High quality art supplies are not inexpensive, they are an investment. An investment worth making when you consider the tools you choose will determine your chances for success. No matter what your skill level, the rule of thumb is to invest in the best quality art materials you can honestly afford. Cheap Joe’s is always striving to give you the finest art materials at the best value. It has been and will continue to be one of the defining aspects that make us who we are.
As an artist of any experience, if you paint long enough, you will probably spend more on quality brushes than any art materials you invest in. And out of all of that art stuff, brushes, will perhaps, be with you for the longest time, if you take proper care of them. Doing so will give you years and years of service which extends the value of your initial investment. And especially, if you are a beginner, learning to take care of your brush investment from the very beginning is more important than the quality of brushes you start out with.
So, I say “Love ‘em or leave ‘em alone”! Give your brushes what they deserve, tender, loving, care, and they will serve you a lifetime! If not, you’ll just be torturing them!
When Joe Miller, aka. “Cheap Joe”, began painting, he was being instructed by an art professor at Appalachian State University, Noyes Capehart. Noyes told Joe to purchase a list of materials before his first lesson. Now, you have to remember, Joe was a beginner and had never painted seriously with watercolors before. The list included 12 tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolor, Arches 300lb. paper, a John Pike palette, and a couple of brushes, one of which was a Winsor & Newton Series 7 size 14 Kolinsky Sable. This brush alone cost over $350.00, and that was about 30 years ago!
But, look at Joe now!
Needless to say, the quality of Joe’s first art materials had a direct influence on his early success as an artist. Now a days, Joe has countless brushes of all sizes, varieties, brand names, and value, many of which bear his own signature. But you better believe that Joe still has that original Series 7 size 14 in his collection. It is probably still just like new because he has taken very good care of his initial $350.00 investment!
With all of the controversy surrounding the use of natural animal hair, especially Kolinsky Sable, Cheap Joe’s has created two viable synthetic substitutions. You will hardly be able to tell the difference in the performance. However, you will immediately appreciate the extremely reasonable price!
When put next to the most expensive natural squirrel wash brushes, the Miller’s Pseudo Squirrel Brushes out performed the best of the best. Check out this past blog post entitled “Is It The Real Thing… Or Is It Better?”
Another recent addition to the synthetic brush selection is the Miller’s Pseudo Sables. Professional artists like Dean Mitchell appreciate the absorbency, durability, and crisp snap of these incredibly priced synthetic alternatives! The only thing you will notice is the great savings! Cha Ching!
TENDER, LOVING, CARE- BRUSH CARE TIPS
1. Use the appropriate type of brush for the appropriate medium- Don’t mix mediums in your brushes. You should have a set of brushes for each type of medium you are using. Watercolor Brushes, Oil Brushes, Acrylic Brushes, ect. Color code them with colored electrical tape, if necessary.
2. Let the Ugglys do the hard jobs. Applying masking, mediums, scrubbing out areas, mixing paint, ect. can wreak havoc on your expensive natural hair brushes and even better quality synthetics. Uggly Brushes are inexpensive, durable, and disposable when the job is done. We make them look funny for a reason, so you won’t confuse them with your good painting brushes! They are Uggly, but we love them anyway!
3. Know your brushes and what they will do. Use the appropriate size and shape brush for the appropriate area you are painting. A good rule is to use the largest brush possible for as long as possible when painting. Save the small ones for detail. This saves time and your brushes.
4. Clean or rinse your brushes frequently during and after use. It is not necessary to “wash” watercolor brushes with soap but just rinse often, until you have completed your project. Oil brushes do not require the same urgency of cleaning during use, as wiping the brush thoroughly may be better than frequently cleaning in solvents which can dry out the natural hairs of an oil brush and cause them to break off. Always clean your acrylic brushes immediately when done using soap and water. And clean all brushes properly before storing.
5. Never stand your brushes tip down in water or solvent. Do not soak them for extended periods of time. Natural hair brushes will dry out and break off if left in water or solvent or become permanently frayed.
6. 365 Cheap Joe’s No Question Guarantee- Try it, if you don’t like it, we’ll take it back within a year of purchase! We Promise!
7. Label Your New Brushes- Brushes can last a lifetime. From when they are new until there is only a few hairs left on them, you can use a brush, virtually, forever. If you mark your brushes with colored electrical tape, you can identify the life stage of the brush. New ones will get one color, blunt tip ones another color, and frayed brushes yet another color. This helps you to avoid using good brushes for mixing washes, applying masking, or creating texture. You can even use the end of the brush to apply uniform dots or sharpen them to make a stylus for creating random lines or removing paint.
8. Store used oil brushes in a Guerilla Painter Brush Tubz, or a zip lock baggie and place in the fridge overnight for use the next day. Acrylic covered brushes may be dipped in water or retarder, and stored in a baggie. This is a great tip when transporting your brushes from a plein air location to the studio.
There are many great products to clean and condition your brushes. However, I highly recommend these following items for their price and natural ingredients.
