Caring For Your Paintbrushes

Here is a little information on how to properly care for your paintbrushes...


There are four things that will end the life of a brush-wear, dried paint, mildew, and moths. Although there is little that can be done about wear, damage from dried paint, mildew, and moths can be easily avoided by proper cleaning, proper drying, and proper storage.


Thorough cleaning involves removing material that gets caught in the scales of the hairs or that builds up near the ferrule. Material trapped in these locations prevents the brush from returning to its ideal shape.

Watercolor Brushes

Watercolor Brushesboth Western and Oriental, and calligraphy brushes made with natural hair, are best cleaned by rinsing with room-temperature waternever use hot water on natural hair brushes-when watercolors or nonwaterproof inks have been used. This preserves the natural oils in the hairs that protect them from becoming dry and brittle. However, since dyes are sometimes used, which stain the hairs and tend to dry out the brush and affect successive uses of other colors, and because it is difficult to be patient for all necessary rinsings, a cleaning aid may be used.

Do not clean watercolor brushes with anything that you would not be willing to use on your own hair. You would not use liquid dishwashing detergent or paint thinner to wash your hair. Neither should these be used on expensive brushes that could last for decades if properly cared for. True soaps such as Ivory soap do far less damage than chemical detergents and are recommended for cleaning fine brushes. Some of the new cake brush cleaners (the Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver by B & J Company and Brush Soap by Grumbacher) that have recently come on the market function like hair shampoos. They contain mild chemical detergents combined with such conditioners as natural oils like lanolin, which replace what is removed in cleaning. Some artists use their own shampoo and conditioner on their brushes. This would seem to be an acceptable alternative as long as the brush hairs are not made too oily from the conditioner, in which case they could lose their natural absorbency.

After a brush has been cleaned it should be reshaped and allowed to air dry thoroughly before being stored. The best way to allow a brush to dry, particularly a large brush, is to hang it with the tip down. This will help prevent moisture from being trapped in the ferrule, which would cause the brush to rot.

Acrylic Brushes

Acrylic Brushesor those used with vinyl paints, must be periodically rinsed clean while you are working, because the paint that is trapped near the ferrule is drying while you are working with the tip. Small amounts of paint buildup in this area will not wash out once dry and will eventually render the brush useless. The only way to prevent this is to rinse the brush thoroughly every fifteen to twenty minutes with warm water. When finished, cleanup can be accomplished easily with soap and warm water, or with any of the new commercial brush cleaners.

If acrylic or vinyl paint has dried in a brush it can be removed with acetone. Acetone will, however, rob a brush of a great deal of its life, if not destroy it. (It should be noted that nylon brushes tend to dissolve in acetone.) Acetone is a hazardous substance, which can be absorbed through the skin, and frequent use may reduce your life expectancy as well. Manufacturers of the new artists’ brush cleaners claim that they can remove some dried acrylic paint. There are also artists’ brush conditioners, such as Silicoil, which can help recondition a brush with dry and brittle hair.

Oil Brushes

Oil Brushes can be cleaned easily without the use of such solvents as turpentine, petroleum distillate, or paint thinner. (Paint thinner should always be avoided for cleaning brushes.) Plain soap and water, or an artists’ brush cleaner, work extremely well after the brush has been wiped free of excess paint. But this procedure is not workable when it’s necessary to clean a brush quickly so that it can be loaded with a different color and continue to be used. In this case, the brush will have to be rinsed with thinner, but it should not be left sitting in thinner.

I recommend that a jar of solvent, such as turpentine, be set up with a coil in the bottom of the jar. This provides a nonabrasive surface to scrub the brush while rinsing it with thinner. The jar should have a cover to protect against evaporation when not in use. This will allow the rinsing of the brush between color changes as well as before final cleaning with soap and water. When it is time for cleanup, the brush is first wiped clean of excess paint, then quickly rinsed in the jar of solvent, and finally washed and allowed to air dry. Periodically, a brush conditioner may be used to restore performance. This method keeps the exposure to thinners at a minimum.

