Cleaning Artist Brushes : Knowing how to clean your brushes is indispensable for extending the life of your brushes.
For watercolor, rinse your brush with cold water and gently squeeze the head to drain the water. You can use a paper towel to gently suck the water out of the brush head. Do not use hot water, as it may destroy the hairs. If you use soap, do not use strong detergents.
Paints are made of color pigments and a medium. The medium (sometimes called, vehicle) acts as a glue which holds the pigments in place when the paint dries. The vehicle for acrylic paint is a water-based solution called polymer. The acrylic polymer does not dry only through evaporation. It hardens by changing its molecular structure permanently, when it is exposed to air. The process takes only a few minutes and is irreversible. What it means is that if your brush is contaminated with acrylic paint and you let it dry, you will not be able to get the paint off the bristles. Therefore, you have to keep your brush head wet at all times.
It is critical that you wash your brush immediately after you finish painting. Rinse it thoroughly under cold water. The best way to do it is to keep your brush under running water and gently separate the hairs with your fingers till the paint is completely washed off. Again do not use hot water or strong detergent.
Alkyds & Oil brushes
First, wipe off the excess paint from your brush, then use soap and lukewarm water to wash your brush.
Alternatively, use odorless paint thinner to clean your brush. Paint thinner works better than soap and water for oil and alkyds, but beware that paint thinner is harmful. Always use this chemical in a ventilated area. Do not breathe directly over a container of paint thinner and avoid getting it on your fingers or in your eyes. Don’t dispose of paint thinner in a household sink.
Even after you Cleaning your brush, sometimes the residual paint causes the bristles to stick together. This is not a big problem if you paint every day. But if you are not going to paint for several days, the bristles harden and render your brush useless. A simple procedure can prevent this from happening. A day after you wash your brush, when you notice that the bristles are somewhat sticking together but haven’t quite hardened yet, simple hold your brush in one hand and lightly press its head against the palm of your other hand. Roll your brush 180 degrees and repeat the procedure once more. By pressing the brush head inside the palm of your hand, you separate the hairs before they completely dry and permanently stick together. This easy process takes only a couple of seconds and is your lifesaver.