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Hello watercolor friends :wave: This is the another installment of an ongoing feature called AquaTips. Members of the club are encouraged to submit tips and techniques they discovered or use to create and enjoy watercolors. Just send a note to the club with "Tip" in the subject line and we will put it into our AquaTips collection. Come together watercolorists, and share the treasure that is our knowledge! :love:

This is a community AquaTip. That means dA members can answer this question in the comments to share their thoughts so others may learn from their knowledge. So give us a hand and share our knowledge!

Topic: Taking care of your watercolors kit.

:bulletblue:How do you keep your brushes in top shape?
:bulletblue:How often do you clean your palette?
:bulletblue:Where do you store your paper?
:bulletblue:Keeping your pans/tubes as good as new
:bulletblue:Any useful tip you'd like to add?

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ossywest Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2013
You Will knock over your Masking fluid bottle ,so what I suggest is transfer a small amount to a plastic film containter (one that held the old film on a roll) , also add a small amount of water ,preferably water that has been previousley boiled.
Use a shaped stick (hardwood) to apply fluid and avoid using a brush.
Synthetic brushes are very good , use instead of expensive Sables , use a No 3 Rigger for any lines or fine dots
silvertales Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012
I'm definitely an amateur and pretty new to watercolors, but...

1. I always make sure my brushes are rinsed and cleaned after every painting session and suspended to dry point down (if possible) then, when I put them away I keep them in a canvas brush roll.

2. I use pan colors, but I clean my mixing palette after every painting, as I often don't remember what "recipe" I made for colors used during any specific painting.

3. I use watercolor blocks, so I store them in a storage cart with the rest of my supplies. as for finished paintings, I SHOULD store them in an archival acid-free box, but since I don't have the space, I store them in a portfolio with acid free page inserts and keep them well away from heat or sunlight.
Jean-Luc-Aeon Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
How do you keep your brushes in top shape?
Every time I use them I clean them with water and put them back in their shape. Only from time to time I clean them with curd soap.

How often do you clean your palette?
Never ever! I handle my colours really economical, I use every little pigment I can get and I never just wash it away.
Also I can't effort buying new colours too often, so I'm in need of not wasting pigments.

Where do you store your paper?
I usually use watercolour blocks and store them in the shadow, therefore they are always in pretty good condition, some of them are even more than 20 years old, they are from "Weißenborn" and the paper is just like new.

Keeping your pans/tubes as good as new?
Well, I try to keep the pans as clean as I can, despite that there is colour everywhere inbetween the pans. I only use tubes to fill up the pans or for really big pieces.

Any useful tip you'd like to add?
When you are bringing your brush back into shape, use your lips to form the wet brush. Repeat this when it is dry, you will get a nice and pointy tip. (If you are using colours from brands like Schincke, Windsor and Newton or Old Holland, you should not have to worry about harmful ingredients, they should only consist of pure pigment. You can check if your colours conform to "ASTM".)
13roses Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2012
How do you keep your brushes in top shape? :
I'm pretty bad at taking care of my brushes, so for that reason I buy very cheap synthetic ones that work well for the level of work I do. Plus I don't feel as bad when they die, but that being said, most of them have managed to stay in pretty good shape for about 3-4 years. So if your a beginner or amatuer like me I'd recommend cheaper brushes to start! ^^

How often do you clean your palette?
This depends on how long I'm working on a painting for, especially if I'm mixing colours. While I'm working on stuff, I might not change my palette for several weeks because I'm constantly refilling colours or adding water to dried mixes to make more of a certain colour. I'll change it when there is no room left on it for adding more- I have a really big palette too!

