How to Break in a New, or Not So New, Brush.

Hair, especially fine diameter natural hair and also synthetic filaments are really good at trapping air between the individual bristles. Each natural hair strand has thousands of tiny scales. These work in part to trap air. What often happens when a new brush is first used is that that the outer bristles become mostly wetted when immersed in water, and that causes them to bond together. In turn the bonded hair or filaments protect the inner hair or filaments from getting wet. In addition, this process traps air in the center part of the brush and traps a nearly infinite amount air between hair scales and hair body.

Believe it or not, this process is exactly how hair works in nature to protect whatever is under the hair. While that is good during a rain storm, it is not at all good for a brush work! When you first use a paintbrush any trapped air or unsaturated part of the brush will cause less than ideal results.

The fix for this takes about a minute and is detailed in the steps below. I call this process “Warming up the brush” and it is something that is good to do every time, but absolutely critical to do the first few times you use a new brush.

First, super-saturate the brush with running warm water. While the water is running over the bristle, rub the bristles lightly together with your fingers. This will do three things. 1) It removes any leftover debris from when the brush was made or last used. 2) It helps to make sure the brush is completely water saturated and that there are no dry bristles or trapped air. 3) The warm water helps to dissolve any oils on the brush.

Next, shut off the water. While the brush still dripping wet, gently use your first finger and thumb and starting at the base of the bristle squeeze the bristle just a little and pull toward the tip. This helps to re-form the bristle, plus it helps to squeeze remaining air out, and of course it helps to get rid of excess water.

Excess water on the brush can cause color to be either diluted or not fully saturate the brush.

With a new brush, repeat the process above 2 times. Note that this helps the brush performance even if the brush is not new.

Next, super-saturate the brush with color. This is done to make sure the brush is loaded with enough color so color makes it all the way to the core of the brush.

After that remove the excess color in whatever manner you like.

The brush is now ready to go.

Be sure to also see my notes on how to clean a brush, which you can find by clicking on this link.