How to take care of watercolor brushes. For all of us artists, the tools are fundamental for any work that requires manual skills! Together with experience and practice, they are the winning allies for those who want to experiment and improve themselves every day. I have always paid great attention to the brushes, and I believe that exemplary conservation of all the work tools is the first step to guarantee a longer life. This time we will examine all the possible variations of shape, size, quality of materials and components to understand how to store our brushes and make the most of their characteristics. The range of brushes is extensive, which is why today, in particular, we will talk about the most commonly used brushes for the watercolor technique. When buying, try to keep in mind that a higher quality brush will allow for better results. But how do we recognize the brushes that are right for us? Let’s start by examining the different materials that make up the brushes for cool drawings.
Natural or synthetic fibers?
Let’s say right away that every painting technique requires the right brushes. The brushes are distinguished by the shape and size of the bristles and the length of the handle. To choose them, it is essential to recognize the ones that are right for us. The tips of watercolor brushes are generally made with soft fibers and have short handles. It is usually the type of fibers that determines the price and performance. Until recently, natural fibers were considered the best, but the technological innovations of synthetic fibers challenge this belief. There are different types of natural fibers on the market: the bristles of marten or mink are more suitable for painting watercolors. These types of bristles are exceptionally flexible and can retain water and a longer duration over time.
Other watercolor brushes have squirrel fibers, which are just as soft, while brushes with ox hair bristles are renowned for their texture and long life. The alternative, as we said a little earlier, is represented by brushes with synthetic bristles. The performances have now reached the same level as natural colleagues, and many people decide to make an ethical choice and not use products of animal origin. All the major companies, such as Princeton, Tintoretto, Borciani and Bonazzi, Da Vinci, and many others, have excellent series of products with synthetic bristles.
The brush and its parts
The main elements that make up a brush are:
The Bristles: which, as we said earlier, can be both natural and synthetic. Even when wet, they must keep their shape.
The belly: the widest part of the bristles. This part is functional because it retains the color and releases it gradually.
The Heel: is the point where the fibers are grafted into the ferrule.
The Ring: is a metal collar that connects the bristles with the handle.
The handle: usually, watercolor brushes have a short handle.
The watercolor brushes
The ideal brush for watercolor painting must have a fine tip to define details and a round belly capable of retaining water and color to define more extensive backgrounds. Then, thanks to the elasticity of the fibers, these panels have the characteristic of returning to their original shape. This type of brush makes it possible to create finer details using the tip brush or paint larger surfaces using a slightly inclined brush. Sometimes, using the same brush makes the job faster without having to give up a good result.
The brush in question can have natural or synthetic fibers, and both are good tools to alternate according to your experience and need. The round tip brush is among the most versatile and is best suited for watercolor painting. The flat bristle brush, on the other hand, is mainly used to spread the funds. It is ideal for creating large glazes or strong lines. On the other hand, the bombazine is a brush with a substantial dome-shaped tip that can retain a large amount of light color, ideal for creating glazes. The extra-fine tip brush holds many colors and is suitable to draw fine and precise lines. Finally, the fan brush is particularly suitable for obtaining stain effects and original shades.
A little exercise to try brushes
For beginners, you don’t need a large number of brushes. Over time, you will be able to choose which brushes best suit your style. Let’s now proceed with a simple exercise able to make us more familiar with the tools available. Each brush must experience its potential. Get a watercolor sheet and some color, choose one of your brushes and have fun experimenting with all the possible variations of strokes that you can achieve with just one brush. Draw straight, wavy, or drummed lines with the tip on the paper. Thanks to this simple exercise, you will discover different ways of using each brush!
How to preserve brushes
The tricks to preserve your brushes as long as possible are very few, and it takes a few minutes to put them into practice, but if you can observe them as an actual ritual, you will guarantee your brushes a longer life. After painting, it is essential to store the brushes correctly to be ready for their subsequent use. On the other hand, there are as many precautions to be applied even during their use. No solvents are needed to paint with watercolor, but get clean water to dip the brushes to wash off the color residues.
Some practical advice
It is essential to let the brushes dry at room temperature. Gently remove excess water. It is advisable to let the dry brushes upside down to place them vertically, thanks to the brush washer. Still, you can also rest the brushes on a dry cloth in place horizontal. Another thing not to do is place the brushes with the tip pointing downwards in a container, especially if wet. In this case, you risk making the tips bend. Furthermore, direct exposure to excessive heat sources that could damage them is not recommended.
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