Proper brush care/maintenance

So, I had bought these cheap brushes which I used for small details and while I didn’t expect them to be built to last I definitely expected them to last MORE than a couple of models.

In this picture you can see three of them.
Left is mint condition, never used.
Middle has been used to paint some details.
Right has been used for mud and other rough jobs.

Now, I expected the mud brush to get ruined, but didn’t expected it for the middle one.

After use, I just wash them with warm soapy water and try to get them to the original pointy shape.
What am I doing wrong?
I use acrylics, if it can help.

I have been told to never let paint get all the way into the brush to the point where the bristles are attached to the handle. I have tried to follow this “rule” since then. Only dip the outer third of the brush in the paint.
When paint gets stuck between the bristles/hairs near the metal “tube” the bristles will tend to diverge.
I don’t know how you have used yours …


I surely didn’t dip it to the attachment, but I remember paint getting “sucked” up to that point…

Paint tend to creep up into the bristles …
happens to me all the time …

Robin is correct in that you should try and keep paint away from the heel of the brush ( the part that goes into the ferrule).

Of course the fastest way to kill a brush is dry brushing or adding the mud in a stippling effect.

The most common mistake modellers make is to load a small brush (000,00, etc) in the belief the smaller brush will work better but you need it to hold more paint to do so. Wrong. Use a larger brush but only add paint to the toe (the tip). You will get a fine finish but with more paint available to use.

Before you use a brush to paint with acrylics, moisten it with water first. That way the paint is not drawn up the bristles of a dry brush; it will stay at the toe and belly.

If you are cleaning with soap and water, you will likely still have residue as acrylic dries quick. A better option is a paint brush cleaner. However, if you want to use soap and water, use an airbrush cleaner afterward - you will be surprised how much paint that removes after soap and water, after wards use a brush conditioner on the bristles. I use an artists variety, but Tamiya makes one - I can’t comment on it though:
Their blurb: “This highly useful material will help care for your brush whether you paint frequently or otherwise. It contains agents that help keep the brush tip from fanning out, plus an adhesive substance to ensure the tip stays in the correct shape.”

Lastly and most importantly - NEVER store your brushes upright after cleaning. Storing brushes bristles up just means gravity will drag any fluid down the bristles to the heel and ferrule taking any paint residue down with it. Then it dries and in quick time your brush is ruined.

BTW. Acrylic paint is tough on brushes and they will not last as long as oil based paint. With proper care and maintennace they will last much longer though.




Peter is 100% correct about all of it. I use a product called “brush plus” for a cleaning solution. Since I use acrylics to paint my figures, I swish my brush through this stuff every so often during a session to prevent the acrylics from drying on the brush. Works great.
I store my brushes in there original containers and put them in a plastic box to keep dust off of them. Unfortunately, my work bench is right next to our clothes dryer but I have no where else to put it for now until I finish my basement. So I try to cover all my brushes and models to keep the dust off them.
As far as the size of the brush, I agree that the very small brushes don’t hold much paint and can be difficult to use sometimes. I find myself using the 00 and larger most often now; it has a nice point to it.

Here are pics of what I’m talking about. Hope this helps!


What you’re doing wrong is what I did wrong for years to decades—you’re using “cheap” art store canvas brushes that will not retain the “candleflame tip shape” no matter how many times you have used them. They only look pointed sharp when mint-new and unused. It doesn’t matter if it is Red Sable or synthetic hair brushes–art store brushes will not return to their mint new pointy shape after a wash. But hobby painting brushes WILL return to their original shape after a wash.

What you need to do is buy the hobby painting brushes that are recommended and suggested here on Armorama and figure painting websites (most are sold in Europe or England). They’re actually not that expensive. These hobby figure painting brushes DO retain the pointed tip with brush cleaner and cleaning solutions after repeated uses and washes. It’s not hype—it is true that model hobby painting brushes work the best—art store brushes are too cheap and will never ever retain that pointed tip no matter how many times you roll or use spit to shape the tips. Trust me on this…I’ve learned it from hard experience because there is a difference between figure painting brushes and canvas painting brushes and the vendors who sell model hobby painting brushes aren’t pulling your leg on their products. The figure painters usually suggest and recommend the same model hobby brush brands and they actually do work excellently.

