cleaning brushes while painting.

How do most of you clean your brushes while you are painting and moving from one color to another?
Even though I paint alla prima, sometimes I don't want one color to wash into another so I want fairly clean brush for the next stroke.

Just have a lot of brushes for a single color?

I know I am going to get a lot of push back on this, but, I have taken to swishing the brush in turpenoid and then cleaning the brush with a cloth to get a clean brush.

What do you guys do/ recommend?



  • I keep one brush that I use only for black and another only for white, or at least the very brightest.
    And a set for mid tones.
    the mid tones I wipe if I change color.  If I really want to clean it I just use a little of the oil medium.
  • Onerom1945

    I tend to focus on one colour group at a time, for example, Do the sky and water reflection with a set of five or six brushes. Immersion by suspension in brush dip between values, pre and post towel off excess pigment and walnut oil. Moving on to trees means a thorough but gentle agitation on a nylon pot scourer in the walnut brush dip for the brush set, then towel off. Each subsequent element of the painting involves the same procedure.

  • edited May 2020
    I try to keep my colours clean and I don't blend much.  So, I have around ten brushes with various colours in my left hand while I paint with my right hand and just swap brushes as needed. But other than for your darkest dark and lightest light you could use the same brush and just wipe it clean on a paper towel then use it for the next colour. I find doing this too much of a chore and a distraction and wasteful of paint and paper towels.  I find it easier to have a handful of brushes each of which I use for only one colour or closely related colours held in my left hand while I paint with my right. Washing in turps just wrecks brushes. It's awful stuff. I never use it.
  • What @GTO , @dencal and @tassieguy said is pretty much what Mark Carder recommends. MC practically never "cleans" his brushes in the usual sense but he  uses brush dip between sessions to keep any paint left in the bristles from drying till he paints again. Then he wipes off the excess dip, picks up his next color and wipes that off with any residue from the last use and picks up his next color again and paints.   About the middle of this video he explains that.

  • edited May 2020
    I use paint thinner in the tank and put the brush into that tank and then I gently wish the brush over the coils. A gentle pressure to swish the brush will be helpful. 
  • edited October 2021
    Using baby oil is more beneficial than it appears to be. First, the residual baby oil in the bristles can prevent the brush from drying, even if you leave the brush in the open air for a long time. Second, having a clean brush at your disposal can
  • Not a good idea to use baby oil.

     It is a non-drying oil - if it gets in your paint at all it won't ever ever dry.

  • Hey Michael, 
    I've used it for cleaning and didn't have any problems with the paint not drying on the canvas. I would still clean up the brushes with olive oil soap if I knew I wasn't going to paint for a while. 
    BUT :)
    I've replaced baby oil with safflower oil instead. It does the same job, but it's more expensive.
    If you're painting more seriously (if it's for sale, or to hang it up on your wall) I would definitely refrain from using baby oil. 
  • edited October 2021
    In the middle of a painting session I drip the brush into linseed oil and squash the brush onto the palette and then wipe it with a tissue. I repeat the process twice. This removes the pigment.
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