Mixed-Media Collage: The Care and Feeding of Paintbrushes

When I tell people my husband is a painter, they usually ask if he’s an artist or a house painter. And I usually tell them, “Both.” Because while he does paint houses, he does it with the care and precision of a fine artist.

Whether you paint, collage, or mix your media, brush maintenance is essential.

One of the things he is very particular about is caring for his brushes. Not only do well-maintained paintbrushes last longer, they also work better. This is true of all bristle brushed, whether you use them for home maintenance or mixed-media collage art.

Proper cleaning and care is essential if you want your brushes to maintain their shape and not leave loose hairs or debris from leftover paint on your artwork.

In the interactive eMag Collage in Color II, Barbara Delaney reviews the different kind of paintbrushes available to artists and how they are used. Plus she offers these tips for maintaining your brushes so they’ll last for years and do your art proud.

Cleaning and Care of Paintbrushes

1. Remove the excess paint from the paintbrush by wiping it onto (or with) a cloth or paper towel. Gently squeezing the bristles from the ferrule to the tip helps to remove the paint, but avoid pulling on the bristles.

2. Rinse the brush in lukewarm to cool water if you painted with a water-based medium. Use turpentine or a paintbrush cleaner specifically for oil-based products to remove oil paint. Never use hot water; it can cause the bristles/hairs to fall out.

3. Wipe the brush on the cloth again to remove any paint that remains. Once all of the excess paint is removed, wash the brush gently with mild soap. Rinse and repeat until there is no trace of paint or soap.

4. Shake the water from the paintbrush and then gently shape the brush head into its correct shape with your fingers.

5. Stand the paintbrush, handle-side down, in a container and allow the brush to air-dry at room temperature. Never rest the paintbrush on its head to dry as the bristles will lose their shape.

Of course, paintbrushes can come in very handy for applying glue, gel medium, and other sticky substances to your mixed-media collage art. For that, I recommend using foam brushes or cheap chip brushes.

If you must use a good quality paintbrush to apply glue, be sure to wash it immediately after use, or the bristles will bond together. I know this from experience, which is why my husband doesn’t let me anywhere near his paintbrushes!

But, I’ve learned my lesson. Promptly and properly cleaning your paintbrushes before leaving the studio is like taking off your make-up before you go to bed. It’s a pain, but the effort leads to more beautiful results.

For more information on paintbrushes, plus interactive tips and techniques for collage, get Collage in Color II, available for PC, Mac, and iPad.

P.S. What’s your least favorite art-related chore? Leave your answer below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies, Mixed-Media Techniques