I recently came across a promotion for a new brush cleaner by a company called “Creators Workshop”. The promotion included a graphic that offered advice for how to clean a brush. The final step in this recommendation was to “dry brush carefully to remove water on a paper towel or cloth.” While this many not lead to any issues for painters who employ a more textured application of paint—this can be a highly problematic process for some painters that lean towards a very refined finish (esp. those investing great effort in the manipulation of small amounts of paint over a good amount of surface or a very smooth surface.)
Scrubbing or rubbing (or even dabbing) brushes on or into paper towels or fabric can lead to a significant amount of unwanted particulates/debris becoming lodged in, or resting on, a brush’s hair bundle. These particulates are then transferred into one’s paint during a paint session in such a way so as to cause unwanted aggregates that protrude (shown right) or odd looking pock-marks (shown left) that arise from brushstrokes pushing up paint against a piece of debris and “skipping over” the surface that immediately follows (in the direction of the brushstroke of course.) (FYI: images of debris in paint are obviously magnified.)
For those that aim to achieve a highly-refined finish I would recommend gently squeezing excess water from a washed brush, tying when applicable, and placing upright in a low-dust environment to dry. This will alleviate a GREAT deal of the unwanted particulates you may encounter when painting.
To be clear, we do use paper towels to wipe brushes when painting and when cleaning. However, during the painting process, wiping a brush off is ideally kept to a minimum—and done so gently grasping the hair bundle with the towel and wiping away from the ferrule. During cleaning, we do the same but prior to washing.
Our brush cleaning process:
Our brushes are cleaned in a very simple manner. Residual paint is wiped off with a paper towel by wiping away from the ferrule. Gentle brush wiping is continued until little to no paint is seen on the paper towel. The brushes are then gently washed with soap and water and any bristle brushes are then tied in position.
In lukewarm water, brushes’ hair bundles are gently rotated onto a bar of soap until all remaining evidence of residual paint disappears. Take care to not press hard when washing against the soap as some soap remnants may become lodged in the ferrule causing damage.
Rinse any remaining soap from the hair bundle.
Synthetics and Sable brushes can be gently shaped by hand and then placed upright in a minimal dust environment to dry. Bristles can be tied into position so that they maintain their shape. This is done by wetting a length of string and then wrapping it around the ferrule and hair bundle. This string should never be wrapped too tightly as it may cause the tip of the brush to flare defeating the purpose of brush tying altogether. To achieve a delicate wrap—hold one end of the wet string on the ferrule with your finger while you carefully rotate the brush. This will help to ensure you do not wrap the brush too tightly. Once wrapped, you can gently mold the shape of the brush and store upright to dry in a minimal dust environment. This practice of careful maintenance will greatly increase the lifespan of your materials.