All those 20-50% off coupons for the art store are just that—for arts and crafts painting–not for model hobby and figure painting. I was fooled many times into using these store coupons, but I was always disappointed and got the brush results you photographed after one wash. It’s the pointy tip that you always want and you will never get that unless you buy the hobby brushes from hobby sellers.

With Black Friday and Christmas, some sellers have discounts so now might be a good time to invest in some true hobby (not artists) brushes.


Thanks everybody, all precious info.

What’s a good model brush brand to look for?
Also, will white spirit clean acrylics well?

I’ve always stored my brushes upright and had no problems with them, but I always use good quality ones and dry after use. I don’t think gravity will cause any more problems than capillary action on drawing moisture into the ferrule.

I almost always use lacquer thinner as a step in my brush cleaning with my non synthetic bristle brushes. I swirl the bristles around then then pull the brush across a paper towel to remove any dissolved material. I then lay the brush flat to dry.

I do 2 things. First I drop them into the ultrasonic cleaner. Yup works a treat. I always put them away damp. Dampen them and wipe them gently so they have their shape. Then put them away. They ‘should’ retain their shape when they dry.
Caveat - I’m a penny pincher. I buy cheap brushes I intend throwing them away. But I never do. They just slip down the hierarchy list.


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I’d add that care is a bit easier if you use a brush for the type of paint your using. I have a selection that are oil oriented and a selection that are fine w acrylics and have bristles/hair chosen for those type of paints. Synthetic vs natural fibers, oils vs acrylics, I found my paints perform better with the correct choice. And likewise they clean up easier in my experience.

I disagree with purchasing expensive brushes as the be all end all. The higher tier brushes that many arts/crafts store that are their ‘house brand’ carry are just fine for modeling. Likewise if you want to build a selection of brushes I’d much rather spend $5-7 per brush vs double or triple that cost for a brush that many times is the same but has a modelers name on it. Kind of like washi tape, it’s usually coming from the same factory but the packaging results in a premium bump in price.

Gents, I think us married types can now relate to our wives and the ‘pink’ tax. Maybe we should just call it the “OD/RLM” tax cause the manufacturers know with the right marketing we,'ll sometimes pay premium for the latest and greatest. With that in mind I use commercial cleaners as mentioned above found at art and craft stores because it does the same thing as say Ammo by Mig’s brush magic or whatever they call it for 2x the cost.

Learned something new from this topic, thanks.
I’m also just starting to learn more about paintbrushes, because I’m to have worn down quite a lot of brushes in my experience.
And I’m want to learn how to take good care for my brushes, in order for them to last longer.
And give me a much more enjoyable experience during painting.
Instead of just being irritating to use, because the brush has split or the hairs are no longer together.
But create some kind of open whole in the middle where you can see the drop of paint hanging waiting to get unleashed on the surface of the model I’m painting.

I am finding this absolutely excellent for cleaning brushes, it melts paint very fast I even managed to recover an old brush I was going to throw away:

I don’t know what that is.

Since January, I must have spent 20 hours combing the web looking for decent brushes. It’s really tough for someone (re)entering the hobby because no one agrees on anything. Most review sites are run by snake oil salesman trying to rack up profits recommending obvious junk on Amazon using an affiliate link. Even though I really need new brushes, 11 weeks in, I have yet to purchase one.

Common household cleaning spray, melts acrylics very fast, leaves the airbrush spotless.

First of all, there is not a single correct answer because it depends on the user… it’s like the airbrush or any other tool, we all have our preferences.

Apart from that, Winsor and Newton Series 7 are generally said to be very good brushes, although not cheap

We really ought to have a sticky just for selecting and maintaining paint brushes…

The same might be said for airbrushes - perhaps some sort of sticky or sub-forum just for technical issues and operation.

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