how to use watercolor brushes

How to Use Watercolor Brushes: A Guide for Beginners


Watercolor painting is a beautiful and rewarding art form that has captured the hearts of many artists throughout the centuries. One of the keys to mastering watercolor painting is learning how to properly use watercolor brushes. In this blog post, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to use watercolor brushes, so that you can take your painting skills to the next level.

Understanding the Different Types of Watercolor Brushes

Before we delve into the techniques of using watercolor brushes, it is crucial that you become familiar with the different types of brushes available. Here is a brief overview of the most common watercolor brushes:
  • Round brushes: The most versatile watercolor brush, round brushes have a fine point for detail work and can create both thin and thick lines.
  • Flat brushes: Ideal for washes, flat brushes have a square edge that allows for greater control when painting straight lines and edges.
  • Filbert brushes: With a rounded, tapered edge, filbert brushes are perfect for blending and creating soft edges.
  • Rigger brushes: These thin and long brushes are great for painting fine lines, such as grasses and branches.
  • Mop brushes: As the name suggests, mop brushes have a large, soft head that is perfect for laying down large areas of color or creating delicate washes.

Preparing Your Watercolor Brushes

Before painting, it’s important to prepare your brushes correctly to ensure they perform their best:
  1. Remove sizing: Most brushes come with a protective layer of sizing. Gently rinse your brushes under lukewarm water to remove any leftover residue.
  2. Condition your brushes: Wet your brushes with clean water and gently run your fingers through the bristles to remove any remaining debris.
  3. Shape your brushes: Gently reshape the wet bristles to their original form, and allow them to dry before use.

Techniques for Using Watercolor Brushes

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of brushes and how to prepare them, let’s discuss some basic techniques for using watercolor brushes:
  1. Holding the brush: Hold the brush near the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles) for better control.
  2. Loading the brush: Dip your brush in water and then gently swipe it across the watercolor paint to pick up the desired amount of pigment.
  3. Applying the paint: Start by applying the paint with a light touch, and gradually increase pressure to create thicker lines or heavier washes.
  4. Creating washes: Load your brush with a generous amount of water and paint, and sweep it across the paper in broad strokes to create smooth washes.
  5. Dry brushing: Remove excess water from your brush and lightly drag it across the surface of your paper to create textured, broken lines.
  6. Blending colors: To blend colors on your paper, use a clean, damp brush to smooth the transition between the two colors gently.

Clean your brushes

When cleaning your watercolor brushes, it’s important to be gentle and avoid using harsh chemicals or excessive force. Here are some tips to help you clean your brushes effectively:
  1. Use warm water and mild soap: Start by rinsing your brush under warm water to remove any excess paint. Then, apply a small amount of mild soap to the bristles and gently work it in with your fingers.
  2. Rinse well: Once you’ve worked the soap into the bristles, rinse the brush thoroughly under running water. Be sure to remove all traces of soap to prevent any residue from affecting your next painting session.
  3. Don’t leave brushes standing in water: After cleaning your brushes, be sure to shake off any excess water and reshape the bristles. Avoid leaving your brushes standing upright in the water, as this can cause the bristles to splay or warp.
  4. Use a brush cleaner if necessary: If you find that your brushes are particularly dirty or have become stiff with dried paint, you may need to use a brush cleaner. These products are specially formulated to remove stubborn paint and restore the softness of the bristles.
  5. Dry your brushes properly: Once your brushes are clean, gently squeeze out any remaining water and reshape the bristles. Lay your brushes flat or hang them upside down to dry, and avoid storing them until they are completely dry.
By taking care to clean your brushes properly, you can extend their lifespan and ensure that they perform well for years to come.

Store your brushes properly

Storing your watercolor brushes properly is just as important as cleaning them. Proper storage can help to prevent damage to the bristles and ensure that your brushes are always ready to use when you need them. Here are some tips for storing your watercolor brushes:
  1. Lay them flat or hang them upside down: When storing your brushes, avoid standing them upright in a cup or jar. This can cause the bristles to bend or splay out of shape. Instead, lay your brushes flat on a clean, dry surface or hang them upside down from a brush holder.
  2. Use a brush holder: If you have several brushes, it may be helpful to use a brush holder or roll-up case to keep them organized and protected. These cases are designed to keep the bristles from touching each other and can help to prevent damage or misshaping.
  3. Keep them dry: Before storing your brushes, be sure to shake off any excess water and reshape the bristles. Avoid storing damp brushes, as this can lead to mold or mildew growth. If you need to transport your brushes, wrap them in a clean cloth or paper towel to protect them.
  4. Protect the bristles: To prevent damage to the bristles, avoid storing your brushes in a crowded or dusty area. Keep them in a clean, dry place where they won’t be jostled or bumped.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your watercolor brushes stay in good condition and are always ready to use when you need them.


Mastering the art of using watercolor brushes takes time and practice. By familiarizing yourself with the different types of brushes, properly preparing them for use, and implementing basic painting techniques, you will be well on your way to creating beautiful and expressive watercolor artwork. Remember, the key to success is patience and perseverance, so don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts don’t turn out as expected. Keep practicing, and you’ll soon find yourself wielding watercolor brushes like a pro! To your next artwork. Steve

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