Where do you store your paper?
I try to store my paper carefully in drawers beside my painting desk, and only take them out when I need a new sheet to avoid getting the paper smudged or dirty. :)

Keeping your pans/tubes as good as new
I try to make sure that there is no buildup of paint where you put the cap back on. When I first started, I didnt swipe it off, and a bunch of my tubes dried out. :(

Any useful tip you'd like to add?
Don't throw out a dried tube of paint- instead use an exacto knife to gently cut and peel away a square of the tube. This converts it into a pan that you can still use :)
zzen Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I keep my brushes in and old tea pot - heads always up. I clean them with normal soap, which I use to wash my hands (Nivea) and water. It is true, that I don´t clean them with soap every time I use them, but I clean them quite regurarly. I have som cheaper brushes, which are already worn out, I have som expensive brushes from Winsor&Newton - series 7 and they are in perfect condition. I ask W&N through their Facebook page, if they think I sd could clean brushes with shampoo and hair conditioner - it worked with some of my cheaper brushes, but they reply they only recommend mild soap and water (not hot).
From time to time I take out all my watercolours in pans out of the box and I clean the metal box with water and dry it before I put paints back.
For paper block, I store them in the box with lid, so they do not catch the dust, and I store watercolour painting (unframed) in the paper box with lid.
AVindas Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
- Every time I use my brushes, I do not let the pigment dry. When the pencil are wet I put to ventilation to dry, never store wet
- I never clean my palette :P If some colors are dirty or stained by other I need to clean
- I keep my paper in a dry place away from direct light and shade/moisture, look for the place it has good ventilation
- I take care a lot of my pans <3 use from the bottom to top, never press the top first.
- when store your materiales, please do it when are wet, never never, clean very well your brush, some colors stay on brush for a long time, and can alter the new pigment. The paper.. sometime moisture can make shrooms.. keep dry always....

Is hard say on english :P I use translator for some things :)
abasss Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012
OK, thanks for the effort!
Can I rewrite this when I do the journal?
AVindas Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Of course ;)
Jewl242 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I keep my brushes in the plastick box they came in. There are places that hold them still. I tend to put them in simi wet so they come out hard next time. (IDK if that helps anything... I just like the sound and feel I get when I move the brissels again. [Yeah... I'm waird!])

I am really conservitive with my paints... Sooo I have a palette with the colors I use MOST often! I have another that I clean more often.

I have two diffrent kinds of paper... and I go back and forth. I have water color paper that I just keep on my shelf near my desk... annnd thicker paper that is acholy in a small box in my garoge.

I keep all of my paints and plastic box of brushes in a shoe box with my water color paper. >.< I want a nice wooden box sooo badly... But the funds just are not here... :\ But for now, this works.......
Megadee Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012
for my brushes, i keep them wrapped in a canvas bundle to keep shape. As for cleaning them I just make sure they are rinsed thoroughly, I find too much scrubbing makes them lose bristles, and I only use cold water because hot water can loosen the glue that holds them together as well as keeps the bristles in.

I rarely clean my palette, I like the build up of colors.

I buy my paper from Dick blick and they come in a nice bag that i usually hold onto. It's big enough to totally cover my paper when I stretch it to a board. It's also good for carrying to and from class. As for storing i just keep them in my closet.

My tubes are stored in an old coffee grounds container, it's a smaller size and its perfect for tubes.

If you choose not to stretch your paper, and it starts warping on you you can always use an iron to flatten it again. make sure you iron the back and not the side with color, and don't use steam.
MagdalenaWolff Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
1. I never leave them standing in water on the bristles. From time to time after painting I put some soap on them, form a point and put them to my brush-can bristle up.
I heard that when you have a natural brush with messy bristles, you can re-form them by using steam from a kettle: first you put soap on the brush, form the shape, then put to the steam, being careful with the heat on the metal parts, turn the brush so that the steam touches it from all sides, then again re-form the shape and put the brush away to dry, bristle up.
It should get much better after such treatment :)

2. I clean my palette after each painting. I use only pans though, so I don't waste much colours.

3. I put it in a plastic portfolio around 50x70 cm, so when I buy 70x100 cm sheets, I need to cut them before storing ;)

4. I use only pans. When they get dirty after painting, I clean them with a clean brush, that's all :)

5. If you have problems with pans that went dry or are almost finished and it's difficult to squeeze colour from them, just put some water on them (e.g. by a pipette or a clean brush) some time before painting - they should be nice and soft by the time you paint :)
Rinnii Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:bulletblue:How do you keep your brushes in top shape?