As for brushes with dried oil paint, if an artists’ brush cleaner is not successful, it is time to consider a new brush and better work habits.

Synthetic Filament Brushes

Synthetic Filament Brushes can easily stand repeated exposure to solvents such as turpentine, petroleum distillate, and most paint thinners. Solvents such as acetone, however, will dissolve nylon filaments. Synthetic brushes that have lost their shape, perhaps because the weight of the brush was left resting on the tip, may be restored by placing the brush in water that is hot, but just below the boiling point.


After a brush has been cleaned, reshaped, and air-dried, it has to be protected. All brushes, whether made from natural hair or synthetic filament, have to be protected against mechanical pressure. Never store a brush resting on the tip, or in a container so small that the tip is pushed against one of the sides. The hairs or filaments will take on a distorted shape that is difficult to undo. Natural hair brushes can sometimes be reshaped by giving them the equivalent of a shampoo and set. This involves rinsing the tip of the brush in warm water and attempting to reshape it. It may be necessary to repeat this effort several times. Sometimes it is helpful to dip the brush into a solution of gum arabic after the warm water treatment to aid in reshaping. Synthetic brushes may be reshaped with hot water.

Natural hair brushes, especially expensive watercolor brushes, have to be protected from moths, which may lay their eggs on the hairs, which will be food of the larvae when they hatch. Never place a brush in a plastic bag and put it in the dark. This may keep the moths off the brush, but you will be providing a fertile ground for mildew and rot.

I recommend using a Japanese brush holder for storage. This resembles a bamboo placemat with a string attached at one end. Brushes are simply rolled into the mat, which permits the circulation of air and protects the brushes from moths. If you are storing large brushes in a Japanese brush holder, it is a good precaution to wrap a cotton cloth around the holder to prevent insects from crawling into the partially open end. Moth balls, or flakes, provide extra protection and are particularly important when storing brushes in drawers.

These storage procedures are not necessary if the brushes are used every day; then they may simply be placed upright in a jar when entirely dry. Whenever they are not to be used for several days, however, it is best to store them away using one of the methods described.


Information Source :



Oil Mediums By Gamblin Artist Colors

Have a hard time understanding when, how, or why to use all of the different Oil Mediums? Here is  a little information on Gamblin's Oil Mediums to help you out. 

Also, try Gamblin's Interactive Mediums Guide for suggestions on how to create and mix a painting medium that suits your specific needs by clicking the link below.
Choose the characteristics you desire in a medium from the drop down menus below and then click on the "Select" button. You will receive a recommend formula for mixing the proportion of painting mediums and drying oils that will achieve your intended effect.





Michael Harding Oil Painting Mediums: An Introduction.


  • V1 - Dammar Varnish
    Final picture varnish. Creates a subtle gloss finish. Use with opaque, semi-opaque colours 
  • V2 - Matt Varnish
    Final picture varnish. Creates a permanent protective coating with matt finish.
  • PM1 - Oil Paint Medium 
    A basic paint medium, designed to ease flow and increase gloss, transparency, depth and beauty of the pigment colour.
  • PM2 - Dammar Glaze Medium (with cobalt siccative)
    A Traditional glaze medium, creates depth and gloss to transparent colours. Speeds the drying time of oil colours; use with slower-drying colours.
  • PM3 - Resin-Oil-Wax Medium 
    A soft painting paste, derived from bleached pure beeswax, fused with dammar resin and linseed stand oil. To create satin sheen and gentle impasto to paint layers. When setting in the container occurs, allow jar to stand in hot water and stir until dissolved.
  • PM4 - Beeswax Paste 
    A high oil content paste, based on linseed stand oil and bleached beeswax. Increases body of oil colour, with satin-matt finish. Especially useful with opaque colours 
  • PM5 - Oleo-Resin Medium
    Historic glaze medium based on light coloured Canada Balsam, fused with dammar resin and linseed stand oil. Provides increased gloss levels and imparts depth to paint films.
  • PM6 - Balsam-Resin Glaze
    Historic paint medium, based on Austrian larch turpentine (Venice turpentine), fused with dammar resin and linseed stand oil. Can be added to oil colours to enhance depth, gloss and lustre.


