Organizing & Storing Paint Brushes

As a mixed-media artist, I have paintbrushes for several different styles of art making. I have brushes for:

  • Watercolors
  • Acrylics, specifically Golden OPEN Acrylics
  • Oils
  • Mixed Media
  • Alcohol Ink

As well as a large jar of brushes that I don’t care about, and are available for anybody in the family to grab OR for me to use in a way I wouldn’t want to expose a good brush to. Don’t we all have one of those?

Close up of paintbrushes on table in art studio

Because the pictures will beg the question, as with any art supply you should purchase the best materials that you can afford. There are brushes available for any budget. These are the ones that I invested in because they work the best for me and my budget. I will cover the specific brush choices I have made in more detail in a future post.

I have three places for brushes in my studio, whether they are:

  • In use
  • Drying
  • Stored away

Brushes In Use

The Paint Puck Cup, has flexible holders for paint brushes all the way around the perimeter, for brushes of varying sizes. I place the brushes handles-up so that water doesn’t get into the ferrule of the brush as I’m working with them.

When painting with acrylics I use two cups: one for transparent colors, and one for colors that contain white or are more opaque. This way you don’t have to change the water as often. Paint Puck makes this cup in blue, red, green and lavender if you need a visual cue to help keep things seperate while you paint.

For watercolor painting, sometimes I’m only working with one or two brushes. And for this purpose, a nice brush rest is a great tool to have on hand.

For watercolor painting, while I sometimes use the Paint Puck, I really like an old ash tray for this purpose. I keep clean water in the small side, for mixing and clean the brushes on the other side.

These are easy to find at garage and estate sales, as well as on Etsy. I love mine, because the patterning in the materials is gentle for swiping your brushes against when cleaning them and the pigments settle into these areas too.

And doesn’t it feel good to give an ash tray a better purpose?

Brushes When Drying

I have two metal towel racks with a trio of arms, from which I hang brushes, handles down, while they are drying. I use either tiny rubber bands or bulkier elastic hair ties for larger brushes. It keeps the brushes out of the way when they aren’t in use and allows me to leave them on the rack as long as they need to dry.

For a short time, I used this system for storage, but it was hard for me to keep it organized, so I looked for another solution that would also be more portable.

Storing Brushes

I have seen a wide variety of solutions for storing paint brushes. Everything from canvas brush rolls and planters filled with dried beans to hold the brushes upright. I don’t find the rolls kind to my brushes. Also, because I have a variety, I needed to figure out how to seperate by media, shape and size, in a way that would be easy to maintain in the studio environment.

And these days a change of scenery even moving from one room or window to another can reenergize. Frankly I also wanted to be able to literally pick it up off the wall and place it in another room, or even my car if I want to shuffle off to a little lake cottage to paint or even wrap it up with bubble wrap and put it in my suitcase for when we drive somewhere for a change of scenery.

My solution? A vintage time-card holder. I like to think of it as time to paint.

The sides of each slot are open for larger brushes and the smaller brushes are held in place in the middle of the time card slots. Everything has a place, can be easily moved around, and there is space for additions.

I found this at a local flea market. There are a lot of inexpensive time card slot holders all over the web – but MOST do not have the open sides. Here is a picture of an empty one that is formatted like mine:

And there are current models that aren’t open on the sides like this; and would only work for small barrel brushes, or long handled brushes – but for $35 – I’m certain you could find a use, if it didn’t work. Just for a cute way to display greeting cards for example?

I hope this gives you some ideas for your brushes and that you have time to paint too! Give me a comment if you have any questions or other ideas to share and thank you for reading!

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