Professionals Guide to Brush Care
A Perfect example of do as I say… not as I do.

Written by:
Chris “Wolfy” West


So you read the article I wrote on bulk painting and now you have finally started painting on that massive pile of plastic and metal sitting in that closet that no one is allowed to open but you. But you have run into a problem, cause all you have sitting at your desk are a pile of really old extremely worn out bulk bin brushes that haven’t been able to make a point in about 10 years.

First things first… go out and buy some new brushes. And you go out and you are at the hobby store or the game store and you have gone all deer in the headlights at the sight of all the choices you have to pick from. Obviously you can go cheap and get the brushes that come in a set for like $5 (which I personally don’t recommend for anything more than basecoating models), or you can go all the way in the opposite direction and get the Windsor & Newton Series 4 or the Raphael 8404 watercolor brushes. Yes they are actually watercolor brushes and not acrylic brushes. Now I know that there is a reason and a theory for this… but I have no clue what it is… I just know that they are really good but really expensive brushes. Personally when it comes to most painting there is nothing wrong with going with the middle of the road brushes from Games Workshop… err… Citadel… whatever. Those fancy flat black colored brushes with the color coated ends. In all honesty I use these more than any other brush because they are readily available to most of us and they are not to terribly badly priced. Another thing I am not going to try and steer you towards what kind of bristles to go with. As each painter is different, some prefer synthetic, some are more of a fan of the blended bristle brushes, and then some of the more top tier painters will tell you that you need to go with natural hair bristles. I am not going to do any of this and I am not going to go into the pros and cons and types as this is not a brush guide… this is a care guide.

RINSE YOUR BRUSH… OFTEN
So you ready to start painting you choose your favorite paint (I will write about different paint and their pros and cons at a later date) and you paint. Now when you paint you need to rinse your brush at a regular basis as a personal rule about every 4 dips in the paint or so. Now this does a couple things, 1 it keeps the old paint from drying in the bristles of the brush and, 2 it helps keep the bristles pointed. Now one thing that I know I do and a lot of other painters out there do is lick their bristles to repoint them. As a brush gets older and doesn’t hold its point as well I will tend to do this more.

Now this is the first example of do as I say and not as I do because when I get in a groove I tend to not rinse as often as I should. Now this tends to wear out the bristles a little faster.

When you rinse your brush out just swish out around in your water cup DO NOT rub the brush on the bottom of the cup as this will cause the bristles to “fray” out and not want to hold a point at all. Also I can not stress how important it is for you to change your water pretty regularly. Now I can not say how often you should change your water other than change it when it gets dirty. “But its dirty as soon as I dip the brush in the first time” you say… well if you feel like wasting the water and change it after every time you rinse. Then you are a wasteful person and should be swatted with a rolled up newspaper. But change the water when it is really dirty. One school of thought is to change your water at a timed interval another is for you to change it after every so many colors. That is more of a personal preference thing so I am not going to tell you how often you should get fresh water other than you really need to every so often.

Rotate the Brush.
Now this does not mean switch out which brush you are using for another of the same size every so often. What I mean by this is when you paint turn the brush as you go. Have you used a brush for a while and you realize that the bristles have a little curl or a hook at the tip? This is cause by always holding the brush the exact same way every time and painting like you are pushing the paint onto the model instead of letting the paint flow off the bristles, and if you have to “push” the paint then thin your paint. Once the bristles form that hook I have not been able to get them to go back the other way. Cheap brushes are more prone to this problem than others.

Random Care Advice
If you buy brushes that have the little plastic caps for the bristles… save those. Put them back on the brushes when you are not using them cause they keep the bristles from getting damaged from being knocked off the table and other random things that can happen to a brush laying on the paint table. And when you finally retire a brush to the “bullpen” for spreading glue on bases and mixing paint or even dry brushing save the caps off of them cause the little buggers are easy to lose and its nice to have spares to replace them with.

Also this is kind of an obvious one really… but keep from getting paint up to the ferrule (the little metal cap that hold the bristles on the handle), as this can also cause the bristles to not want to come back to a point or even fall out faster than fur on a Golden Retriever in summer time.

Random bit number three, when you rinse your brush… don’t put the brush in the water and then just leave it there. This is bad for the brush cause paint brush handles are normally wooden and they will absorb some of the water causing them to swell up and can cause the ferrule to stretch and spread. Then when they dry out the shrink and the ferrule can become loose or even fall off. Now I know that the GW water pots have little cut outs that work great for holding the brushes… this is a crap design because it encourages this behavior… I think its so they can sell more brushes personally.

Brush soap… this is one of those things that you can do to clean up some of the dried bits of paint off of the bristles and then you can even get some brush conditioner to help the bristles hold their points and it will help your brushes last a little longer. Now this is one of those little things that are optional but I really recommend if you are going to be storing your brushes for a while like when you have finished up your bulk painting and you want to spend some time playing before you paint another model.

Now I am not saying that this is the ultimate guide to keeping your brushes in great shape or anything like that… but it is a guide that will help keep them in decent shape and hopefully help you keep them in good shape longer than most people. Granted if you paint as much as I do as quickly as I do you will still go through brushes fairly quickly but the more you use them the faster you will wear them out. So, keep painting and have fun.

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