Watercolor Brush Care
Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Hey there Adventurer, you made it! 

The Cheetah Series is just one of the new styles of travel watercolor brush sets we're introducing as well as some watercolor journals we've always wished existed. But you're here for Brush Care tips. Read up, soak it in, and repeat. We hope you have many years of quality brushes through basic maintenance and good thinking!

Get outside and paint!

- Ryan & Rari, your Wild Plein team!


Do's and Don't Do's

If you know about brush care already, feel free to skip through some of these.

Otherwise, it never hurts for a quick reminder lesson!

1. Rinse all of the sizing out of your new brushes.
  • This is the water-soluble “glue” holding the Kolinsky bristles together to prevent damage before it is shipped to you.
  • You will notice they’re stiff and stuck together.
  • Rinse in warm running water for half a minute and use your finger to softly work the sizing out of the bristles. This is a one-time thing!
  • DON’T JUST BREAK THE BRISTLES FREE WHILE THEY’RE DRY. This will not be adequate to completely remove the sizing and they will harden again. It is not the worst thing, but it will not provide the best bristle for your paintings during use.
2. Wet the brushes you want to use to absorb some water.
  • Kolinsky hair (natural hair) especially needs to absorb a bit of water before they perform consistently and predictably.
  • This action also helps to remove/release any previous paint that may have been stuck high in the ferrule that was not rinsed out from your last painting session.
  • You don’t want to start a new wash with an unknown color either!
3. Guarantee a clear first wash!
  • Rinse one more time before you begin to paint.
  • Any watercolor paint that didn’t get washed out after your last painting session, will get rinsed now before it contaminates your first wash.
  • This is especially noticeable when using strong colors like dark blues, greens, dark browns, reds, violets and oranges.
4. Don’t leave your Cheetah Series brushes in your rinse water!
  • Watercolors don’t require leaving a brush to soak.
  • The lacquered wooden handle can be ruined in this manner, swelling the ferrule and loosening the bristles. The wood will soak up water and swell, crack the lacquer, and loosen the ferrule.
  • This happens even if you just leave the kolinsky hair in the water. Capillary action like a plant’s roots will pull the water up the natural bristle hair. It’s nature in action!
  • Soaking can also loosen the epoxy holding the hair inside the ferrule and holding the ferrule (metal) to the wood handle. You won’t be happy with this result. Picture shedding hair in your nice watercolor sketch, not fun!
  • We carry microfiber towels, paper towels or sponges on our treks in the wild! Blot the brush head dry and lay it flat or head tilting down. We tend to use the case resting on a rock or our bag to keep the brush safe and lying flat.
5. Rinse thoroughly with clear water and leave them to dry tip down when you’re done for the day.

6. Don’t leave your brushes closed inside the kit when you’re finished painting for the day.

  • Unroll your kit and open up those brushes!
  • Travel brushes need to completely dry as if you had a regular long-handled brush. You may be packing out of the wild so the brushes will be safely tucked inside their handles, but remember when you get back to camp or home, to rinse them and dry them in their open position.
  • MOLD is a real issue for natural kolinsky hair brushes! Make sure you dry them completely. Don’t take this chance!

7. Don’t dry your brushes tip up!

  • Once again they need to lay flat or angled down to properly evaporate all of the remaining water.
  • Water will seep back into the ferrule causing that swelling problem we just mentioned.

8. Don’t panic if one of your brushes gets smushed and dries in a wonky shape.

  • If your brush gets “bed-head”, you can reshape it using warm water. Massage the bristles for a few minutes under the warm running water.
  • Brush cleaner or hair gel can be used if the warm water doesn’t do the trick. Just blot the excess water out of the brush head and use the cleaner/hair gel to reshape the bristles back into a rounded point and hold them in place. After it dries, you can rinse the cleaner/gel out of the brush, like your initial removal of the sizing in tip 1, and you’ll have a brand new brush again!

9. Don’t try to make the brush come to a better point by trimming it.

  • Some brushes may have a brush hair or two sticking out to the side, and the warm water trick should be able to fix those. If not, the hair may actually be partially broken. It’s okay, it happens, they’re natural of course! Best case is to trim that one hair or two off at that ferrule. On rare occasion, it is these hairs that may come loose into your painting in the future. But not to fret they’re tiny.
  • If your brush won’t come to a sharp point there are a few reasons:
    • It may have been damaged at the factory. (We have hand checked our brushes before shipping out to you, but one or two may have snuck through before the sizing went on. Let us know and we will immediately replace it for you if it’s a serious manufacturing error.)
    • The longest hairs at the tip of the brush have been split or broken.
      • Kolinsky hair is a natural hair and it can last a few months or many, many years. Some have been known to last 30-40 years.
      • You may have been too rough with the bristle if it starts breaking down in a few months. This happens when you aggressively stab at the paper, scrubbing the paper, or dry-brushing the paper.
    • Something has dried in the ferrule.
  1. Did you properly remove all the sizing
  2. Let the paint dry in the bristles at the base of the ferrule?
  3. Grab the ferrule and clear rinse water and firmly wiggle all of the hairs back and forth near the ferrule. A little soap or brush cleaner can help work this out as well.

10. Never use good brushes (our Cheetah Series brushes) to apply masking fluid! Period!

  • Masking fluid dries very fast and very sticky. Use a synthetic. Welcome to watercolor! You’ll need another brush.
  • Masking fluid will dry high in the ferrule and will be impossible to remove from natural hair. No warranties here, sorry!

11. Before using any brushes for masking wet them with soap solution first.

  • Wet it and scrub with a brush cleaner or a bar of soap. Get it worked all the way up into the ferrule. Keep that masking fluid out!
  • Soap bar needs to be clear or moisturizers and/or oils that will affect the flow of water-based paints.

You've made it this far! Pat yourself on the back! Bravo!

Get out in the wild and paint, you Adventurer!

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