Through the Renaissance, artists worked with combinations of tree resins, thickened vegetable oils, waxes and balsams. The exact organisation of these raw materials is open to speculation and may differ from one artist to another, and even within the practice of an individual artist.

However, the basic desire to create an oil paint film with a degree of gloss and depth seems to be a constant.

When oil colour is simply diluted with turpentine, it loses some of its body and also appears to become slightly matt upon drying.

If a small addition of paint medium is incorporated into the paint layer, and then it is diluted, the paint film retains more of its original gloss and lustre. This simple step helps avoid a reliance upon varnishing: in essence, the varnish constituent is then built into the paint film itself.

The antique formulations of these kinds of painting mediums often involved the presence of sun-thickened linseed oil, well-known for its self-levelling properties, excellent gloss and drying capabilities. This viscous oil would invariably be blended with natural tree resins, such as Mastic, from the Greek island of Chios. This combination may also have been treated with lead-based siccative to speed up drying times. To this formulation, an addition of tree balsam may also have been included, to impart yet more gloss to the paint medium.


Contemporary thought about the use of paint mediums errs somewhat on the side of caution.

Rather than using toxic and unpredictable lead drying agents, we have prepared a selection of oil-resin-balsam-wax blends, which avoid any driers (with the exception of Dammar Glaze Medium). In place of sun-thickened linseed oil, we use best grade viscous linseed stand oil (a partially polymerised linseed oil, which is fat in consistency but which self levels perfectly and imparts elasticity into oil paint films and does not yellow/darken appreciably over time).

Otherwise, the raw materials used here are consistent with those of the past. As an alternative to mastic resin (in use for over 800 years) we make use of best quality Indonesian dammar resin (used in paint mediums since late 18C) dissolved into the best grade double rectified turpentine. In our opinion, this is the best and only solvent for use in oil paint technique: it evaporates slowly and evenly and has a delicate flowery odour.

Larch turpentine from the Austrian Tyrol is the best grade tree balsam for use in paint mediums: the balsam is collected by drilling into the core of the tree, to obtain a form of resin-sap which is highly resistant to darkening when incorporated into paint films.

Our unique Oleo Resin Glaze Medium makes use of very pale, highly elastic Canada balsam. This high grade oleo-resin imparts excellent depth and lustre to oil paint films and possesses exceptional clarity.

To create matt or satin-matt paint films, high grade pure bleached beeswax can be fused with tree resins and oils. This makes paint mediums which allow the possibility of mild impasto within the paint film. Although beeswax is the most flexible of all natural waxes, it works best on flexible (i.e. canvas) supports, when fused with oil or resin-oil combinations.

The paint mediums are prepared without drying agents, to compliment the working properties of our oil colours, which are also prepared without use of drying agents. By adding only 10-20% paint medium to oil colour, one can tweak the sheen of the paint film and help avoid loss of gloss within the paint film.

In this kind of ratio the normal drying rate of individual colours is preserved.

If quicker-drying is required, we have prepared one medium (Dammar Glaze Medium) which can be introduced to speed the curing rate of the paint film, again when added in the ratio of 10-20% to oil colour. One can also mix this medium 50:50 with all the other mediums to help speed drying times. Remember that over-use of drying agents could cause problems over time in the dried paint film.

Final varnishes are best applied to thoroughly dried oil paint films. For example, a thinly painted picture may take 6-12 months to “cure” enough to be varnished. Remember that any varnish application will close the paint film, thereby stopping the paint layers from drying if not already dried out. Our Mastic Varnish is clearer than Dammar Varnish and it can also be thinned with turpentine to create a super-fine varnish layer. Varnish is best applied in dry conditions (avoid damp/humid atmospheres, which may cause “blooming” or clouding in the varnish film upon drying).

