How to make your watercolor brushes last longer?

Brush care… Sounds kinda tedious doesn’t it? But here’s the thing, maintaining your brushes is important because you don’t want to keep replacing them.

So instead you make sure to care for them so they last longer!

In this post, I have summarized everything you need to know about brush care into 6 simple tips,

Let’s get into it!

Structure of a watercolor brush:

Let’s start with the structure of the brush:

First, you have the tip/toe which refers to the point of the brush. Second, you have the belly of the brush.

This is the part that holds the most water.

Next is the heel of the bristles where the brush hairs meet the ferrule. The ferrule is the metal part of the brush that connects the bristles to the handle. It is secured to the handle through the crimp.

The last part of the brush is the handle:

Tips to maintain and care for your brushes so that they last longer

1. Keep them clean but avoid over-cleaning

Always clean them when you’re done working and never let them dry with paint still in them.

However, don’t over-clean them.

You can damage your brushes if you constantly use soaps that contain harsh chemicals. I suggest rinsing them gently with clean running water before leaving them to dry.

Avoid using shampoo, antibacterial soaps, detergents, and hot water when washing brushes. You can use soaps specifically made for watercolor brushes or soaps which are less harsh.

2. Pre-wet your palette

Before any painting session make sure to pre-wet your paint palette using a spray bottle or a dropper (pipette).

This will ensure that the paint is soft so that the soft bristles of your brush don’t get damaged as you plow through the paint.

Never use your brush to dig into dry paint, this will damage the brush causing the bristles to become rough and lose their shape.

3. Dont leave them in the water jar

Never leave the brush sitting in your rinsing jar, especially with the tip facing the bottom!

This will cause the brush to lose its shape. Not to mention, the water will cause the handle to expand and eventually crack.

4. Place them properly to dry

Leave them to dry with plenty of room and with the tip facing down or flat on the table. You can place them on a painting board tilted at an angle, just make sure to add a paper towel to soak the excess water.

If the brushes are stored with the tip facing up when wet it will damage the brush. This is because the water will travel through the ferrule and be absorbed by the wooden handle.

Eventually, this will cause the finish to flake and fall off.

how to clean watercolor brushes

5. How I clean my brushes

In order to help your watercolor brushes last longer there are certain methods for cleaning during painting and after.

  • Tips to cleaning the brush during the painting process:
    • Use two jars of water
    • Don’t take the brush all the way to the bottom of the jar. Instead, hold it about halfway and swirl it around.
    • If you switch brushes while painting lay the other one flat on the table and don’t leave it in.
  • Cleaning the brushes after painting:
    • Rinse the brush in clean water or under a running tap
    • Occasionally I will wash my brushes with soap. I simply wet the soap with water then using the brush I will gently stroke the surface. After this, I will rinse it in clean water. Avoid using soaps with additives and harsh chemicals.
    • You can also purchase watercolor soaps, these will come in handy when rinsing the pigment from the belly of the brush.

6. Only use them for watercolor

Only use watercolor brushes for watercolor.

Keep a separate brush for masking fluid. Never use watercolor brushes for acrylics or oil paint.

Watercolor brushes are soft and delicate, and acrylics and oil paints are thicker and are likely damage to the bristles.

That’s it for this post on brush care! Next time you take out your paints, make sure to follow these tips!

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