Relationship Advice: What Your Paintbrush Really Needs


Picking out a new paintbrush is a task that requires care and consideration. This is not solely due to quality paintbrushes running pricey, but because a painter depends on his/her tool to glide freely across the canvas with precision. Therefore, when buying a new paintbrush, ideally you are investing in a quality tool that can last many years. How do you help ensure that your new partner is at your side as long as possible? Like any other relationship, the key to success with your paintbrush is a little extra time and deliberate care.

What your paintbrush needs, but is too shy to say:

Don’t Hang Me Out to Dry

Being abandoned and forgotten about it not cool. So treat your paintbrush better. Letting paint dry and crust up the bristles of your brush is the number one way to lose a brush for good. Acrylics also have a pesky knack for speeding this process up since they dry faster than oil based paints. A way to avoid this is to use one brush at a time (fooling around with two brushes at once can also get you in trouble….) or by making sure to occasionally dip the brush you’re not currently using in water.

Don’t Make Me Bend Over Backwards for You

The shape of your brush is what ensures those precision strokes painters need. So the last thing you want to do is warp the head of your brush by leaving it face down in water. Doing this causes the bristles to bend, break, or spread. This bending will often mean that your bristles don’t come together in a point which is necessary for detail work.

Get to the Root of the Problem

A lot of time in relationships, we think that if we just address surface issues all will be fine and dandy. This usually isn’t true. So if you notice that your paintbrush’s bristles are spreading, it can be a sign of this deeper problem. One way to fix it is getting to the root of problem – literally. The root of where the bristles meet the ferrule (the metallic part of the brush connecting the handle and the bristles) can hide old crusted paint that has been building up over time. This build up at the base of the bristles can cause them to spread and not come to a clean point. The best way to avoid this is by not getting your ferrule in paint. If you slip up, don’t sweat it, just spend a little extra time cleaning this area at the end of your painting session.

Don’t Stand Me Up (…if i’m wet)

One big mistake is leaving a freshly clean brush standing bristle face up vertically to dry. You may think you’re protecting the shape of your brush, but you can actually be damaging the base. Leaving a wet brush standing up will cause the water from the bristles to drain downward. This water can then gather at the base of the handle inside of the ferrule causing the wood to rot and erode the glue within the ferrule. Instead, hang your brushes upside down to drip dry, or lay them horizontally.

Come Clean

This is ultimately the most important factor to ensuring your paintbrush lasts a long time. First, wipe away the excess paint with either your fingertips or a lint free rag. Then, using lukewarm water, rinse the brush. In addition to water, you are going to want to use some sort of soap. This can either be specialty brush soap, or it can be as easy as hand soap or Murphy’s Oil Soap. The key is to use soaps without many chemicals so as to be gentler on the hairs of the brush. Make sure to massage the soap throughout all the bristles of the brush, paying special care to the base. Don’t be alarmed if the bristles of the brush are tainted with color – this is natural and occurs over time. It also does not necessarily mean the brush is not clean. A good indicator that you have removed all the paint from the brush is to see if the water is running clear off the brush. Finally squeeze out excess water. Once your brush is dry, store it laying flat horizontally, or standing up vertically (a cheap trick is to use a foam block). Just make sure the head of the brush retains its shape.

There it is! A little relationship advice to help you and your brush live happily ever after.