Art 101: How to Clean an Oil Painting Paint Brush.

An oil painter's main tool is their paint brush, it is extremely important to know how to care for them. A good paint brush is generally not cheap, and by providing the right care and a little TLC, they will last a long time. Now some fancy art school terminology is called loading the paint brush. Loading the paint brush is one applies the paint to the brush. When you load the paint brush, you apply the paint to the tip of the brush and not further then midway because you don't want to get paint in the ferrule (the metal part of the paint brush that holds the bristles). If you get paint/solvents/oils into the ferrule it can warp the bristles and the brush wont maintain its shape. It's not the end of the world when it happens- you can clean your brush but something to be conscious of and try not get gunk up in the ferrule. Never, ever leave the brush in water or solvent- I will send the oil painting police for you.

Turpenoid or Gamsol- turpentine substitute.
 Paper Towels or Newspaper
Dish Soap or Pink Soap (if you want to be fancy)
Gloves- if you don't like getting dirty ;)

Take your dirty brush and wrap your paper towel around the bristles. Grip the ferrule- tight and firm. Have the paint brush handle toward your chest and pull away from yourself. Do this a couple of times. Pour some clean turpenoid in a little container and swirl your paint brush in it (your loosening up the paint) and wrap and pull again. Pour the soup in your palm- about a quarter's worth- depending on the size of the brush. Dunk your brush into the soup in your palm and rub the bristles into your hand. The paint will come off onto your palm and you want to continue to scrub and then rinse in water. Then repeat until there is no more paint coming out of the brush. Once your brush is sparkling and clean, wipe it in your paper towel to get the water out of the brush. Make sure the bristles are somewhat dry because you don't want gunk in your ferrule. Shape the brush and place the brush on a flat table with the head of the brush beyond the edge.

Cleaning your paint brushes is time consuming but it is worth it because they can last a very long time and save you cash money.  Happy painting!

Psst: Want to read more in this non-art school series? click here.


The Olive Tree Blog said...

I sort of got giddy at the site of this...I was an art major ... sadly I haven't painted in years... I might need to break out the oil paints!

Christine D. | The Plumed Nest said...

see that is my problem as some point, no matter how hard i try i always get it in the ferrule. i realized this once when i didn't get it all up in the ferrule that i didn't ruin my brush and i could actually clean it. i need to work on honing in on this skill. i am pretty sure it is the one thing that keeps me from painting. of course i am not good at it either, but i do find it so meditative.

Erin said...

I'm not even a painter and I love this Art 101 series! xo

Diana said...

I definitely needed these tips -- I use acrylic paint, so soap and water work fine, but I've been having the worst time cleaning oil-based varnish off my brushes. Definitely going to try this process.

Out of curiosity, about how long do your favorite brushes last you? I feel like I go through mine way too fast...Definitely inspired now to spend a bit my time giving them the tlc they need!

Erika Lee @ A Tiny Rocket said...

Diana! They can lost you a long time I have a few that I have had for 10 years or longer but they are made from hog hair and its a stiff bristle. The softer hair brushes are more fragile and I usually last me 6 months or so

Unknown said...

Such a great resource. On occasion, I teach an illustration course in the evenings. Students are permitted to use whatever medium they feel most comfortable with. Knowing very little about oils, this certainly helped!

17 Perth said...

Such great tips! And I honestly had no idea--to say I learned something is an understatement! Lol.