You may have watercolor brushes at home, but if you want to try acrylic painting, the question arises: Do you need dedicated acrylic brushes or can you just use the watercolor ones?
As long as you clean them thoroughly, watercolor brushes can also be used for acrylic painting. Acrylic paint is not as forgiving as watercolor when it comes to letting brushes dry with it. Acrylic paint that has dried on your brush may ruin it, so you might want to use less expensive brushes when you try acrylic painting.
Are watercolor brushes suitable for acrylic painting?
Most watercolor brushes can also be used for acrylic painting, since the brush’s primary purpose is to transport paint from A to B and spread it across the paper.
However, there are some differences.
Especially when they are of high quality, watercolor brushes are often made to hold and store a large amount of water, so they can be used for a long time.
When it comes to acrylic painting, this can be a little tricky, as you usually don’t need as much acrylic paint at once.
So you have to get used to those brushes in order to be able to paint the way you want.
However, most of the cheaper brushes that you can buy for a couple bucks are interchangeable between acrylic and watercolor painting.
When painting with acrylic paint, I choose to use the cheaper brushes, as I prefer to only use high quality watercolor brushes for their particular purpose.
Speaking of high quality brushes, I’d also advise reading my article: Are expensive watercolor paints worth it? and Which sizes of watercolor brushes you actually need.
How to use watercolor brushes for acrylic painting
There are a few things to keep in mind when painting acrylic paintings with watercolor brushes, as I mentioned just now.
As previously mentioned, a good watercolor brush holds more water than a regular brush.
This is due to the fact that watercolor painting requires a lot of water capacity, as having to get new paint every two brush strokes can be a bit nerve-racking.
It can be a bit tricky if you use as much acrylic paint as you would with watercolors.
When you use large amounts of it at once, it becomes harder to control and harder to draw sharp lines.
It’s best not to use those kinds of brushes when painting with acrylics. This isn’t an appropriate use of them, and if they were damaged it would be very expensive.
Speaking of damaging: This is the second thing to watch out for when using watercolor brushes for acrylic painting.
A lot of watercolor artists let their brushes dry without removing the paint in them immediately.
You shouldn’t do that since it reduces the brush’s quality and longevity over time, but it won’t hurt it too much.
With acrylic paint, it is entirely different.
When a brush full of acrylics dries up, it will become rock hard and unusable.
All the hair will stick together and everything will become a plastic-like mess that can’t be painted.
In other words, if you’re used to just letting your brushes sit around and dry up, you should definitely do something about it because acrylic paints tend to dry up very quickly.
If you’d also like to find out whether it’s a smart move to iron a watercolor painting in order to flatten it, you should check out this article.
What is the proper way to clean watercolor brushes?
You can find a detailed guide about this topic here, but I’ll give you a condensed version right now.
I still recommend reading the article, since it goes into more detail and gives some additional tips and tricks.
After you have finished painting, the first thing you should do is clean your brushes. Doing so will prolong the life of your brushes, as well as improve the quality of your paintings.
Honestly, I’ve been in the habit of not cleaning my brushes after painting quite often, but with this routine, it’s just a bit simpler.
Step 1: Rinse them under running water
It is important to have flowing water throughout the cleaning process, so you should wash your brushes in a sink.
It removes all the paint while being gentle on the hair.
In order to remove all of the paint completely, give each brush at least 30 seconds of cleaning time while spreading its hair with your fingers.
Step 2: The drying process
Most people tend to skip this step, but it’s very important.
You should always let your brushes air dry before storing them again.
If you don’t, they will take much longer to dry, bacteria may grow, and they may even mold.
Lay them on a flat, dry surface, like newspaper or an old towel. Check on them after 2–3 hours if they are already dry, but if not, let them dry for an additional hour and check again.
That’s all there is to it. The only thing you have to do in this step is to give your brushes the time to dry properly.
Step 3: Deep clean your brushes
You should clean your brushes every couple of weeks.
To begin, step 1 is followed by cleaning the brush with brush soap.
That is a soap specially designed to clean brushes properly. You should also run boiling water over your brush to flush out all the bacteria.
And now your brushes will be as good as new after drying on a newspaper or towel again.
If you’d like to learn more about watercolor painting, I would advise reading my article on the question whether watercolors can go down the drain and the one about why watercolor paintings fade and how to prevent it.
Acrylic paint can also be painted with watercolor brushes, but you have to wash them more thoroughly after painting. Acrylic paint will destroy your brush if it dries up in your brush since it’s difficult to remove and turns to plastic when dry. Also, you should deep clean your brush every few weeks to ensure their quality and longevity.