Sometimes oils and varnishes might separate on standing in the container, which can be simply shaken to remedy this. It is also worth remembering that turpentine when exposed to direct sunlight in glass containers can spoil and must be discarded; this is apparent when the turpentine goes very cloudy. Although we do sell turpentine based products in glass they are generally for immediate use. Try and store these products in darkness.

Pip Seymour & Michael Harding, 2009




What is Encaustic Paint?



Encaustic is a wax based paint (composed of beeswax, resin and pigment), which is kept molten on a heated palette. It is applied to an absorbent surface and then reheated in order to fuse the paint.  The word ‘encaustic’ comes from the Greek word enkaiein, meaning to burn in, referring to the process of fusing the paint.  Although they come from the same root word, ‘encaustic’ should not be confused with ‘caustic,’ which refers to a corrosive chemical reaction. There is no such hazard with encaustic.

Opulence. Encaustic is perhaps the most beautiful of all artists' paints, and it is as versatile as any 21st century medium. It can be polished to a high gloss, carved, scraped, layered, collaged, dipped, cast, modeled, sculpted, textured, and combined with oil. It cools immediately, so that there is no drying time, yet it can always be reworked.

Wax is its own varnish. Encaustic paintings do not have to be varnished or protected by glass because encaustic, which is the most durable of all artists' paints, is its own protector. This is because beeswax is impervious to moisture, which is one of the major causes of deterioration in a paint film. Wax resists moisture far more than resin varnish or oil. Buffing encaustic will give luster and saturation to color in just the same way resin varnish does.

No yellowing. Encaustic paint will not yellowor darken. However, wax itself is photoreactive, so unpigmented encaustic medium that has been kept in dark storage will darken slightly. When re-exposed to light that darkening will bleach out.

No solvents. Encaustic paint does not require the use of solvents. As a result, a number of health hazards are reduced or eliminated.



Screen Printing Mesh Count Chart

Here is a practical chart, taken from the American Screen Printing Association's website, that any screen printer can use when choosing mesh counts. It will give you an idea of what mesh count to use for each printing job.

4 Mesh – Glitter inks 30 Mesh – Shimmer/Crystalina inks

60 Mesh – Team Wear, player numbers, puff inks, metallic inks.

83 Mesh – Cold Peel & Hot Split transfers, heavy white underbase.

109 Mesh – Regular artwork with average details, no very fine lines or halftones

125 Mesh – Regular artwork with average details, no very fine lines or halftones

140 Mesh – Regular artwork with average details, no very fine lines or halftones

162 Mesh – Semi-detailed artwork, large halftones.

200 Mesh – Underbase for detailed prints, detailed artwork, halftones, index color.

230 Mesh – Very detailed artwork, halftones, index color

305 Mesh – 4 color process color printing, overprint colors for simulated-process, fine halftones, very detailed art.

These mesh counts apply to textile and hard goods as well.  For printing with solvent based inks on ad specialty products,  mesh counts of 230-305 will usually produce desired results as a thin ink deposit is usually indicated.

TIP: You do not need to have all of the mesh counts indicated on hand in your shop.  If you are just starting out as a typical textile screen printer, a good starting point would be to order a mix of 83's, 109's, 162's, 200's and 305's. 


A Breakdown of Holbein Acrylic Mediums


A Breakdown of Holbein Acrylic Mediums




Holbein Acrylic Mediums

Exceptional quality, professional grade Acrylic Mediums designed to meet the demands of today’s acrylic artist.

Holbein’s 6 Pastes and 7 Gels along with 3 Base Gesso painting grounds are sure to support all of your artistic creativity. Available in unique poly bags which use less packaging than standard rigid plastic containers, resulting in less post-consumer waste. Poly bags are tough, durable and designed to stand up for easy storage.

6 additional mediums in 200ml squeeze bottles provide convenient use and storage.


Click on the image for a breakdown on each medium.



How to Paint With Sennelier Oil Sticks

Joe G Pinelli explains how to use Sennelier Oil Sticks. This material allows oil painting to be approached differently. It extends the artist's freedom of expression, allowing a greater degree of spontaneity, of "expressionism".