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Paint Brushes - Two Problems Solved


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Painting my models is always one of the aspects I enjoy the most, but I have always been plagued by two persistent problems -

 

The first is I can never seem to find the right brush for very small detail work and the second is I can never seem to maintain a brush for any length of time. I believe I have found solutions to both problems. This will no doubt be old news to many of you, especially if you're also artists or painters, but it's a revelation to me.

 

First problem - finding a suitable small brush for detail work.
It seems that when I buy even the very smallest brushes, I still can't control them easily and often they still deliver too much paint. A little research online suggested that I have been using the wrong brush. Most of these small brushes that are readily available are called "round", but what I learned is that there is another brush called a "spotter." These are also round, but they have much shorter bristles. That makes them stiffer and as a result, it increases the control considerably. I discovered that not every art supply source sells them, and surprisingly, some had not even heard of them, but I did find some and I bought four sizes (l to r - 20/0, 5/0, 3/0, 0 - very small to small.)

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They come in both straight and angled. I decided to try both and have been experimenting with them. So far, I prefer the straight, but I know the angled ones are going to come in handy in actual practice. (I've painted many hot water rads over the years and know how helpful an angled rad brush can be.)

 

Second problem - cleaning and maintaining brushes.
I have always found it hard to maintain my brushes. It seems no matter how careful I am, (which admittedly, is not always all that careful) they still end up looking like this in very short order.

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That brush started out as a beautiful fine round tip and now it's virtually useless.

 

I discovered a product called Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver and I think it's going to be a game changer.

 

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You clean most of the paint out of the brush in water (or solvent for oil)  and then rub it into the Masters. You can rinse and repeat as necessary. When the brush is thoroughly clean, you can leave some of the "soap" on the brush which will help to maintain its shape.

 

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Here is the same brush again.

 

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The hint of red that was still at the base of the brush is now gone, and it is somewhat restored to its original shape. In truth I fear this particular brush may be too far gone to be restored completely, but leaving the coat of soap on it will cause it to retain its shape and  is sure to make it still usable.

 

If I care for my brushes this way right from the start I don't think I will have many problems with them again.

 

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For example, I have been practicing with these new brush extensively using both black and red paint and there is no trace of either near the ferule. (That's not black paint you see closer to the tip, it's just variations in the colour of the bristles) and the shape is as good as when I started.  The seller calls the bristles on these brushes "synthetic sable."

 

There are dozens of videos on Youtube demonstrating the use of Masters, which I found to be helpful.

 

As I say, this all might be old news to many of you, but it's new to me and I believe it's going to be so helpful, that I thought I would share it.

 

David

 

 

 

 

Edited by David Lester
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I use only spotters and shaders (flat bristles like a full size paint brush) in those sizes plus 18/0, 10/0, and sizes up to 8. I’m not sure I still have any round brushes left, if I do I don’t use them.  I only use the Masters cleaner after a project is complete, it does restore over worked brushes well.  In addition to rinsing in a jar water I have a second jar at my work space for Winsor & Newton Brush Cleaner.  A dip in water, a dip in W&N, back in water, wiped with paint towel, back in the brush jar. I buy high quality brushes and with care they last years.  I’ve tried and quickly gave up on an angled brush. I am a bit of a fanatic about it admittedly.  
 

Glad you discovered this, appreciate your sharing it.  I enjoy detailed paintwork as well.

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I have been using spotters for some years now. Interesting to know, that they also come in angled form - could be useful for touching up on the model.

 

I also use this kind of paint-brush soap, but don't dip the brush into, but rather take some on my index finger and gently move the brush on the finger - you don't want to stub the delicate brush down onto a firm surface in order not to break the hairs.

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To the extent possible, paint should not be allowed to run into the heel of the brush. This makes cleaning a nightmare and meticulous cleaning is imperative for fine finishing. If even the slightest amount of paint remains on the bristles, when the brush is next used, the flexing of the bristles will cause the dried paint to crack and flake off the bristles and contaminate the job. 

 

Natural bristle brushes are to be used with oil-based paints and varnishes and should be stored clean and oiled with mineral oil to hold their shape. They shouldn't  be used for water-based coatings nor washed in soapy water. Water softens natural bristles and soap removes the oil that natural bristles require to remain "healthy." (A "tired" natural bristle brush can sometimes be rejuvenated using hair conditioner.) Synthetic bristles are for water-based coatings. They don't absorb the water. They can also be used with oil-based coatings, but they won't hold as much paint in use. Natural bristles have the ability to carry more paint than synthetic bristles.

