A Guide to Maintaining Your Oil Paint Brushes

The oil paint brush is a costly investment and arguably the most important tool in your arsenal as an artist. In this article, you'll learn the proper technique for maintaining your oil painting tools.   If you take good care of your brushes, even the best ones can last for years. It only takes

The oil paint brush is a costly investment and arguably the most important tool in your arsenal as an artist. In this article, you'll learn the proper technique for maintaining your oil painting tools.  

If you take good care of your brushes, even the best ones can last for years. It only takes one slip-up to ruin your paint brushes for good, so be careful when cleaning them.  

In the first place, if you intend to engage in frequent painting sessions, I will explain how to take care of your brushes in a simple manner.  

If you follow my advice, your paint brushes will never look like this again.

How To Clean Your Oil Paintbrushes

The Quick and Simple Way to Clean Oil Paint Brushes

If you paint frequently, you may find it inconvenient to have to thoroughly clean your brushes after each session.

Here's how to take care of your brushes until your next painting session in the next few days:

  • Give your brushes a quick wipe down to get rid of most of the paint (you won't need to get rid of it all).
  • Use a slow-drying oil, such as Winsor & Newton Safflower Oil or artist-grade poppyseed oil, to coat the tips of your brushes before painting. These take more time to dry than the standard linseed oil.  
  • Hang a drying rack for the paintbrushes.

After each painting session, simply clean the brushes with a damp cloth and they will be ready for use again.

Expired paint from a previous session is not a major concern. It shouldn't be enough to noticeably alter the hues you've worked so hard to create (unless you're going for a pure color straight from the tube, in which case you'll want a clean brush).

You should only use this method to clean your brushes if you intend to use them again within a few days of your painting session. The oil on your brushes will dry and harden the bristles if you do not use them to paint within a few days.

An In-Depth Guide to Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

You should give your brushes a good cleaning after your session if you aren't planning on using them for a while.

Items Required

Precautions to Take Rather Than Attempt

  • Detergent
  • To remove paint, use paint strippers.
  • Brushes made of metal wire for painting

Remove as much oil paint from your brushes as you can before proceeding.

The first step is to clean your brushes thoroughly of any leftover oil paint. At the outset, fill a cup or jar with Gamblin Odorless Solvent (or your preferred paint thinner) and use it to quickly rinse your brushes. Then, using paper towels (I find them to be kinder to the brushes) or newspaper, wipe them down gently.

When you've gotten the majority of the paint off your brushes, give them a final rinse in warm water and give them another wipe down.

At this point, you need not strip the surface entirely of paint; just the major portions.

Two, dismantle the remaining oil paint.

To make matters worse, many people will give up after the first stage, mistakenly believing they have covered all of the surface with paint. In spite of this, even after the first stage, there will be a substantial quantity of paint still in your brushes.

The paint will be saturating the bristles, and if this dries, the bristles will harden and become nearly unusable, rendering the brush nearly useless.

To begin, dip your brushes once more into the paint thinner and clean them. Then, use the brushes to meticulously decorate a bar of soap (we recommend Chelsea Classical Studio's Professional Artist Hand Soap). You can then use the resulting lather to scrub stubborn gunk out of the bristles. Soap color bleed is what you should see.

Avoid damaging the brushes by forcing the bristles into the soap while working with the soap. Instead, you should employ a pulling motion in your work.

Brushes should be washed in warm water until no more color transfers to the soap.

Brush cleaners for oil paints, such as Chroma Brush Cleaner or The Masters Brush Cleaner, should be part of your routine if you frequently use pigments with a high pigment loading (such as burnt umber or phthalo blue). These oil paint cleaners are fantastic at dissolving oil paint.

How To Clean Oil Paint Brushes

Third, put the brushes down to rest.

After cleaning, shape the brushes' tips into a sharp point and store them upside down in a brush holder. The bristles will be permanently damaged if you let your brushes rest with their bristles folded against anything.

Some of the cleaning products are extremely hazardous, so I recommend that you wear protective gloves while working with them. Oil painting supplies should be stored safely, away from the reach of children.

Avoiding the Use of Paint Thinner When Cleaning Oil Paint Brushes

It is possible to clean oil paint brushes without paint thinner if you are allergic to the solvent.

The paint thinner could be substituted with linseed oil, in essence. Take the linseed oil and dip your brushes in it, then follow the procedures we went over earlier.

In addition, you should have an oil paint brush cleaner, such as The Masters Brush Cleaner, on hand to get rid of the dried oil paint that refuses to come off the brush.

Brush cleanup without paint thinner is possible, though it will take longer. Similar steps are taken, but more water is used in the rinsing process than with paint thinner.

For information on the tools and materials I recommend, please visit the "Supplies" page. )

Alternative Techniques and Best Practices for Cleaning Oil Paint Tools

  • Don't force your brushes onto the canvas; instead, pull them. You can ruin your paintbrush's bristles by forcing it into the canvas. There will be times when you have to force an effect, but you should avoid doing so if at all possible. Try to pull rather than push when you stroke.  
  • Maintain a strict 24-hour no-brushes policy. Brush bristles and painted surfaces will eventually harden.  
  • Use your older, more worn-down brushes if you want to paint in a rough or textured style. Your more modern brushes are useless for this task. Don't waste your best brushes on the background; save them for the details.
  • It's acceptable to ruin a paintbrush on occasion if doing so helps one produce a better finished product. In the end, it doesn't matter how high-quality your brushes are if you can't trust them with your own artwork.

It's been my experience that oil paint brushes have a shorter lifespan than other types of brushes, but that can be avoided by following the steps outlined here.

But keep in mind that one misstep is all it takes to ruin your brushes for good. It is possible to salvage some usable brush hairs from brushes left in paint until it dries and hardens, but the bristles will never be as healthy as they were before.

Still, even worn out brushes have a place in your toolkit, as they can be put to use for more aggressive painting methods (such as staining or thick impasto work).

Please also note that this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Simply put, this means that at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission from any purchases you make through Amazon. The proceeds will go toward the upkeep and expansion of this website.

I sincerely hope this post was informative for you. If you know of an effective way to clean oil paint brushes, please share it in the comments.

The following links may also be of interest to you:

The Definitive Resource for Novice Oil Painters

Advice for Novice Oil Painters

Equipment List for Oil Painting

Painting with Acrylics vs. Oils

Excited to Find Out More?

My Painting Academy course might be something you're interested in. Here I will teach you the fundamentals of painting, which have stood the test of time. Ideal for those with no prior painting experience to those with some

You're Welcome for Reading

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I sincerely hope you found the information contained herein to be informative. Don't be shy about sending it to your pals.

Greetings, Artists!

Dan Scott

Training to Be a Painter

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