Contemporary Sumi-e Brushes and Silicone Tools
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How to Care For Your Sumi-e Paint Brush

Elizabeth schowachert

In this post I am sharing the most important aspects of cleaning and caring for my handcrafted sumi-e paint brushes.

First a bit about my brushes:

All of my brushes are made with the highest quality materials including a wide variety of natural hair, leather, bamboo and hardwood. In addition, all my brushes are high performance art tools, made to last a lifetime and capable of achieving a wide array of marks, from very expressive and large to super fine.


My brushes can also work with a variety of media including ink and oil/water based paints, etc.. Thicker media, that dries quickly, can potentially damage a brush, if the media is allowed to dry on the bristles, this is true for any size/style of brush. I currently have customers that use my brushes with both water and oil based media. The key is to use media that is low viscosity, versus thick and quick drying.

When using the brush, first thoroughly wet the bristles (leave the top 1/4 of the brush dry - never totally submerge your brush into water or media) and then (if desired) blot dry with a towel before dipping the bristles into the ink/media. When adding ink/media to the bristles, do not submerge the brush into the ink, but rather place the tips (up to 1/2 the total length of the bristles) into the ink/media.

You can use a towel when painting for the following:

  1. Removing excess water 
  2. Removing excess Ink/media
  3. Shaping and or opening up the brush bristles

As mentioned above after you load the brush with medium, you can use a towel (paper towel or old clean absorbent towel) to remove any excess ink/media and also to shape the brush (either into a more of a point, to open up the bristles and to adjust the ink/media levels on the brush). 

How to clean your brush once you have finished painting:

To clean the brush after you are done using it, wash the brush bristles under warm water by gently moving the bristles in a circular pattern under running water in the palm of your hand (If you are using an oil based medium, first remove the media with the proper solvent before cleaning with water and soap). This should remove a lot of the residual paint/ink. Finally use a little mild soap, such as Murphy's Oil Soap to ensure that all of the media has been removed and cleaned using the same circular pattern.

Once the water runs clear use your hand to remove some excess water and shape the head into a point. Then remove the remaining water with a towel, shape head into a point and hang the brush to dry.

If the bristle hairs become a bit dry after use, you can use hair conditioner (work the conditioner into the bristles and then rinse) on the bristles to add back in the oils that have been stripped out with use. When you are done conditioning the brush, follow the instructions above and hang dry. You can also use a comb to brush out any tangles after using hair conditioner if needed.

After your brush has been cleaned and shaped, always hang your brush up to dry to ensure it is ready for your next painting session :)

*Note: Smaller brushes may be cleaned with water only if you are using water soluble media to paint with.

Following these instructions will ensure your brush lasts a lifetime and performs well.

As always, thank you for reading and enjoy creating,




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