by Paul Worrall August 23, 2021
The humble bucket is an indispensable piece of equipment for any painter. Whether you are painting in acrylics or oils, artists have always needed a convenient receptacle for their water, thinners and mediums. Nowadays we are spoilt for choice as there is a wide range of purpose made buckets, tubs and pots. Not only that, but brush soaps and conditioners are also readily available to assist to thoroughly work paint gunk out of brushes, making a once arduous job easier than it ever has been. In this article we will discuss the options available for brush cleaning and care as well as a little painting aftercare for your equipment.
There are a myriad of cups, pots and water holders on the market currently so there should not be a problem finding something to suit your particular painting style. Deciding which is the right one for you depends on what you are doing and where you are doing it, most are small enough to be considered portable and many feature handles which can be used to carry the pot or hang it on an easel. Generally useful to have around the studio.
While it might look like an accordion the Jakar Collapsible Water Lantern is lightweight, portable and incredibly useful. The folding design means it can be collapsed to save on space when working out of the studio, or useful for artists short on studio space as it can be stowed away neatly between painting sessions. The pot is suitable for use with water although we do not recommend you use solvent spirits. It is well suited for use with watercolours, inks, acrylics and other water-based media. It can also double up as a pencil pot or brush holder whilst you are out and about.
The perfect pencil case pot, the Faber Castell Clic & Go is an incredibly compact cup made of flexible rubber which can be pressed into itself to save space and then popped back into shape. This item is recommended for use with water-based media only.
The lip of the pot features a wavy design which allows for brushes and pencils to be rested on top of the pot whilst in use which is surprisingly convenient, so you won’t have your brush rolling away from you or getting lost when you are painting plein air.
The Trio Water Pot system is robust hard plastic set of 3 interlocking pots that can be connected together to create a water pot with 3 wells. These 3 sections can be filled with whatever you might choose, be it water for brush rinsing or painting mediums for easy access. It also allows for rinsing water to be kept separate from clean water, which helps to cut down on colour contamination when painting. The central pot features a handle for both carrying and for hanging on easels whilst in use. When not in use the sections sit inside of each other and the pot can be easily stored in a bag pocket or in a drawer in your work space.
Painting Buckets and Brush Cleaners much like pots and cups come in a myriad of styles but tend to share a few common features which are particularly useful. They are often bigger than pots, feature holders for brushes and other quality of life additions to help the painter out. Buckets are portable but they tend to work better in controlled environments since they are a little more cumbersome than water pots and benefit from being sat on a stable surface whilst in use.
A vinyl clad brush screen sits snuggly in the bottom of this lightweight plastic bucket with lid and carry handle. The screen (also purchasable separately) also allows you to work paint out of the brush by rubbing the bristles against the screen, paint settles beneath the screen so you will not be re-contaminating your brush with paint dregs when they rinse the next time. After painting and cleaning it is recommended that any remaining useable thinner is removed and decanted into another suitable airtight pot as the bucket itself is not entirely airtight. This also allows for excess solvent to evaporate and the paint residue from brush cleaning to be removed and disposed.
The Mijello Multi-Function Water Bucket is host to a plethora of nifty features that make painting just that bit easier. The 3-section design much like the Trio Water Pot allows for separation of paint water and clean water as well as the separation of mediums for mixing with paint. The handle itself features a system of brush rests for setting down brushes that are drying or just are not being used at that moment. Two of the wells feature ribbing on the bottom that a brush can be run back and forth against to help clean out stubborn paint between colours, particularly useful for acrylics. The sections will hold a combined two litres of water.
The Stainless-Steel Brush Washer is the go-to cleaning tool for any oil painter, whilst not exclusively for oil painters it is designed with the use of solvents in mind. This bucket cleaning system features a cleaning grate with a handle for easy removal, a metal spiral brush holder for seating brushes over the pot while they dry and a carry handle. The featured lid is not airtight and will prevent some evaporation of your painting solvent but we suggest moving it to a suitable airtight container between painting sessions and disposing of the paint waste separately. Hardy, lightweight and highly functional, this brush cleaner is well suited for work in the studio but can be quite useful for outdoor work providing you have a suitable set up for storing your solvents once you are finished painting.
Brush soap is specifically designed to help loosen and remove even the most stubbornly worked in paint from brushes. In most cases dried paint is the end of a good brush but in some cases a dab of brush soap and some thorough lathering can help restore a brush to good working order and give it a fresh lease of life. We recommend that whenever you are cleaning you brushes that you always wipe off as much paint as possible before rinsing, paper towel or an old t-shirt or similar absorbent rag is a good thing to keep around for this. Never leave a brush standing in water or solvents for longer than a few moments as this can curl bristles and ruin a good brush. Do not let brushes dry bristles up instead store them flat or if you can store them bristles pointed down, this prevents moisture and any excess paint from creeping into the ferrule and drying there.
The Masters Brush Cleaner is one of the most highly regarded artist cleaning products on the market, ask anyone who has used this little soap puck and they will sing its praises from the rooftops. Consisting of a shallow plastic pot with a screw-off cap, the soap is a solid block seated within the pot. Wet the soap directly or wet the brush you intend to clean and work up a lather using the brush on the soap, then rinse it with water until the lather comes away clean. Repeat as needed.
This soap is a godsend for anyone working sable hair brushes as not only does the soap thoroughly clean off paint it also conditions and restores natural oils to the bristles, helping them maintain shape and spring for longer. For extra care reshape your brushes with a thin layer of brush soap and leave them to dry, this helps the oils in the soap permeate the brush’s bristles and dries like a starch which assists in keeping the hairs locked together between uses.
The Zest-it company is responsible for a number of widely lauded mediums for use with oil paints in particular and we are well known for their citrus scented oil paint thinner and cleaner. This clear solvent takes oil paint out of brushes and off resistive surfaces with little difficulty, simply dip your brush, work through the bristles and wipe clean. Zest-it cleaner is a popular alternative to solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits.
Zest-it also have an acrylic brush cleaner available that will clean out fresh and old acrylic paint, acrylic inks and mediums. Just as before, soak the brush, work the solvent through and then wipe out the excess. Once you are done give your brushes a final rinse through with soap and water and you are set for your next session.
When it comes to disposing of your paint dregs there are a few things you can do to get rid of them whilst being mindful of the environmental impact that paint waste can have. Luckily there are a few simple steps you can follow to dispose of your paint waste responsibly.
If you have been using water for cleaning acrylic colour from your brushes leave your rinse water to stand. Once any paint residue has settled pour as much water as you can out without disturbing the paint gunk and then leave whatever is left to evaporate, you can then scrape out the waste and dispose of it.
If you have been using solvents for oil paints then you have a little more to consider as oil painting solvents are often reusable up to a point. Fresh solvent can be used to rinse through brushes multiple times, all you need to do is leave the paint residue to settle after painting and then decant the solvent back into a suitable airtight container for later reuse. For disposing of paint or solvent that has reached the end of its workability then you should leave it to evaporate in a well-ventilated area with low humidity. Once the solvent has evaporated the paint dregs can be scooped out as solid waste.
Alternatively you can keep a bucket of sand or soil and decant your paint waste into it, the water will quickly absorb and gradually dry, then it can be thrown out with the regular rubbish. This method works for both acrylics and oils.
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