How to clean an Acrylic paintbrush (video)

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting

How to clean an Acrylic paint brush with “The Masters” brush cleaner.


Video transcript

Morning class, I’m Will Kemp from will kemp art school and today I’m going to show you how to properly clean an acrylic brush.

So the first thing you need to do is get most of the paint off your brush to start with. It’s always easier just to clean if off, just with kitchen roll, to wipe off most of the paint, then we can go into the water.

I use absolutely loads of kitchen roll when I’m working, and you just kind  of rub it into it.

You can scrub it quite hard and often I squeeze the brush together into the kitchen roll…

This really helps to kind of soak out all the pieces of pigment that get stuck in here the bottom of the brush. That what we want to really try and get out.

The real trick is to use a brush cleaner, just make sure it’s a little bit moist onto the brush. I just work it around into the middle of the pan slightly, and then you just work it into your hand. The lather that is being made starts to bring out all of the red pigment that was in the brush. That you couldn’t easily see before.

Again, more kitchen roll.

A bit more water.

And another round with the lather, the brush cleaner, and you can kind of work that in as well.

Once it gets to this level, all I do is run it under the cold tap, just keep on working that lather through it. Dry it off with kitchen roll. And then make it into the shape of the brush. This cleaner is a preserver as well, so if there is a little bit left on it it doesn’t matter in fact it will be good for the brush, then just leave it on the horizontal.

You don’t want to hold it like this (upright) because a little bit of moisture will come down into the bottom of the brush and your brush bristles will splay out, so keep it on the horizontal, leave it to dry and you’re ready to go.

Resources

the-masters-brush-cleaner

The Masters brush cleaner:  I’ve found this to be one of the best brush cleaners around, you can use it with Acrylic paint and Oil paint and it can even revive brushes that have hardened on paint. It rocks!

The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver – 2.5oz (75g) Pot

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael De Greef October 7, 2011

Thanks for the tip, brushcleaning has always been a big hassle and this just looks awesome. Unfortunately I had to import it from the US but atleast the shipping rates weren’t too high :).

Reply

Will Kemp October 8, 2011

whilst you wait for delivery you could also use a little washing-up liquid and water to clean your brushes, this is especially useful with oil paints because the detergent cuts through the oil to clean it

Reply

Simon G. June 25, 2012

Hi Will,

Thanks for creating such a great website – I’m finding it really useful!

I understand the importance of cleaning the brush thoroughly after the painting session has ended, but what about during the session? If I finish using a brush but know I may want it again, how can I keep it “nice” without washing it properly? Can I leave all the brushes used in one session till the end before washing? If so, how? – I don’t want them to go hard, but keeping them in water is also not a good idea.
Obviously I would get as much paint out as possible before putting the brush aside, but is there a time limit before it all goes to pot?

Many thanks,

Simon.

Reply

Will Kemp June 26, 2012

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your kind comments.

Regarding cleaning brushes during a painting session:

I always clean my brushes thoroughly in water, squeezing out the excess water onto some kitchen roll, even if I have finished with that brush but might want to still use it later in that session, I just wouldn’t use the brush cleaner until the final clean up for the day.

Although this seems like a lot of washing, Acrylics are unforgiving and can harden on a brush within 5 minutes so it is a really good habit to get into and it’s not until you’ve ruined your favourite brush that it becomes second nature!
I agree with keeping them out of water, but I do keep them damp.

So to sum up:

As long as they’ve been cleaned thoroughly in water, squeezed on kitchen roll until they’re damp, they will keep nice until the end of the painting session for a more thorough clean with brush cleaner.

Hope this helps,

Will

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Simon G. June 27, 2012

Thanks Will,

I’m so glad I don’t have to keep reaching for the soap every few minutes – I’d never get any painting done!!

Simon.

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ajithganil August 19, 2012

Hi Will

Is acrylic painting hard to do?

