Acrylic Brush Care

Acrylic Brush Care

I have been asked many times to do a video on brush care, so here we go. We usually think that brush care begins after a painting is complete and as brushes are about to be cleaned and stored. I believe brush care begins before we begin painting, as we are setting up to paint.

For me, having a clean brush for each color is the best way to prevent my paintings from getting muddy. To have a clean brush means that proper cleaning during the painting process is critical. Lots of folks fill a large water bucket all the way to the top, or just short of the top and try to clean their brushes by swishing the brushes in the water. This usually leaves lots of paint solids on the brush and splatters water all over the painting area. I prefer to put a small amount of water in the bottom of my water bucket - never higher than the middle of the ferrule on the brush. When cleaning a brush during the painting process I bang the brush on the bottom of the bucket to release the solids, leaving a clean brush. The sloshing created is contained within the bucket because the water level is low, so I don’t have water splatters all over my painting area.

The second advantage of this approach is that when my brushes sit in the water as I’m cleaning my palette and putting away my paint jars, the low water level doesn’t come up over the ferrule onto the wooden brush handle. If you use a high water level and the brushes sit in the water with the handle submerged, the paint coating on the handle will loosen, crack and fall off, leaving the wood to absorb more water each time its submerged. This will cause the wood to constantly expand and contract, loosening the ferrule and allowing the bristles to fall out.

Another issue with the high water level approach is that when you pull a brush out of the water to use it for another color in your painting, water will stream out of the top of the ferrule because you submerged it. This will make it very difficult to regulate the amount of water you use with your paint.

OK, so we made it through the painting process with a low water level and fairly clean brushes. It’s now time to clean them up for the day. My approach has always been to simply wash them under warm water and scrape any remaining solids out with a wire brush. If that approach doesn’t work for you there are many products on the market that are specifically designed to use for brush cleaning. Although I don’t use them, my colleagues tell me they work well.

Once they are clean, lay them flat to dry. Don’t place them handle down in a container. This will cause the paint to flake off and will swell the wood, which loosens the ferrule, which will lead to loose bristles and a ruined brush. An alternate drying method would be to hang them from the tip of the handles with the bristles pointing down. I usually let mine dry overnight then they are ready to use again the following morning.

I hope this was helpful for you. If you treat your brushes well they will last many, many years.

If you'd like to learn about abstract painting, then please join me for a painting workshop: (You can view a list of 2019 workshops HERE)

  • January 10-12, 2019 Arts Alliance of Lee County, Fort Myers, FL. For information and registration Click Here.

  • January 25-27, 2019 Daytona Art League, Daytona Beach, FL. SOLD OUT-Waiting List

  • February 6-8, 2019 David M. Kessler Fine Art Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. For information and registration Click Here.

  • February 15, 2019 David M. Kessler Fine Art Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. This 1-day workshop is on Acrylic Monoprinting - all supplies included - just bring yourself! For information and registration Click Here.

  • March 5-8 Cultural Arts Alliance, Santa Rosa Beach, FL. For information and registration contact Bonnie Loman. Email:

  • March 27-29, 2019 Amarillo Art Institute, Amarillo, TX. For information and registration contact Rachel Flores, Email:

As always, thanks so much for your support!


P.S. If you you'd like to learn more about Abstract Painting in the comfort of your home or studio, I have a great course called Abstract Painting Academy available for you:

Abstract Painting Academy is the next best thing to a live workshop event. You can find out more by Clicking Here.

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