Brush to Success

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Written for Scratch Magazine

A nail technician can never have too many brushes. I frequently add to my collection but I always have my favourites! Along with your technical skills, your brush is one of the most important tools in achieving good results in your work. Sometimes, the only way to tell the quality of a brush is in its performance and this can often be trial and error.

Cleaning your brush

Brush prep, storage and care are absolutely paramount to keep your brush in its best possible working condition and prevent contamination. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions where possible. Understanding the anatomy of your brush is essential to ensure you get all the benefits from it.

It is imperative that you keep your brushes clean throughout your entire application process, whether this be acrylic, gel or paint. I like to work using a brush holder to keep my brushes and tools neat and within easy reach. You should never store your brush without cleaning it first. The best way to clean your brush is to clean it in the medium that the brush is used for, i.e. acrylic brushes should be cleaned in monomer, gel brushes in clear gel and water based paint-brushes in water and so on. Saying this, I do also like to clean my fine art brushes with a baby wipe to stop them drying out too much.

The fewer chemicals you expose the brush to, the better. The natural hair in your brush is easily stripped of the oil that keeps it supple. Monomer works well to clean acrylic residue from the bristles without stripping the hairs. However, if the acrylic is left to harden, using your monomer will not work. The only way to dissolve cured acrylic is to use acetone. Pure acetone and brush cleaners can be too harsh on their own; so use a mixture of 1 part acetone and 3 parts monomer. For any dried up product left in your art brushes, you can try brush cleaner but try not to over use this.

Treating your new brush

When you receive a new brush, you will notice the brush hairs are stiff. This is because the hair is set with resin to ensure the bristles remain in the perfect shape until it is used.

  • Use your fingers or a metal tool to carefully break the starch bond and remove all residue. If you cannot see this, hold the brush up to a light, the resin being removed will look like dust or fluff.
  • Clean your brush in the designated medium designed for that brush until it feels soft and pliable. Generally, this can take quite a substantial amount of time, but for the longevity of your brush, it is worth it.
  • Never be tempted to ‘snip’ hairs from a new brush, as they are there for a reason. Ensure when wiping that the brush is kept in shape.

Storing your brushes

When an acrylic brush has been in contact with monomer, you must ensure that when storing your brush the bristles do not come into contact with plastic. The monomer in your brush is likely to melt the plastic and damage the brush. Gel brushes should also be stored away from UV light to avoid product from curing on your brush and making it unusable.

Brushes should be stored facing downwards so that the product does not run backwards and break down the glue at the base of the brush. I like to keep my brushes safely and securely in a brush wallet. I have two of these: one for art brushes, which I like to keep in order for uses and one for structure brushes and tools.

Some of my favourite art brushes are the simplest ones. Even though recommendations are invaluable, it is important to find the perfect brushes to suit you.

Love Katie B x

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