Watercolour Brush Basics

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An important part of learning the basics of watercolour painting is understanding how to use and take care of your watercolour brushes.

What are Watercolour Brushes?

Watercolour paint brushes are made with soft, absorbent bristles composed of animal hairs, synthetic fibres, or a blend of the two. Although watercolour brushes come in all shapes and sizes, they are designed specifically for collecting wet paint within the bristles.

The larger the tip of the brush, the more paint it can hold. Traditionally, watercolour brushes are also made with shorter handles because watercolour painters tend to work closer to the surface of their work more so than acrylic or oil painters who often work while standing in front of an easel.

Types of Brushes & Their Uses

While there are many kinds of brushes available in different sizes and qualities, there are three main brushes that should be in every watercolour artist’s brush collection.

1. Round

Round brushes are the most versatile and can be used for creating washes, bold lines, or filling in sections of colour. You may find using multiple round brushes in different sizes to be very useful. For example, you can use a big chunky round brush to create a wash, and then use a small round brush for detail work.

2. Liner

Liner brushes are made with thinner and longer bristles and are used for line art and detail work. With the flick of your wrist, you can also create a grass or fur texture with a liner brush.

3. Wash

Wash brushes are for creating a wash (layer of diluted paint) and filling in large sections of paint. You can get a round, mop, angled, or “standard” wash brush (where the bristle end is more of a square shape). You can also use wash brushes for creating bold lines and shapes.

Etchr Lab carries watercolour brushes in sets of 10 made with synthetic fibres (vegan friendly).

Brush Care & Storage

It’s important to clean and store your watercolour brushes properly to keep them working well for as long as possible.

1. Gently rinse brushes after each use and blot dry on a paper towel or a cloth. If you need a little help getting the paint off of the bristles, you can use soapy water or brush cleaner.

2. Don’t leave brushes in water for long periods (otherwise the bristles will bend and wooden handles will become damaged).

3. Store brushes upright (bristle side up) in a cup, in a canvas roll-up brush holder, or in a solid paintbrush case.

Pictured above is a solid plastic paintbrush case, which can be purchased at most art and craft supply stores. Etchr Lab's brush set comes with a soft canvas roll upholder.

Masking Fluid Pro Tip

Masking fluid is used to block out sections of paper where you do not want the paint to be absorbed. If you’re familiar with masking fluid, you know that it is extremely difficult to remove it from paintbrushes.

Many artists buy cheap paintbrushes specifically for masking fluid because it tends to ruin brushes just after a couple of uses. However, there is a trick you can use to keep your watercolour brushes looking fresh even after using masking fluid several times.

Before using masking fluid, wet your paintbrush in clean water and then dip it into a small amount of dish soap. Make sure all of the bristles are coated in soap and then dab off any excess soap with a paper towel.

This creates a barrier between the masking fluid and the paintbrush bristles. Proceed to use the masking fluid as usual. You should periodically rinse off your brush and reapply the soap to avoid gumming up the bristles. This dish soap technique will increase the longevity of your masking fluid paint brushes, saving you money in the long run.

We hope you found this information useful! As usual, please share your watercolour creations with us over on Instagram. Upload a photo of your art and tag us @etchr_lab.

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Vena Carr is a Canadian watercolour artist specialising in illustration and character design. When Vena isn’t painting, she enjoys thrifting, watching cartoons, and exploring new places.
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3 Comments

  • Thanks so much for dropping by with a comment, Laurie! We totally agree with you. We do recommend storing them upright when they are completely dry. We hope this blog post has been helpful! If there’s anything you’d like us to write about, please let us know. :)

    Marielle on
  • I prefer to keep my brushes laying flat to dry completely, therefore preventing moisture from collecting in the ferrule and loosening the bristles.

    Laurie Murray on
  • I prefer to keep my brushes laying flat to dry completely, therefore preventing moisture from collecting in the ferrule and loosening the bristles.

    Laurie Murray on

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