Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cleaning Paint Brushes and Paint Brush Quality

Susan asks:
Does the quality of a brush make a difference when you are cleaning them? I used a cheap craft brush to paint some gesso on wood and it took forever to wash it clean. I was thinking maybe the cheap brushes are more porous or something. Thanks!

The quality of the brush can make a difference in a lot of ways. Some of the REALLY cheap brushes, the kinds that come in a set of 20 for $3 or come in kiddie paint sets, are made of some really cheap natural animal hair. Animal hair is more porous than synthetic hair. Really cheap brushes are certainly more difficult to use and get good results because they are more difficult to control. They are also more likely to shed. These qualities could make the brush more difficult to clean depending upon what you are trying to remove.That is the short answer.

While we are on the subject, however, I would like to point out that there are some inexpensive brushes that I would not necessarily classify as cheap (inferior, poor quality). As an example, both Royal & Langnickle and Loew-Cornell have a line of brushes that sell for $2.99 regardless of the size of the brush. These are pretty good quality brushes. In fact, I use them for my acrylic painting because they are reasonably well made, inexpensive and I don't feel bad if one gets ruined. Decorative painting can be very hard on a brush because you are using so many different surfaces that are not necessarily smooth. If you don't clean your brush properly and leave paint in it, acrylics will ruin your brush in a heart beat. For my watercolor work I use white nylon brushes and for my Genesis oils I use the Royal Majestic brushes. These brushes all have qualities that suit the medium I am painting with. I prefer the synthetic filiment because it will hold its shape and is easier to control. This is what I recommend to my students as well.

The bottom line is, use the right brush for the job. If I were applying gesso, I'd probably use a cheap foam brush and throw it away when I was finished.

Hope this helps!
Judy Leasure, TDA

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