Unless you’re into finger painting, brushes are some of your most important tools.
These tools of the trade can be very costly, so it pays to give them the best treatment you can.
Brushes can last for years if they’re treated with care, and this makes a definite impact on your budget if you’re spending a lot for a good quality brush.
If you use cheap brushes, you’ll find they don’t handle nearly as well as a quality brush, and they don’t last long. A good quality brush that’s well cared for can last a long time and is a good investment.
There’s several common sense things you can do to preserve your brushes and extend their productive years. These tips are not time consuming and should be a part of your normal routine. If you get in the habit of proper brush maintenance, you’ll find it only takes a few extra seconds and you’ll be rewarded with happy brushes that are always willing to comply with your artistic demands.
Cleaning Your Brushes
Paint oozes down into the ferrule of your brush. When you’re done painting, be sure to get every little bit of paint out from the bristles. That means all the way down to, and including, the ferrule. Ignoring that last little bit every time you wash your brush will eventually build up until the whole brush is a stiff mess.
If you’re using throw-away brushes for a particular project, that’s one thing. However, continually throwing away brushes because they’ve dried to a hard glob can get pretty costly. Every cook has to clean up after preparing a meal, and it’s the same for painters. Part of your job as an artist is taking care of your mess when you’re done for the day.
Soaking Your Brushes
Soaking brushes until you’re ready to clean up for the day is one thing. Soaking brushes for an extended period is a good way to ruin a brush. Regardless of what you’re soaking them in, prolonged submersion causes harm in several ways.
If you’re soaking a brush, it’s standing on its most delicate component – the bristles. By doing this, you can permanently damage the shape of your brush.
Bristles are secured in the ferrule and around the handle with glue. Long exposure to water or cleaning solution can dissolve the glue that holds your brush together.
Wood expands and contracts depending on the amount of moisture it retains. Soaking your brushes in any liquid will expand the wood, and that can loosen the ferrule. Now you’ve got a wobbly brush with bristles falling out. Not the care your poor brush deserves.
Soak your brushes only as long as necessary to loosen any dried paint and finish cleaning them promptly.
Reshape Your Brushes
Brushes aren’t just a bunch of bristles shoved into a ferrule. The hairs or bristles are specifically chosen for their natural shape and are grouped in the ferrule to have a definite form.
After you’ve cleaned your brush, coax the bristles into shape with your fingers. Wrapping the bristles with a damp piece of paper towel or tissue and allowing it to dry will help reshape a stubborn, unkempt brush.
Treat Your Brushes Kindly
At times artists use their brushes in ways that could be considered brush abuse. Scrubbing to remove paint, or scumbling to add texture can be very hard on a brush. If you’re often guilty of such cruelty, set aside an old brush, or purchase inexpensive, throw-away brushes for this purpose.
Storing Your Brushes
If you store your brushes in a container so they’re at the ready, stand them on their handles. Regardless of the hardness of the bristles or size of the brush, don’t stand them on their bristle end. Over time, you will warp the shape of even the hardiest of brushes.
If you store your brushes in a tray or box, make sure the container is used just for brushes. Don’t pile assorted debris on them. You’ll run the risk of damaging the hair or forcing them out of shape by being squashed.
Taking care of your brushes really isn’t that big of a job. It’s just a few extra moments and a bit of common sense that will preserve and lengthen the lives of, what should be, some of your most cherished tools.