Reply

Will Kemp August 19, 2012

Hi Ajithganil, no acrylic painting is very straight forward, all you really need is some paint, water and a couple of brushes. You can paint on any surface from paper to canvas. It’s a great medium to start to learn about painting.
Thanks,
Will

Reply

sam April 3, 2013

Hi Will,

im finding your site really useful. iam wondering if there is something you can substitute
brush cleaner for?

thanks

Reply

Will Kemp April 3, 2013

Hi Sam,

Washing up liquid works very well if you don’t have any brush cleaner – just make sure it is all washed out of the brush before you start your next painting,

Cheers,

Will

Reply

deborah franklin July 27, 2013

Hi Will, I am a beginner and am so excited to have found your site. My first, of what I am sure will be many, question is: Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, which is in Boone, NC, USA, sold me Silicone Brush Cleaning Fluid and a Silicone Brush Cleaning Tank. Will this work as well The Master’s Brush Cleaner? Trying to buy all the basic materials when you don’t know what you are doing is so confusing. I wish I had found you first! Thanks for being here for all of us beginners!
Deborah

Reply

Will Kemp July 28, 2013

Hi Deborah, pleased you’re enjoying the site. I haven’t personally used the Silicone Brush Cleaning Fluid, but having a quick look at it and it looks great for cleaning oil paint from brushes.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

marianne casmose denning October 27, 2013

thank you so very much for all the information you are supplying.

Reply

Will Kemp October 27, 2013

Thanks Marianne, really pleased you’re finding the tutorials helpful.

Cheers,
Will

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Angelina December 5, 2013

Hi Will!

If I don’t have brush cleaner, will cleaning with just water do?

Thanks!

Reply

Will Kemp December 6, 2013

Yes Angelina, water will do for most of the time, you can also try adding a tiny touch of washing up liquid to produce a lather will help remove all the paint pigment from the bristles.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

Michelle March 18, 2017

Thank you for sharing such a wealth of knowledge so selflessly and with such charisma! I have to add, that I just love your accent :). (I’m Canadian)

Just a couple of questions:
What is ‘washing up liquid’? (Would it be like a liquid hand or dish soap?)
You mention the use of paper towels. I’m trying to practice eco-friendly habits (as eco-friendly as painting will allow, lol)- can the use of a cotton cloth be an alternative? If so, how would it be best cleaned / maintained for repeated use?

Thanks again for sharing your talents – so inspiring!

Cheers,
Michelle

Reply

Will Kemp March 21, 2017

Hi Michelle, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials, yes, washing up liquid is liquid hand wash. Yes, you can also use cotton cloth, however, the acrylic will dry hard into the cotton so will form a permanent bond and get stiffer over time as more paint is added.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

Archana Jayaseelan June 25, 2017

Hi Will, A bouquet of thanks for the time you take to make things easier for us.,. :-)
Would appreciate if you could say, how do you clean your oil pain-brushes?? I have tried cleaning them with OMS (Turpentine) and then soap water. But always find the bristles go weaker and falling off…
Would you suggest anything else, something more simpler (than using OMS or thinners)… Can olive oil /coconut oil be used? Your inputs please…

Thanks again..

By soap water, I meant liquid hand wash diluted with water.. and at times, have tried even a shampoo and conditioner. But found nothing satisfying…

And the brushes I use are Daler & Rowney’s synthetic and natural hair brushes, filberts and Winton’s.
Much thanks in advance Will.

Reply

Will Kemp June 30, 2017

Hi Archana, the Masters brush cleaner can also be used with oil paints, washing up liquid also works well.
Cheers,
Will

Reply

Sebastian July 8, 2017

Hi Will!

I am wondering how you would recommend storing your brushes between painting sessions. I have been storing mine on the horizontal well spaced out, some i keep vertically in a cup. Im wondering specifically if storing them vertical (once dry of course, not when wet) might splay the bristles out!

Thanks!
-Seb

Reply

Will Kemp July 11, 2017

Hi Seb, I tend to leave brushes to fry horizontally so you don’t get excess water drain down into the ferrule of the brush but once dry store then vertically.
Cheers,
Will

Reply

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