Brushes are the most important painter's tools. Buying brushes is not just a random decision, but one that should be made carefully. Selection of brushes is personal and is based upon needs and level of investment desired. Because a brush will only last as well as it is cared for, proper cleaning and storage of brushes is probably even more important than the decision of what brush to buy. Because no matter how wonderful a brush is, if it is abused it will quickly be discarded.
Types of Brushes
The hair of the brush is what primarily denotes what type of brush it is and it's purpose. Although natural hair brushes usually cost more, they do not all create the same results. Sable hair brushes are probably the most popular brushes. They are soft haired brushes that move the paint easily and keep their point. Sable brushes are great for watercolor. Hog hair is also used to make brushes, but has a very different effect with media. Hog hair brushes are stiff brushes for heavy paint and will leave brush strokes behind. They have spilt ends and hold more paint and are used in oil painting. Synthetic brushes are also common for artists to use. These are generally less expensive, but still produce quality work. Paint brushes are an artist tools and several different types are needed depending on the project and desired result sought. More expensive brushes keep their shape after a stroke and do not fishtail or bend when paint is applied to paper or canvas and therefore have a more professional result. Less expensive brushes may be suited for some jobs, especially when used in crafts and with products like glue. The other factor identifying a brush is the handle. Traditionally long handled brushes are used for oil painting because the artist is standing at an easel. Shorter handled brushes are for watercolor and acrylics because the artist is sitting and painting in greater detail.
Cleaning and Care for Brushes
Because how well a brush is cared for effects how long the brush will last, extra effort put in to properly care for these important tools will be well worth the time. All brushes will eventually wear out and will then need to be replaced, but lengthening the span of time before that is necessary will help the budget. Cleaning is crucial to extending the life of a brush. Each brush should be cleaned immediately after use. Use a mild soap and clean in the palm of the hand. Rinse thoroughly and when water runs clear, lay the brush flat to dry. It should not be left vertical to dry as this will cause water to be pulled into the handle and will ultimately cause the handle to loosen and the brush will no longer be usable. Paint brushes should never be left sitting in a glass of water. Other than the effect it will have on the handle, it will crush the bristles. If the brushes are soaked, use a brush container that will suspend them and only fill the water to soak the bristles and not the ferrule or handle. After the paint brush is cleaned and dried it may be stored upright, or in a flat brush holder. Cleaning brushes is not only done at the end of a painting session, but should be done as needed. As a person is painting, effort should be made to keep paint away from the ferrule of the brush, but inevitably will naturally be drawn up the brush. As the paint gets close to the ferrule, it should then be cleaned. This is to prevent the paint from getting under the ferrule and drying there. Natural hair brushes also need to be conditioned on a regular basis. There are paint brush soaps that come with conditioners in them, or conditioner can be bought separately.
Make the investment of brushes one that will be used wisely. The results that a good paint brush produces are worth the initial cost, but only if the effort is made to care for them and extend the value of the investment.