just one paintbrush all the time. In reality artists need several different paintbrushes in all shapes and sizes in order to create a masterpiece. If you are just starting out in the painting world, pick paintbrushes of all sizes. You will need large and small and something in-between! Surgeons typically use several different sizes of scalpels when operating, an artist is no different- he needs different size tools for his operation also!
Many artists prefer to use animal bristle brushes, but many don't. Some choose to use a synthetic artist brush. Synthetic brushes are brushes with synthetic hair that is very similar to animal hair, but much more affordable. Synthetic brushes are easier to clean because they don't hold the paint as much as natural hair brushes and they are often more durable and harder to damage than natural hair artist's brushes.
Watercolor and ink brushes require special care. Unlike the paintbrushes that are made for oils or acrylics, which are stiff and sturdy, watercolor and ink brushes have soft and delicate bristles that can't take much abuse. Mistreated watercolor or ink brushes will lose their shape and will not hold pigment as well as before. The two key aspects of caring for these brushes include careful cleaning and mindful storage. When you are using a watercolor or ink brush, always rinse the tip immediately in a cup of water rather than allowing pigment to dry in the brush--especially ink, which will ruin the brush immediately if it dries. Don't allow the brush to rest tip-down in the water cup for any length of time; instead, rinse it vigorously and then place it tip-upward in a separate cup. As soon as you can, use a mild soap and cool running water to clean the bristles. Be gentle when cleaning the bristles, which are easily misshapen. Allow the bristles to air dry by placing the brush in an empty coffee can with the tip facing upward. This is also the best way to store watercolor or ink brushes long-term.
Artists have a wide array of choices for what bristle type they want on their paintbrushes. You can buy a paintbrush made with camel hair. Camel hair bristles don't actually come from a camel however. Camel hair paintbrushes are actually made with leftover hair from other types of brushes. Way to recycle, art industry! Camel hair paintbrushes are one of the most popular types of paintbrush bristle on the market today. Another type of hair available on paintbrushes is squirrel hair. This type of brush will hold your paint in it for long amounts of time and will create a paint job that is very concise and smooth looking. You can also purchase paintbrushes made from the hair of an ox, a pig's ear and a goat. All these types of hair will create a different result when compared to the other. Sable brushes are a very popular choice in brushes today. They are considered quite strong and make wonderful marks as you use them. It all comes down to what you prefer to use as an artist.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|