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Friday, October 28, 2011

Brush Cleaning Tips from the Pros

"Pair of Reds"
Oil on Linen - 6x8"

If I was an independently wealthy being, my studio would be equipped with an assistant who's number one job would be cleaning brushes. One of my least favourite painting tasks, I sometimes put it off as long as possible before doing a thorough clean.

That said, your brushes are your tools, and caring for them well will go a long way toward getting the most out of them, both in longevity and function.

I recently stumbled across a great article with cleaning tips from several artists, you can view it here.

How I tackle mine:
  • Wipe off all the excess paint with paper towel.
  • Give it a good swish or two in thinner (I use Gamblin Gamsol), followed by another good wipe with paper towel
  • I then use Master's Brush Cleaner (the big tub), but dish soap or bar soap will also do.
  • Get some soap on the brush and then using the palm of your hand, the inside of half a tennis ball, or the bottom of the sink - swirl it around to loosen up the paint and give it a good rinse - repeat this step until no more color comes out of the brush.
  • Finally I dry it, dip it in Turpenoid Natural, and give it a quick wipe leaving some of the turpenoid in to condition the hairs.
If I have 10-15 brushes in various sizes, this job takes 20-30 minutes, so I usually only do it about once a week. I don't use a quick dry medium or alkyd paints, so the paint in the brushes is still soft enough to be easily removed by this process as long as I wipe the excess paint out and give them a swish in Gamsol at the end of each painting session.

Great music is a definite asset. Choose your mood and get down. :-)


  1. nice Liz. Love those photos of the Bugaboos

  2. I don't think a live concert of my favorite performer could make cleaning brushes pleasant. I am so guilty of leaving my brushes in the gamsol and never cleaning them.
    Love these tomatoes on red. Beautiful reds.

  3. red hot painting and some tips on brush longevity i can certainly use, thank you. lovely tomatoes!

  4. Great advice! I'm realizing recently how important the brush is! When you want to get a certain stroke and the brush misbehaves, it's maddening. I look at cleaning them as insurance.

  5. I totally agree that cleaning brushes is an onerous chore. I didn't think of turpenoid to condition the hairs, although I have used hand cream, and good old fashioned saliva. I think I'll try the turpenoid. Thanks for that one. Nice crisp highlights on the tomatoes. They look good enough to pick up and eat.

  6. Love these bright red tomatoes! They really look amazing against the grey of your blog. I was told that something you can do with brushes is to clean them on the cloth, the OMS/whatever, then put into a jar with Murphy's Oil Soap and a little water. Then rinse in warm water in the sink. Seems to work. Thanks for all your great tips!

  7. I found my favorite brushes full of gunk after a three month emergency caregiver absence. Thought for sure they would have to be thrown away, but cleaned them anyway using Master's, rinsed them out, then soaped them up again with Master's and kept them sealed in a plastic zip bag overnight. When rinsed out the next day they were as good as new - so grateful. Found this works really well when painting outdoors too, can then clean them good at home while studying and thinking about any improvements to the painting.

  8. Hello Liz; I was in one of your workshops in Invermere and enjoyed it greatly. Anyway we just started a blog for Purcell Mountain Painters if you wanted to check it out It is still under construction so be advised and our members are learning how to use it so.... Your workshop is listed there and I also added a link to your blogspot and funny I just posted a brush cleaning tip. I use Murphys soap it softens even old brushes if you soak them over night. Like your value study.

  9. I also was given the tip to shape them with Vaseline...when the bristles are getting unruly.

  10. What a lovely pair of tomatoes... and on a daring red background, too. nice!

  11. A glorious study in red, Liz!
    Enjoyed the cleaning tips! I start mine with Gamsol thinner and finish off with Dawn. Has served me well for years.

  12. I love that red on red composition, really intense!