Selecting the Proper Brush
Care of You Brushes
by Dolores Swaldi [c] 2004

     Did you know the average crafter spends about $65.00 on brushes each year? That's a lot of money, so you need to purchase the right brushes and make them last as long as possible. Here are a few tidbits of information that may save you a lot of money on brushes in the long run.

    There is an old saying that, "the job is only as good as the tools you use". This holds true for so many things, especially when you are painting ceramics. Any project you do is only as good as the brushes used. If you are not using a high quality brush your items will turn our mediocre at best, and that is not what we strive for. Each of us paints to create attractive items everyone will envy, items we will be proud to display in our home, give as gifts, or even sell in studios. In order to achieve this, you  must  learn how to choose the proper brush, and how to care for your brushes so they continue to produce the results you desire

     To select the proper brush you must consider a few different things. You must decide on the proper size, the material of the brush, and what style of painting used. The size of your brush must fit your project. If you are base coating you should use the largest brush possible, for trim work you should adjust between various sizes, determined by the width and intricacy of what you are painting. When painting eyes only the finest brush with sharp point should be used.

     The material the brush is made of is equally important. Sable hair has long been the preferred material for premium brushes. Brushes of sable hair have superior spring and snap to them along with the ability to retain great amounts of fluid. They also are known for retaining a needle like point and sharp chiseled edges. When painting with this type of brush you will find you are able to produce smooth strokes or subtle blending of colors with greater ease than other types of brushes. There are a few drawbacks to sable brushes though. First off is the price, this type of brush is quite expensive. Second is they do not last very long when used hard, so if you are producing a lot of items you will find yourself going through quite a few brushes.

     A good substitute for sable is synthetic taklon, its spring and absorbency is very comparable to, if not superior to sable. Either the golden taklon or white taklon has very sharp points and shards with chiseled edges. The synthetic fibers are very durable resisting breakage. Most any paint can be used with taklon. Clean up is easy and you can purchase these brushes with a variety of handles from kiln dried wood to water resistant plastic. We have found Taklon to be much more economical and durable than sable.

     A drybrush is another important tool in a painters kit. Most dry brushes are made of stiff bristles and are white in color. The brush should be fluffy and have a good snap when you run your fingers across the bristles. These brushes do wear out quickly if you do a lot of dry brushing, so select one with long bristles to get extra life.

     You can pay a lot of money for your brushes, but if you do not care for them properly they can become worthless in a short period of time. So lets go over a few rules for caring for your brushes that will give your brushes a longer life.

  1. Never allow paint to dry on the bristles.
  2. Never allow your brushes to soak in water.
  3. Always store brushes with the bristles up, never put brushes away point first.
  4. Lava bar hand soap makes a good cleaner for brushes, gently stroke bristles back and forth across the bar to pick up soap. Then massage gently to loosen paint. After cleaning gently reshape your brush to its original shape.
  5. Never pounce the brush up and down in your water. This will cause the bristles to separate and your brush will be ruined.
  6. When using brushes to apply sparkle paint or granite stone apply a few drops of fabric softener to your brush before you begin painting. This will release the small particles that remain in the bristles.
  7. Make sure your brushes are dry before storing.
  8. Always reshape your brush after cleaning.
  9. When using oil based antiquing clean your bristles in solvent or mineral spirits.
  10. Keep brushes for oil based paint separate and use them only for oil based paints.
  11. Glazing brushes should also be kept separate and not used for any other mediums.
  12. Clear glazed brushes should be kept separate from other glazed brushes and should only be used to apply clear glazes in order to avoid contamination
  13. Red glaze brushes also contaminate easily and should be used and stored in the same manner as clear glaze brushes.

If you adhere to these guidelines you will find that your brushes will last significantly longer, and the quality of your work will greatly improve.

Dolly & Ernie Ceramics is a proud sponsor of this venerable craft.
Copyright [c] 2004 Dolly & Ernie
all rights reserved.

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