Don’t Brush It Off: Taking Care of Your Paint Brushes Tips

clean brushes

Accomplished and novice painters alike know the importance of proper cleaning and maintenance of paint brushes. Taking the little extra time to properly clean your brushes after you paint will extend how long you can use them, saving you from continually having to buy new brushes. All it takes is a little lukewarm water, some mild soap, and a bit of patience.

Finished painting for the day? Follow these do’s and don’ts so that your next painting session will be just as enjoyable as the first!

  1. Wear gloves if you worry about the toxicity of your paint or the sensitivity of your skin. Pay attention: if the paint is staining your skin causing your skin to crack, use gloves!
  2. Use a clean, soft cloth or tissue, wipe off any excess paint. The best way to do this is to gently squeeze the bristles from the ferrule edge outwards to the tip with your fingers or a cloth.
  3. Rinse the brush. Oil paints require rinsing in turpentine or oil. Water-based mediums can be rinsed in lukewarm water.
  4. Wipe the brush on a cloth to remove the last of any paint.
  5. Wash the brush gently with a bit of mild soap or gentle dish soap. If your paints aren’t toxic, work up a small lather of soap and gently scrub the brush in your hands. Otherwise, dab the brush in soap (Gently, gently!) and make a lather in a container.
  6. Rinse, repeating until the water runs clean and there is no trace of any colour still coming out. Make sure there is no paint left within the bristles. Certain paints may permanently stain the bristles over time, but the brush will be perfectly fine to use – as long as you make sure to remove any lingering paint.
  7. Remove any leftover soap by doing a final rinse in clean, lukewarm water.
  8. Gently shape the head of your brush into its original shape with your fingers.
  9. If your brush is too misshapen to be shaped by your fingers, wrap a piece of toilet paper around the bristles while they are still wet. As the paper dries, it will pull the bristles into shape by contracting around them.


  1. Pull on the bristles to get excess paint out – pulling on bristles will tear some of them out.
  2. Use hot water. Hot water can damage the ferrule by expanding or loosening it, which can then cause the bristles to drop out.
  3. Leave your brushes to dry bristles down. If your brush dries head down, the bristles will splay our and dry misshapen. Put it handle-end first in an old yogurt container or jar.
  4. Let acrylic paint dry on a brush. Acrylic pain is water-resistant when dry – if you let it dry, it’s not coming off!
  5. Leave brushes standing in water. This is not proper care and can ruin them.
  6. Force paint out of brush using high water pressure. This will weaken the bristles, and can cause them to loosen and fall out. Rinse gently several times as opposed to blasting the brushes once.


  • Use separate brushes for your oil paints and for water-based mediums. It’s also important to use separate brushes for masking fluid and varnish.
  • Natural bristle brushes can stiffen and lose flexibility. If you desire, you can soften your brush: after cleaning it, dip it in a bit of the oil you use as a medium.
  • Are your brushes out of shape? Sometimes you can reshape synthetic brushes by soaking them in hot (not boiling, but hot) water.

Tips on Watercolours Paintings

A Word on Water Colours

Compared to other art forms, watercolours require little set up and almost no instruction on how to begin using them:  add water to the paint, and you’re off!  With such a simple procedure, watercolours are an excellent foray into painting for the beginner, or another technical method for the seasoned artist to easily add to their repertoire.

Time and practice are still necessary parts of the equation to acquire proficiency, just as with any other art style or form.  However, keep the following tips in mind so that you can approach water colour painting with confidence, and start creating!

Looks Can be Deceiving

When wet, watercolours are dark and vivid; however, when they dry, they dry much, much lighter and paler.  This may mean it takes you a while to achieve just exactly the right hue that you want – knowing exactly the amount of water to add is a skill acquired only with practice! If you find your paintings are too pale, add more water to your paint, or add another layer of colour.

Quick as a Wink

Water colours dry very quickly. To avoid frustration, test small samples of colour on scrap paper to see if the dry outcome will achieve the desired hue before you use the paints in your piece.

Dry isn’t Definite

Even when watercolours dry, they are still soluble: applying water to the dry paint will turn it back into wet paint to once again work with. This means mistakes are much easier to fix and changes much easier to make! You can easily remove some paint to achieve a lighter colour, mix it with a new paint for a whole new colour and tone, or even lift the paint entirely off the paper.  If you do end up re-wetting dry paint, do be careful to treat the paper gently: scrubbing at the paper too much will damage the surface.


Water colours aren’t just pale: they’re transparent. Layers of paint can be seen through upon drying, making mistakes visible. However, don’t be discouraged, embrace it! It is all part of the painting process.

Light à Dark

Any white in watercolour paintings comes not from the paint, but from the white of the paper. This means the usual advice is to paint from light to dark – start with the lightest tones and work towards the darkest. But painting is all about experimentation:  you never know what you might create when you put down dark colours earlier than the prescribed method. Shake things up!