Perhaps, my favorite is The Masters Artist Survival Kit- Mini Clean Up Kit
Includes: .25 oz Brush Cleaner, 1.4 oz Hand Soap, .7 oz Kiss-Off Stain Remover Stick.
It is small enough to take on the road, or at your side in the studio and is effective on several different mediums including watercolor, acrylics, and oils. All non toxic and safe to use on your skin.
The Best Cleaner
“The Masters”® removes oils, acrylics, watercolors, stains, and varnishes. And it helps prevent paint build-up in the ferrule. It also prevents the hardening and build-up so common with today’s acrylic paints. “The Masters”® works beautifully on the finest sable and bristle brushes, and it makes painting with nylon and synthetic brushes a snap. It conditions the brush to hold more color and helps lay down a smoother more even flow. Use “The Masters”® after every session to keep your brushes like new.
The Best Preserver
“The Masters”® was formulated in conjunction with a cosmetic laboratory to help condition and preserve your brushes with the same care and thought as products that you use on your hair. It keeps your brushes like new so they’ll retain the same natural snap and luster – for consistent performance – as the day you bought them.
The Best Restorer
Don’t throw away old brushes with dried-on oil paint, no matter how hard the bristles are. “The Masters”® restores old, stiff brushes to like new condition. Simply wet with water, swirl, lather and let brush sit a while before rinsing. Repeat process until all the paint is removed. Your brushes will be reconditioned and you will have a new old brush.
B&J® Original Formula “The Masters”® Artist Hand Soap cleans gently cleans hands of oil and acrylic paint, stains, grease, inks, and more. Keeps hands soft with a refreshing spearmint scent. “The Masters”®Hand Soap is specially formulated to remove petroleum-based paint or materials without harsh and messy thinners. It removes dried-on paint with just water. It’s non-abrasive, and leaves hands soft. Use it in the art room and for other dirty tasks around the house. “The Masters”® conditions as it cleans and contains no lanolin.
Another great solution for cleaning your brushes is the Escoda Artist Brush and Hand Soap made with 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Escoda Artist Brush and Hand Soap is a gentle soap for cleaning and preserving the performance of fine artists brushes. Hand-crafted in Spain according to centuries old technique.
Using Escoda Brush Soap-
1. Rinse brush hair with water (when using watercolor or acrylics) or the appropriate solvent (with oils) to remove as much paint as possible.
2. Rub the wet brush directly into the bar of soap in a circular motion.
3. Work the soap deep into the hairs by rubbing in the palm of your hand.
4. Remove the soap from the hair by squeezing at the ferrule and pinching toward the tip.
5. Rinse again and repeat the process until the soap and rinse water are clear of color (and dry it with the help of some paper towels.
6. Finally, if you are not going to use the brush for a while, groom the hair to its proper shape with some natural olive oil, to maintain the elasticity of the hair and repel moths.
STORAGE EVERY DAY, TRAVEL, AND LONG TERM-
Storing your brushes correctly may save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run. Throughout the years, we have had many sad reports of expensive Kolinsky sable brushes being eaten by moths, mice, or bugs, covered in mold, smashed, or deformed, all due to poor storage.
The best way to store your brushes on a daily basis is to allow them to stand up right, as in a jar or brush caddy like “The Wave”. I have this exact one sitting on my office desk! It has plenty of room for many sizes of tools and brushes. Just make sure you have emptied the brush of any excess moisture by tapping it on a hard surface, and reshaped the head. If the brush is stored upright while excessively wet, gravity will pull the moisture down into the ferrule to the handle inside. It will become saturated with water and cause swelling which loosens the ferrule and may crack the painted finish. This damage can also be caused by allowing the ferrule and handle to be completely immersed in water.
When traveling, you may want to store your brushes in a brush holder with a zipper or other closure. Just make sure the brushes are not smashed inside. You can also choose a roll up brush holder like the Fudemaki Brush Roll that suspends the brush heads between the layers so they do not touch.
Long term storage needs to be bug proof and somewhat air tight. A plastic container with a tight cover like the Artbin Utility Box would be great. Just line the bottom with a piece of terry cloth towel and lay the brushes in one layer side by side. This should keep them safe from animals, insects, and moisture. Place the container in a cool, dark, place out of sunlight.
Regardless of how you store them, you can size the heads of your brushes to keep the natural shape intact by using a sizing liquid, or gum arabic. Just make sure you gently rinse them out before beginning to paint.
Key Points to take away:
1. Buy the best quality you can afford. This applies to all art materials but, especially, brushes.
2. Treat your brushes like you want to be treated, with love, care, and respect.
3. Keep your brushes clean and in good shape and they will love you for it!
4. Natural hair brushes are the best choice, in most cases. However, there are more and more great synthetic choices that can be extremely affordable and will last longer.
5. Keep your brushes away from predators. They can make a tasty snack for many varmints!
6. Brush cleaners are your friends and like friends you should keep them close!
7. Good daily practice will help you make a habit of loving your brushes!
The bottom line is, if you take care of your brushes, they will serve you well.
Have a Happy Brush Day!
And keep your brushes clean and you will keep them happy!