I wash my brushes regularly and don't let the paint stay on the brush longer then needed, I find with some of my white brushes they retain a lot of colour if I leave them too long. I also never stand them on their tips, I learned to not do that as a child.

:bulletblue:How often do you clean your palette?

My paints are water soluble so I don't clean my pallet as often as I did with cheaper paints that dried hard.

:bulletblue:Where do you store your paper?

I have to keep paper away from cats, I used to live with cat that would walk all over everything and I currently live with a cat that likes to rip up paper. So I have to be careful with where I put my paper. Though I often try to keep paper in their books if I can when I am not using them.

:bulletblue:Keeping your pans/tubes as good as new

I don't take a lot of care with this, I like them to look used and loved.

:bulletblue:Any useful tip you'd like to add?

Wet on wet painting is definitely my favourite right now. Makes for pretty pictures. :)
Junipersweet Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Professional General Artist
So many usefull tips!! A pity I don't really feel the need to take care of my palette and brushes. I just rinse my brushes and they always seem fine to me :D
And I use those 'boxes' of cardboard and plastic, apples and other fruits are being sold in, as mixing surface :p
IllustriousShades Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Professional Interface Designer
I keep my brushes in top shape by washing them repeatedly in water, and changing the water consecutively while I paint. After I'm finished, I will wash them with ivory soap by scrubbing them on the back of the soap, until the hairs are all messed up. Then, I'll run warm water over it and put all the hairs back into their original position. And in the proccess of painting, I wash it in the cup of water, then dry it on my pant legs, reshaping it. :D I'm too lazy sometimes to get a paper towel.

I'll clean my pallet nearly every time I start a new painting unless I need those colors. I hate wasting colors.

I store my paper in one of my dresser drawers and beside my dresser. I have alot of paper. I never lay it down, just because my cat insists on leaving paw prints all over it. I had to scrap a page of my comic book because of her little "gifts".

I don't even bother keeping the tubes like new. If its new, it's not loved. :D

I do work with ink, and I did find out that since ink does not want to come out of the bristols, that using lacquer thinner will get that out, and the brush will be like new! Happy accident when I gave my "dead" ink brush to my brother to use on his truck. He washed it in lacquer thinner and I was shocked. It was practically new!
GreenSprite Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012
I really don't do much to care for my kit. I've never had any problems with it during all these years. Watercolours are probably the most low-maintenance painting medium.

Brushes - I never let them stand on their bristles, not even in the water cup for a few seconds, because it builds a bad habit (I used to do it as a kid and took a bit of self-discipline to wean myself off). If you work with both watercolors and inks like me, you may want to avoid using your best/sable brushes with ink, because it tends to destroy bristles in time (just my own observation, don't know why). I don't wash my brushes except when I get gouache all over them and it's ew. In that case, I just use tap water.

Palette - I never wash it, I like it messy because it provides a wider variety of colours. I just avoid getting dust or dirt on it (cover it up when not in use).

A special note on masking fluid, if you use it: cap the bottle as soon as possible, and make sure it's airtight. That stuff dries in no time, and you end up with a bottle of expensive useless goop. Not fun.

One thing that helps with clean painting in general is to keep a cotton rag in your kit for cleaning up spills, tools, or blobs of water from your painting. It's really an amazingly handy thing to have.

I am very bad/clueless with storing paper, so I'll be reading the tips others share about it :)
AChildOfTheKing Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have a husky tool box and store all of my brushes flat and in a row the same with my paints then i can find what i want easily. i wash them out with water and dry them to shape with a cloth. i leave my pallet dirty until i am done with my painting, then clean it to start fresh for my next project. i store all of my paper that will fit in my deepest draw of my tool box. then the big stuff unfortunately is leaning flat against the wall. My tool box holds this in place. My sketch pads i keep on my book shelf. I make sure they are standing tight so the binding doesn't break. I do like the soap idea I'll have to try that.
cactussinn Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012
Hot water and soap for my brushes, then upside down for the drying!
My palette? Never clean it, so I keep my favorites colors on it, and mix them again. Plus I love the sight of a "dirty" palette, I mean a colorful one
Penny-Dragon Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
I live in Brisbane, Australia, which is very humid most of the time. My watercolours sometimes go mouldy, so remember to dry out your pallet before shoving it back in your cupboard!

