Monday, September 22, 2014

HOBBY: Extending your Brush's Life

It's the one tool every miniature painter has to use, from the basic novice to the most seasoned veteran, a brush. It will carry you through painting your 100th line trooper all the way to your first award. Despite all of this it's something that a lot of us don't understand. What makes a brush good and how do I extend its life?

I will be the first to admit, my education in brushes had a steep learning curve. Part of this was due to a lack of information and part of it to laziness. If my brush was working for me then why bother learning more about it?

One of my trusty Army Painter brushes. You can see my lack of regular cleaning on it

I used Games Workshop brushes for many, many years, and for awhile they did the job. I think my journey into more advanced brushes began once my skills progressed beyond what GW could provide. I also noticed a decline in quality of their brushes around the same time, which didn't help. I tried a few different brushes before I settled on the white handled Army Painter ones. What was most important about them was that they could hold a point and took much longer to wear down.

Something that I always tell people when I am teaching them is that the most important aspect of a brush is whether or not it can hold a point. I see people going out and buying some ridiculously tiny brush with only about one or two hairs on it. Unless you are painting a mini mural on a Space Marine's knuckle that's completely unnecessary. In fact it is better to have a sightly larger brush with a sharp point then a tiny, tiny brush most of the time. This is because a tiny brush can't hold paint, and you will be constantly reloading it which will result is some not so smooth lines. A slightly larger brush will hold more paint, thus giving you a smoother, more continuous painting experience. You just need to make sure the point is small enough.

This is about half of its original size now due to lack of cleaning and excessive use
I mostly use what would be a Detail and Fine Detail brush by GW for painting your standard 28mm model. Anything smaller and I start losing smoothness in my lines. I of course use a Standard size brush for basecoating and on larger models. The best practice would be to switch your brush size as you are painting, however I often end up sticking with one size once I get past the basecoating. This is mostly due to the fact that I become zeroed in on what I am doing and just forget to switch. I feel like this is a common problem amongst painters from those I have talked to, and it's really not that big of an issue. The only problem you may run into is excessive wear and tear on your favorite brush, but luckily there are some things you can do to prevent that.

I use to go through a brush every few months. Switching out my old one for something new once it started to fray and lose bristles. This is due small amounts of paint drying on your brush. This usually tends to happen in the Ferrule, the metal part that the bristles are glued into. When this happens it will cause your brush to start splaying open, which of course, ruins your point. The best way to combat this is to buy some brush cleaner. There are several options to choose from.

My new Scharf Brush. This is my smallest size for it.

After every painting sessions make sure to clean all the brushes you have used with the soap under cold water. If you use warm water it may cause the glue holding your bristles in to start to dissolve. Never leave our brush sitting in your cup of water, this will only damage it. Of course having a higher quality brush will result in them lasting longer. I recently bought three Scharf brushes after reading a review on Mathieu Fontaine's site. It cost me around $50, which may seem like a lot, but when you consider that I was buying a new $7 brush every other month it's worth the investment. I have been using a GW 'Eavy Metal brush for all of my characters for about the past year. I assume it is just a high quality brush with the GW logo slapped on, but regardless of that it has been one of my best brushes. It just started to die on me the other day, finally starting to splay. I tried to clean it after every time, but sometimes laziness got the better of me. Who knows, if I had been more diligent with cleaning, it may have lasted for another few months.

My 'Eavy Metal brush on its last legs

So remember, always clean your brushes after every painting session, and even though they cost more it may be worthwhile investing in some high quality brushes. I still use my Army Painter ones for my rank and file though, so it's worthwhile having a mix of good and bad brushes. Hopefully this has helped you a little bit with knowing how to take care of your paint brushes.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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