Painting Tools: Care and Treatment

What tools do painters use to make many of the styles of marks on canvas?  The truth is that the tools available for creative painting are as varied and diverse as the artists, themselves, who use them. In the use of  creative tools, the scope of possibilities are large: brushes, palette knives, sticks, skewers, cardboard, combs, pine needles, feathers, marbles, sponges, tooth brushes, yarn, chamois, tissue papers, plastic wrap, bubblewrap, hands, fingers,  toes,  and almost any item that can make a mark.

There are a large number of skilled artists who have extended their personal boundaries in the definition of  painting tool. The vast majority of artists, however, prefer to use paintbrushes or palette knives, and, whether these are expensive quality tools or low-cost ones, both benefit from routinely maintained care. A quality brush or palette knife should last years with appropriate care and use.

Before buying any brushes or palette knives, or any other tool for painting, you should consider what variety you will need, keeping in mind that different tools use different kinds of paints. If you are considering the use of a brush, it is a good idea to know what kind you have. There are several kinds of natural hair brushes, natural/synthetic mix, and synthetic varieties available in many shapes and grades.

Watercolor brushes, being more fragile than acrylic or oil paint brushes, should only be cleaned with a gentle liquid soap and water. Watercolor brushes cannot endure extensive use with solvents and can weaken or loosen hairs from the brush.

Both synthetic and natural hair brushes have similar cleaning care. Wash the brush in gently running warm (not hot) water with a gentle conditioning shampoo, baby shampoo or wood-oil soap. If you are not using an automatic brush cleaner, and are manually cleaning your brushes, avoid vigorous scrubbing and aim to keep the hairs together as much as possible while cleaning

Natural hair brushes are easily stripped of their natural oils when painting, regardless of choice of paint types. If you are an oil painter, after washing your brushes, you can extend the life of your natural hair brushes by putting a light coat of mineral oil or walnut oil on the hairs to replace some of the surfacent hair oils.  I have heard that some artists use food grade oils, even shortening. but those oils are not a good option for watercolor or acrylic.

The tools you choose, how you use them and care for them, affect the character and qualities of your efforts in artistic productions. Becoming well acquainted with the particular maintenance features of your tools can go a long ways in assisting you in limiting unnecessary waste and costs as well as helping you reach toward your on-going creative aims.


Charity Goodwin, Artist

More than being an experienced Visual Artist in both colored pencil and oil painting, Charity Goodwin is also a Mixed Media Artist. Charity welcomes traditional media, as well as demanding and experimental undertakings in new techniques and their permutations. As both an avid artist and art instructor, Charity shares her artistic values and creative passions through a range of artistic endeavors and instructional efforts.

Charity Goodwin has been an artist for over three decades and loves to work with people and pets, nature, sky and sea. Charity Goodwin endeavors to show the world the life that exists within and around us all.


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