Brush Knowledge

Artist Brush Cleaning – With Martin Thomas

The brush is an artist’s most important tool. Since good tools, in general, are some kind of investment, it is important to us that artists can use their brushes for longer. This is why we pay great attention to the materials used and the quality of craftsmanship for lineo artist brushes. As a manufacturer, we are proud of the fact that for over 110 years we have been taking our share of responsibility in the respectful use of our planet’s resources. By purchasing a lineo brush, some of this responsibility is passed on to the artist. Therefore, we are happy to share contemporary artists’ knowledge about brush cleaning and brush care. This time, we have been talking with the artist Martin Thomas. We asked him how he cleans his paint brushes and how he maintains their good painting properties. He showed us some of his tricks and some of them seemed quite unusual, but proved to be just the right thing to do.

Acrylic paint can be quite tough

For acrylic paints, Martin Thomas recommends using brush soap or some mild hand soap. A brush is considered clean when the visible body of the hair and the ferrule are free of paint and when there is no more paint coming out of the rear part of the ferrule. With some brushes, this may take some time, but it pays off in any case. Only a thoroughly cleaned brush will continue to retain its properties.

After washing, it is important to gently tap the brush off at the ferrule. This will fasten the drying and allow the hair to spring back to its original shape without them getting damaged. This will help to protect the brush from fraying.

To let the brush dry, either put it on some cloth or on some kitchen paper. The best would be to hang it, head down. Avoid letting it dry standing with its head up. The water remaining in the hair body could accumulate at the bottom of the ferrule where it eventually can cause permanent damage to the brush. Under no circumstances should a brush be dried with a hairdryer or be placed on a radiator or in direct sunlight. In general,  brushes should be dried slowly and gently so that the valuable hair does not get damaged.

For painting with acrylic colors, Martin Thomas also recommends cleaning the brushes from time to time while you paint. The best would be around every 15 minutes, which is about the time acrylic paint needs to get dry. By keeping your brushes clean while painting, you can prevent the hairs from sticking together and you will most certainly enjoy painting more while getting way better results.

Despite all precautions, sometimes it still happens that paint gets dry on a brush. If nothing helps and all hope seems lost, Martin Thomas told us that using a conventional grease cleaner will do the job. Without affecting the varnish of the handle or the glue inside the ferrule, it will nicely dissolve the dry acrylic paint. Just let the brush soak in it for around 10 minutes and clean it as usual. If necessary, the process can be repeated for very persistent paint. Also, use this trick if acrylic paint got dry on your clothing.

Oil painting brushes are easy to clean

While acrylic color can be quite persistent and hard to clean, oil color brushes are easier to clean. There are no “special” tricks. Turpentine and brush soap is the best you can use for this. After cleaning, rinse the brush and, as mentioned earlier, tap it at the ferrule and let it dry after.

One thing to really avoid

So far we have covered the general “do’s”. But there is also one big “don’t” which is even more important than avoiding hairdryers, direct sun, and radiators. Every brush’s biggest enemy (and most probably its end) is nitro thinner. This strong thinner affects the glue inside the ferrule as well as the handle and all kinds of fine hair. Nitro should therefore be avoided when cleaning brushes.

Brush Knowledge

Kolinsky Red Sable vs. Synthetic Hair

Fine Artist Brushes made from Kolinsky Red Sable HairFor experienced watercolour painters, brushes made of genuine Siberian Kolinsky Hair are traditionally the first choice. By nature, this hair has some properties superior to synthetic hair. One of them is for example the excellent paint absorption. However, thanks to the ongoing technological development in the production of synthetic hair, there are already synthetic alternatives with wonderful painting properties on the market.

Quality characteristics of good watercolour brushes

There are some general quality characteristics good watercolour brushes must-have. One of the most important ones is the ability to hold large amounts of paint. Especially for painting long continuous strokes, this is important. It also allows for faster and more precise painting. The more often you have to pause and pick up fresh paint again, the more likely it is that paint will dry up in certain areas of your artwork. As a result, this can lead to unwanted edges might influence nicely flowing colour-gradients in a negative way.

The main secret for a watercolour brushes’ painting characteristics is its hair. Essential to the quality of the brushes hair body is the structure and the fineness of the processed hair. The fineness of the hairs also has a great influence on the brushes paint holding capacity and on the overall hand-feeling. Especially for painting fine details, an excellent elasticity or bounce of the hair body is important. A good watercolour brush always forms a beautiful tip and will always keep its characteristic body. It neither becomes crooked nor frayed. Also, not a single hair may stick out from the hair body. Ideally, an artist’s brush retains these great characteristics for many years. Needless to say, the appropriate brush care is essential.

What are the differences between synthetic and natural hair?

Three bunches of fine synthetic Toray hair for brush making.

