Tips: Proper care of Watercolor Brushes

Brushes can make a difference in the success of your paintings, many of them can be quite expense and if you take care of them they can last a very long time.

When painting I like to place my brushes on a terry towel to absorb the excess water and prevent them from rolling over the table and possibly on my painting. After painting I lay my brushes flat or at a “slight angle” tip down to allow the excess water to drain off. 


Cleaning your brush
I simply rinse my brush with clean water. Washing them with too much soap can damage and dry the hair making them brittle. If you feel that you still really need to wash your brush then use a mild soap, such as ivory, baby soap or brush soap (which is specifically designed for washing brushes). Put a little soap in the palm of your hand and work it into the hair of the brush. Repeat as needed.

To reshape your brush, wet the tip then flick your wrist in a downward motion to remove the excess water and reshape the point. If you prefer not to flick your brush, on a soft terry towel remove the excess water then gently reshape it back to a point and let dry.

In between paintings place your clean dry brushes handle down in a heavy clay, stone jar or pot, keep the ferrule (tip) side up in the air to dry. If you are not going to use your brushes for a long period of time you might want to store them in an airtight container. First make sure that they are clean and completely dry. A damp brush can create mildew and damage the hair, if you are storing them for an extend time consider mothballs to prevent against moth damage.

Do not use your good brushes for masking fluids and drawing gum
Do not use your good watercolor brushes for oil or acrylic painting.
Do not cut your brushes to reshape them
Do not leave your brushes submerged tip down in water or it will loosen the glue in the ferrule and the tip will eventually come off and ruin the shape in the tip.

When traveling
Consider dipping your brush into concentrated Murphy’s pure vegetable oil soap - let dry, once dry it holds it’s shape  (if needed you can try this method to reshape your brush or tame some of those crazy hairs that can happen) When you are ready to use them again simply thoroughly wash your brush with clean water to remove the soap. 



  1. Great information. I've passionately been in the art supply business all my life and Birgit 's advice is sound.

    I'll also emphasize the importance of long term storage of sable brushes with moth crystals. In fact, Winsor & Newton ships their natural sable brushes with packets of them.

    My dad told me that when he came back from the Army Air Core after WI I, he returned to the family art supply business and was rearranging the brush displays. A number of brushes had fallen down behind the cases. The non - sable brushes were fine, but the sable brushes... Well, the hair had been eaten down to the ferrules.

  2. Thank you for your amazing comment I found it very interesting.


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