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Paint brush n00b


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So, I don't know if there is a thread around here somewhere already about this... But... I've been painting for a little over half a year now, and I am finding that my paint brushes are wearing out and becoming frayed at the tip. I was wondering, since I've never actually bothered with it before... Is there a special way to take care of paintbrushes that will make them last longer? I know there is... But how? What kind of stuff do I need to do and what is the procedure to make the brushes stay pretty longer? Like... My W&N brush I got not all that long ago... Well.. It's not so pretty.. or white, anymore. :( I wanna be nice to my brushes. I really do. So please help!

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Don't worry too much about the bristles no longer being white. Certain pigments will stain the bristles no matter how often you wash them (or how well). Just the nature of the beast. As far as care goes...I'll just paste from another thread which I commented on:



Quick set of comments on this issue. I use a number of different brushes from cheap throw aways for doing weathering work to expensive DaVinci's and W&N brushes...if you take care of them, they will last for a long time.


Anywho, as mentioned getting paint in the ferrule of the brush is what is probably the number one cause of early brush death, and keeping the paint lower on the bristles will help with that issue. If you thin your paints a lot, they are more prone to being drawn up into the ferrule via capillary action (even more so with natural fiber brushes like the Series 7). So - you can use the paint unthinned - which due to its increased viscosity will help to keep it from getting up in the ferrule, or spend a bit of time on brush care.


Daily Cleaning - When you finish up with your painting, give the brushes a good rinse - but never let the brush soak in water on the bristles. This will flex them and can cause the bristles to break loose and start shedding. Normal room temperature water will work fine.


After the paint has been rinsed out, I like to use a normal brush soap like Master's or Mona Lisa's (I prefer Master's but have used both - Master's just seems more convenient). There are a few advantages of an actual brush soap over something like a shampoo - but both will work fine in a pinch (cheaper shampoos are actually better than expensive shampoos with all the extra junk). Use the palm of your hand to swirl up a lather and then rinse. If you are using natural brushes and will be putting them away for awhile (months, not days or weeks), go ahead and after you rinse - apply a bit more soap and leave it in. The soap will help to prevent the bristles from drying out and becoming brittle. Just remember, you will need to rinse them again before you use them.


Got Paint in the Ferrule - So what to do now? The bristles get splayed and you can't get them to come to a point no matter how much saliva you try... :D A good quality cleaner is what you need. I like W&N Cleaner & Restorer. It is a stronger cleaner that is designed to get rid of dried paints and will deal with most hobby/craft paints. The reason you don't want to use this all the time is that it will strip all the oils and what not from the bristles and when you are using natural fiber brushes...you want to keep some oils on them. To use it, put a little in a cup and swirl the brush around. Unlike normal, you want to make sure that the brushes are in at least half way up the ferrule. Keep them in the solution for five or 10 minutes. You should start to see little bits of dried paint floating around in the solution. After that, swirl some more and blot out on a paper towel. Keep doing that till you no longer see any of the dried paint come out.


Once you get done with the cleaner, you will need to use one of the brush soaps mentioned above in order to restore the oils that help to protect the brushes.


Brush Storage - Now that you have cleaned and cared for your brushes - just toss them in a cup with the bristles in the air? Nope - ideally you want to store your brushes with the bristles down. Art supply stores sell a number of different contraptions to deal with this. Barring that, store them flat - never with the bristles up. No matter how well you clean and rinse your brushes, small amounts of paint remain in the bristles. When you store them in a cup pointing in the air - that paint and water settle into the ferrule...which is bad. Storing them flat or with the bristles down keeps the water and paint out of the ferrule.

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As an addendum to Joe's good tips, another source of information is Judith Northood's very good article at Tabletop Gaming News on brush care.


Synthetic brushes will wear out relatively quickly when compared to a good natural hair brush even with good care.



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Here's a little blurb I wrote for another website; I hope it helps:



A good brush is only as good as you treat it.


1st: Never use soap to clean your brushes. It destroys the natural oils in sable hair, and will feather your tips out. Use clean, cold water. Hot water also loosens the bristles, destroying the point, so use cold, clean water.


2nd: Never use any mechanical devices to clean your bristles; like a hobby knife, or wire brush. This sounds obvious, but once you do, you have converted your detail brush into a drybrush. *On that note, if you get super glue on the bristles, you will have to use a hobby knife to "comb out" the glue...thus converting your brush.


3rd: OBVIOUSLY, NEVER set your brushes in the water. Put them in, stir them, but do not leave them in there to soak.


4th: Change your water every 30 minutes to an hour. Flecks of other colors are suspended in "dirty" water, and can clog up your brush. When you get clean water, wash your hand with soap, and rinse really well. The oils from your fingers transfer to the mini, thus transferring to the brush.


5th: Use a separate water cup for metallics. Do not go backk and forth with metallics and regular colors on the same brush if you can help it. But, if you have to, make sure to clean your brush with fresh, clean water. This is more of a painting issue than a brush issue.


6th: Select your "rag" carefully. Newer t-shirts, and paper towels are damaging to brushes, and the lint the create clings to bristles. When you swirl your brushes, or shake them in the water cup, these fibers can 'weave' in and out of bristles, causing them to skew. Personally, I use a couple of really old t-shirts that are way beyond the lint-stage. I also wash them every other week or so.

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