(I learned that one the hard way :P)
Leochi Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012
A good way of reshaping bristles of sable brushes is to soak them in very sugary water, reshape them with your fingers, and let them dry.

You also can do the same with regular soap. Wet the soap, load your brush with soap as you would with colour, reshape it and let it dry. (Don't forget to rinse the brush thouroughly after it has dried, lol. You don't want sugar or soap in your next pic. Soap tends to ruin the colours, and makes nasty patches.)

As I don't like muddy puddles, I tend to clean my palette every time after use. Should there be a lovely pure mix left over, I might leave it for the next pic and clean the surface around it.

I'd love to have more space to store paper, I usually keep it either in a kind of office bag (smaller formats) or under my bed in plastic bags (bigger formats).

Keeping pans and tubes clean makes them go a long way. Should a tube get damaged, then I squeeze the content into a compartement of a palette and let it dry.

Only buy large tubes or paint jars if you really use them. There's nothing more frustrating than to find dried up big tubes of colours that you cannot use properly anymore. If you only occasionally do watercolour, you'd probably be better off by buying the paints in whole pans. They really last for AGES without deteriorating. I've still got some hues that were discontinued 20 years ago, and they work just fine.
lyraleperformer Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012
1) I just make sure they're washed off after every use, and never let them sit in the water cup.
2) only when I really must
3) in a bin of art paper I have
4) I don't have a tip for this one, I keep all my tubes in a big ziploc bag so they never get lost.
5) I can't think of any :(
Mellios Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012  Student
If you're having trouble keeping a point or shape with the brush I tend to lick my fingertips and shape it myself. If I haven't used any paint yet I'll just put it in my mouth (I don't mean like a toothbrush, you just wet it a bit...). Wash them after use with just regular water, avoiding getting it on the metal and place them all right side up in a container or a drawer (I like to make sure they're dry before I put them away, or as dry as possible... My cats tend to... Gnaw on things.).

I avoid cleaning my palette as much as possible, but between each piece or every couple pieces tends to work. I don't like cleaning it because I like to be able to reuse any colours I mixed beforehand. It's nice to let some colours dry on there, especially if you like them and plan to use them often, as it provides something for comparison right there when you're mixing.

I just keep all my paper in a drawer. That way nothing happens to them and I don't have to worry about something leaking onto them.

Well I squeeze my tube into my palette and let it dry. Generally to keep a tube good as new I just wipe it after I'm done so there's no excess paint. As for the actual pans, using a little water and a crappy brush to just get rid of any other colours that might have snuck in there is nice.

If you plan on drawing out your subject matter beforehand, make sure you use a harder pencil as a lot of graphite will tend to make the watercolour muddy and turn out poorly. If using a hard pencil is intimidating (And by hard I mean an HB-2H) use a softer pencil and just take a kneaded eraser and go over all the lines so they're much more faint. Don't press hard with the pencil! If you engrave the paper it tends to mess with the flow of the paint when you apply it.
MonsterSLUT Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
for anyone in the uk, paperchase has amazing portfolios to hoard any work/unused canvases and cartrige paper, and they sell a roll with pockets to keep you paint brushes safe and makes them easier to store than in a folder/box xx
Yenni-Vu Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
i use sable brushes, they need much care.
after using them i wash them out with lipid balancing soap, then i form the top pointy.
then i put the cap on them and let them dry.
i clean my palette after every use.
i story my paper normal in a drawer and i keep my pans clean with using a clean brush when taking color.
abasss Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2012
The other day, while I was painting, I noticed that my brand new brush looked like roadkill, because I had been sloppy when I stored it the last time I used it. The bristles were all out of of place, so I when the brush was very wet, I slowly massaged the hairs back into their normal shape. It took me like 10 minutes but it worked!
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Submitted on
February 3, 2012


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