Siberian Kolinsky red sable hair has several advantages. These are the reason why the best and most sought-after watercolour brushes available on the market are traditionally made from Siberian Kolinsky hair. This natural hair is mainly chosen for its surface structure and the characteristics coming with it. That’s why in watercolour painting, it is superior to all other natural hair types. The microscopically small interlocking scales enlarge the surface of the hair. This improves the colour retention capacity and gives the hair its nice resistance. Another great side effect of this naturally grown structure is that brushes with Kolinsky hair wear out more slowly and therefore have a longer life span. They can retain their wonderful colour absorption properties and unique bounce for years. Thanks to the bounce, the brushes always stay in shape and form a beautiful tip.

A cheaper alternative to Kolinsky is the Red Sable Hair. According to professional artists, the quality of such brushes is still outstanding and offers the painter a wonderful painting experience. Brush makers at lineo mainly use Siberian Kolinsky and Red Sable Hair for the production of premium watercolour brushes.

However, the advantages of brushes made of synthetic hair should not be underestimated. Continuous research and development in this field are essential for manufacturers of high-quality artist brushes. New developments allow synthetic brushes to continuously become better as their painting properties become more and more similar to their natural counterparts.

A very good example of this is our Series 1001 French Watercolor Brush and our Series 168 Plein Air Brush from lineo Edition Elke Memmler. The lineo Series 152 with its unrivalled Kolinsky imitation should also be highlighted. All brushes are characterized by an amazing paint holding capacity and good elasticity. They form a beautiful tip and are also easy to clean.

Regardless of the Kolinsky imitation, other synthetic brushes often are offering unique painting characteristics too. Artists can take advantage of them by combining or complementing natural hair brushes and synthetic brushes. One good example of this is the lineo Hobby Robusto.

Is it worthwhile investing in a brush with Kolinsky red sable hair?

Traditional production of a brushes head. After shaping, the hairs are being tied together. Despite rapid technological development, Kolinsky Red Sable Hair is still superior to synthetic hair in many ways. Most challenging in imitating naturally grown hair are its surface structure, the resistance and the durability. However, brushes with synthetic hair offer the painter an animal-friendly alternative with excellent painting properties. Also, it is important to note that not all synthetics are of the same quality. Manufacturers of quality brushes invest a lot of time and money in the development of good synthetic hair.

The best artist brushes are always a little more expensive. The reason lies in the use of high-quality materials and more precise processing which definitely makes them worth the investment. Above all in the sense that you will not only see the difference in the quality of their creative execution, but you will also feel the difference when painting. With proper care, good brushes often last for years without noticeably losing quality. And that’s what really makes investing a little more money worth it in the long run. Also for our planet!

Brush Knowledge

Development of Synthetic Hair for Brushes


In recent years, the prices for some natural hairs have risen sharply. For the user, this is especially noticeable with larger sized brushes. This is mainly caused by the higher amount of material that is required for producing heads for larger brushes. Increasingly, however, synthetic brush hairs are a financially attractive alternative for price-conscious artists and painters. With that being said, there are not necessarily sacrifices in terms of quality.

The use of synthetic hair over time

Since many decades, synthetic hairs are already being used for the production of brushes. At lineo (Mesko Pinsel GmbH), brush-makers we have identified the potential of such artificial hairs at an early stage. In the beginning, however, many of these materials were still not good enough for wider use with brushes for professionals. This was mainly because of technical limitations which did not allow the production of high-quality synthetic materials at a reasonable price.Three bunches of fine synthetic Toray hair for brush making.

When the company finally started investing in research and development of synthetic hairs, technology eventually started enhancing as well. The company was among the first to use synthetic hairs for the production of paint brushes suitable for the use of professionals. Since prices for natural hairs started hiking, this has been a big advantage and until today, is one of the main drivers for corporate growth. Brush makers would be able to compensate increasing prices by developing and optimizing mixtures used for paintbrushes rather than by reducing the amount of hair being used per brush. Initially, retail and professionals were sceptical about these new brushes. Hence, the company started to work together with renowned paint manufacturers to do application testing together. As there were no significant differences in application and finish, initial doubts could have quickly been dispelled.

Targets for the development of synthetic hairs

The success led to further intensive research and development of new materials. The aim is to be able to constantly improve the quality of the different synthetic hairs. In the long term, the target is to be able to produce hair that will offer artists the painting experience of a brush with natural hair. One of the main challenges, however, are colour/water holding capacity and the overall durability. Naturally grown hairs have a special surface structure which still makes them superior to synthetic alternatives. So far, the biggest success in this field is the imitation of natural hog bristles. Mesko brushes with these filaments have come very close to their natural counterpart. The quality of the finished brushes is unmatched on the market. This especially refers to their fully synthetic brushes.