 

Detail brushes can be quite expensive. A squirrel or sable sign painting brush (called a "quill,") can easily set you back thirty bucks and there really aren't any substitutes for freehand lettering. Three excellent videos on conditioning brand new brushes and cleaning brushes for water based and oil based paints can be found here: Brush Care 101 | SIGN PAINTING SUPPLY CO. (bigcartel.com)  The use of quality brushes and oil paints were the way the modeling masters painted topsides and bootstripes in the days before airbrushes and masking tape. 

 

Fortunately, "dotters" and "spotters" and other very small brushes have become popular due to the ladies' fingernail painting fad these days. Consequently, there are a lot of inexpensive synthetic bristle "dotters" and "quills" for sale on eBay under "nail painting brushes." These you can abuse and throw out when their are shot. See: nail painting brushes | eBay

 

Image 3 - 5pcs Nail Art Liners Striping Brushes Fine Line Drawing Detail Painting Blending

 

Image 5 - 5pcs Nail Art Liners Striping Brushes Fine Line Drawing Detail Painting Blending

 

5pcs Nail Art Liners Striping Brushes Fine Line Drawing Detail Painting Blending 853506008793 | eBay

Edited by Bob Cleek
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Just now, Bob Cleek said:

paint should not be allowed to run into the heel of the brush.

 

Will this work to help with fine detail color application?

I saw a video featuring an experienced boat/yacht finisher.   I think he was advocating a rather vigorous technique for varnish application. 

(I think he favored organic solvent based varnish).    The key factor that I took home was that he advised wrapping  "masking"  tape from over the heel to abut half way to the tip.  The wrapping was fairly tight.  It reduced the flopping arc of the fibers - stiffing them - and it makes migration to the heel a longer journey in a compressed region. 

Cleaning solvent can neutralize any bonding between the tape and fibers to remove it during cleanup.

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6 hours ago, Jaager said:

 

Will this work to help with fine detail color application?

I saw a video featuring an experienced boat/yacht finisher.   I think he was advocating a rather vigorous technique for varnish application. 

(I think he favored organic solvent based varnish).    The key factor that I took home was that he advised wrapping  "masking"  tape from over the heel to abut half way to the tip.  The wrapping was fairly tight.  It reduced the flopping arc of the fibers - stiffing them - and it makes migration to the heel a longer journey in a compressed region. 

Cleaning solvent can neutralize any bonding between the tape and fibers to remove it during cleanup.

I expect taping would work to stiffen some small brushes, but, all things considered, using a very small, short bristle brush (a "pointer" or "dotter") would be preferable. 

 

Some pros do wrap the bristles closest to the ferrule with masking tape for the purpose described and it works quite well. It improves the performance of regular brushes when the brush isn't as stiff as the painter would like. The proper technique for varnishing is different than that for finish painting. Varnish is applied more thickly in order to build the depth of the coats and so is said to be "flowed on" rather than brushed repeatedly to spread a thin coat evenly. The less you brush it, the thicker the coat will be and the less likely for bubbles to occur in the varnish coat. A stiffer brush which can carry more varnish makes this easier to accomplish.

 

Actually, there are specialized brushes made for varnishing and lacquering. They are high quality brushes with shorter bristles and are hand made with badger hair. Originally, they were made with bristles set in vulcanized rubber in a special ferrule which minimized getting the coating in the heel. (In fact, most untrained painters dip their brushes too deeply into the coating which is a major contributor to it working into the heel.) The old fashioned hand-made real badger hair brushes were quite expensive. Grumbacher made the best of them, but no longer makes genuine badger hair brushes. A Grumbacher size 4 artist's pure badger bristle brush used to sell for around fifty bucks and last I heard thirty years or so ago, a three inch badger varnish brush was pushing $100. 

 

There are now synthetic "badger" and blended real badger/synthetic badger varnish brushes with the bristles set in epoxy, which does not require the fancy ferrule of the old style, but I've yet to use one. They still cost quite a bit. The three inch synthetic badger varnish brush, pictured below, retails for close to seventy bucks.  The one inch one runs around $40. Obviously, wrapping tape around the heel of a decent standard brush is a good compromise, but I must say there is nothing sweeter than varnishing with a real badger varnish brush. 

 

Badger Flowing Brush

Paint Brush Highlights: Badger Flowing (dynastybrush.com)

 

Edited by Bob Cleek
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Completely agrre with Welfack : fatty acid based soap like the well known Savon de Marseille. Ivoyr bar do it well to for oil paint. Never try on acrylic yet. Put your saop in water and the froth it in the base of your hand. You will feel the bristles and have more control on the washing.

 

For the kind of "withe brush" like the one showed by David L., I never used it. It is pork air fiber bristle or syntetic fiber like it. For precision use sable hair based bristle or synthetic equivalent.

 

Michel 

Edited by Michel L.
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