How to look after your paint brushes


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If you look after your paint brushes they should last a long time.

Firstly lets look at how to look after them whilst they are not in use. Where do you store your brushes? Brushes should be stored horizontally ie lying down, not hanging, not upright and most importantly not bristle side down in a jar.  To keep your the fibers of your brushes from damage they need to be store so they are not being bent in anyway.  There are plenty of storage options available in your local art supply store, craft store or even a thrift shop.  Personally I have my watercolour brushes stored in a brush roll and my other brushes in brush boxes that are clearly labeled for each type of painting medium ie all the brushes I use for oil painting are in one box marked “oil” and acrylic in another etc.

When using my brushes I have paper towels or rags next to my palette and water pot to lie the used brushes onto when they are not in use.  Brushes should never be left in the water pot or paint, as this can cause damage to the fibers and the glues that keep them attached to the brush.

It is also important to clean your brushes before the paint has a chance to dry into the fibers.

  • Watercolour and gouache brushes can be was with any mild soap and rinsed well, let them dry before storing.
  • Oil and Acrylic paint needs to be wiped onto a rag before a brush cleaner is massaged into the fibers, the excess cleaner is then wiped off before the cleaner is washed off the brushes with a mild soap, let them dry before storing.

If you treat your brushes well they will last a long time, as some can be expensive to purchase it is just a matter of getting value for your investment.

Happy Painting!!


Brushes – Acrylic/Oil


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I store my brushes in separate boxes for each painting medium ie a box for oil brushes, another for acrylic and another for gouache, my watercolour brushes have ended up in a brush roll instead of a box for some reason.

Today I am going to talk about the brushes I use for acrylic and oil painting, as both mediums use the same types of brushes with similar effects.  Using an acrylic paint to make the clean up afterward easier, I have tested a range of brushes.  Starting with the three widest in my kit; a foam brush a 1.5″ synthetic sky flow and a 1″ bristle brush.  I have taken photos of the marks made by each brush on acrylic paper.

The marks are interesting in both their differences and similarities.

Next are the short and long flat brushes, synthetic and hogs bristle.  Interestingly the hogs bristle held more paint and it went on thicker with stronger brush marks.

The next three are a hogs bristle filbert and round and a synthetic round.  I have a large number of round brushes in a variety of different sizes, I like the precision I can get in my strokes.

Most teachers seem to ask students to have a few sizes of flats, filberts and rounds as a starting point in their kit, other more specialized brushes can be added when you need them.

Some of the more specialized brushes include a liner, fans, combs and angle brushes as seen on the left.  One the right are two painting knives and sponge and toothbrush, but these are just the beginning, what a fingers, leaves, bubble wrap?  these are only a few of the possibilities out there – use your imagination.

Brushes – Watercolour

There are many different types of brushes on the market, it can be very confusing for a beginner  and even an artist starting a new medium.

So, let us examine the brushes that can be used when painting with watercolour. Watercolour brushes are using made with soft hair or soft synthetic fibers, the are benefits from both types of brushes.  Natural hair fibers are not completely smooth, they have scale like structures that gives it a greater water holding capability compared to the smooth synthetic fibers.  Synthetic fibers are stronger than the natural hair brushes which gives them a longer life or allows the artist to be a little rougher with the brush.  Some brands are made of a mixture of synthetic and natural fibers, such as Daler-Rowney’s Sapphire brushes, they are made of red sable and synthetic fibers to get the water holding capacity of the natural hair and the durability of the man made fiber.

A lot of watercolour artists tend to start their painting by laying down a wash.  The most suitable brushes for this technique are a hake brush, a mop brush or a flat wash.

I have two of these brushes in my kit, a goats hair hake and a synthetic flat wash.  The top wash is painted with the hake and the bottom wash with the flat wash brush.  Both have given great even results, the hake brush required one stroke left to right across the paper three times, the flat wash needed a second stroke.

There is also a style of brush that can create a wash as well as some finer details, it is great for creating washes around objects within the painting.  A pointed wash or squirrel wash brush has a teardrop style a fine tip to a wider body of hair and usually made of squirrel, though occasionally I have found the odd synthetic one.


The next two brushes are the mainstay style of watercolour painting, a pointed round. I have used two brushes the same size, one a synthetic bristled brush and the other with sable hairs.  These brushes come in a large range of sizes from 0000 to a 30, as the brush tends to come to a point it is possible to create small marks with a 30, but with the smaller brush size you will find that there is better control over the finer marks than there is with the larger brush.  The natural hair brush generally allows for a longer stroke than a synthetic brush due it its superior water holding ability.


These are the basic types of brushes generally used in watercolour painting; however, there are plenty of others out there that I do not use myself.  Which brushes you use will also depend on the style of painting that you do, if you like to paint the fine detail of botanical art for example you will tend to use the smaller brushes; for fluid or larger landscapes will let you use the bigger brushes.

I have purchased most of my brushes in the art store that I work at, you can also access them through their on-line store Arthousedirect




Light studies – still life in position


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A little while ago I took the opportunity to study the changes of light and shadows across a the length of a single day upon a still life setting.

The still life was set up near a set of double doors that faced north, this allowed for the morning sun to strike the set up directly followed eventually by a reflected afternoon light.

The following is a sequence taken from a power point presentation that I did for this study.


Whilst waiting for time to pass I also painted some quick colour studies in gouache, as I indicated in the slides.

I hope that you find these as interesting as I did, this was a fun project that eventually resulted in a few small oil paintings.