Mesko KONEX brush with natural wooden handle, stainless steel ferrule and synthetic KONEX hair.The new KONEX® material

One of the most important developments in the field of synthetic hair recently has been the new KONEX® material. Special about this synthetic hair is the long, extremely fine and soft tip with an excellent bounce. It is pleasantly elastic and, with good care, also relatively durable compared to other synthetic filaments. For such fine hair, that’s quite astonishing. KONEX® has been developed to obtain perfectly smooth surfaces after painting. No other brush available on the market does this better than the Mesko KONEX®. Due to its unique characteristics and the consistently positive feedback from retail, industry and professionals, they have started to do further testing together with artists. So far, artists like this material a lot and we are optimistic that we will soon be able to present extraordinary new products with KONEX®.

Brush Knowledge

Brushes – Intensive Care & Rescue

Used lineo artist brushes and paint tubes.There is nothing nicer than pulling a clean, fresh brush out of the pile. You start painting with an amazing brush with a perfect tip. Lovely! Ideally, your brushes will remain in good condition for as long as possible. Taking proper care and maintaining them regularly is the key. However, at some point, even the best artist brushes will start to show signs of ageing. In this article, we will try to explain how to get the best out of your brushes.

Use your artist brushes longer

Without a doubt, dirty brushes are the downside of being an artist. After a long and productive day in the atelier, it can easily happen that some of our brushes are accidentally forgotten. As soon as the paint starts drying up, the next day’s challenge begins. Some of our brushes however have already served us well for quite some time, often years, and they just started showing first signs of fatigue. That’s why we have asked seasoned artists and lineo brush makers to share their knowledge & all the tricks they have up their sleeves for bringing ageing brushes back to life. We really hope these tricks will help you find new joy with old brushes.

1. Clean your brushes after painting

After painting with acrylic paint, make sure the paint does not dry up. Once it’s dry, it will no longer be soluble and will form a plastic-like texture. You can still get it off the ferrule, but it is going to stick to the hair.

When washing your brushes, make sure to clean the brushes ferrule properly. Once dry, the paint will be difficult to remove. Remaining paint covering the hair at the base will prevent the brush from forming a nice tip.

2. Regular cleaning

We have already explained how to clean and care for brushes. It is very important to repeat washing and rinsing until soap and water are running clear. Also, make sure the water is as warm as it feels pleasant for your hands. It should not be too hot as this might damage the wooden handle and the glue inside the ferrule.

Tubes with oil paint and artist brush

3. The alternative to solvents

In any case, this tip is going to smell nice. We are talking about baby oil 🙂 It does not only smell good, it will also make cleaning your brushes a lot easier and faster. After pre-cleaning your brushes by wiping them with paper or some kitchen paper, soak the brush heads in baby oil for about 5 to 10 minutes. The baby oil will help getting the remaining paint off so you can easily wash your brush with mild soap and warm water.

4. For ongoing brush care or rejuvenation

A true secret weapon can be found in your laundry room. Some artists are convinced that fabric softener is one of the best ways to keep your artist brushes nicely soft and pliable. Simply add two tablespoons of fabric softener to a glass of water. Leave your brush in the glass to soak for a while and rinse it.

Many artists swear by the rejuvenating effect of fabric softener. Simply put two tablespoons of fabric softener in a glass and dilute with water. Leave the brush to soak a little and rinse it thoroughly after. Repeat it periodically so the fabric softener will prevent the brushes hair from becoming brittle and from breaking off.

5. Cleaning & care with olive oil

The idea behind this amazing hack is to fight an oily base with oil. Apply the olive oil after cleaning the brush with soap and rinsing it with warm water properly. The olive oil will do the job for you. You will be surprised how much paint can be removed from a brush that should technically already be clean. The oil will also help to keep natural hair nice and soft.

6. Vinegar against nasty brushes

Sometimes it happens and brushes get dry, hard and nasty. Vinegar might be your solution then. Just heat up some of it and bathe the brush head in it. The paint will soften and you will be able to wash it out in some soapy water. Rinse off the brushes and they should be as good as new.

7. Form a tip with hair gel

If the hair of your acrylic brush is already old, stiff and frayed, you can still do something about it and make them look good and useable again. Simply form a beautiful tip with some hair gel. After drying, wash the brush thoroughly and soak it in fabric softener. You will be surprised about the result.

8. If nothing else helps

If nothing else really helps to bring the hair body back into shape or to get them into a useable condition again, there is one more thing that can be done. Stick the brush head in boiling water for a few seconds. This can help the hair reshape but be careful. Brushes do not like high temperatures. Heat can damage the wooden handles and the glue inside the ferrule. With an old brush, however, this risk can be taken.

French Water Color Brush and pink watercolour

9. A must after washing

We always recommend forming a beautiful tip after washing. The tip should always resemble the original shape after purchase. To dry, put the brush heads up in a glass jar. You can also place it on some kitchen roll or preferably hang it upside down.