How to Store Watercolor Brushes: 6 Great Storage Solutions

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Last Updated on May 29, 2023 by Dee

Watercolor brushes are an artist’s most treasured tools. Over time, however, they can become damaged or worn due to accumulated paint, frayed bristles, or improper storage. However, all is not lost when you start to notice signs of wear. Brushes often have more life in them than you might think. With the right care and restoration techniques, you can breathe new life into your worn brushes and extend their lifespan significantly. The following guide will provide you with a comprehensive approach on how to restore your watercolor brushes and preserve their optimal performance.

Need to figure out how to store your watercolor brushes?

a collection of paintbrushes to demonstrate how to store your watercolor brushes

A superb painting begins with a good concept, a great brush ( and a few other things). Quality supplies, in other words, make all the difference in your artwork. You’d want to go the additional mile to keep your dream brush pristine once you’ve fallen in love with it, right? When it comes to extending the life of your watercolor brushes, cleaning, maintaining, and finding out how to store watercolor brushes is critical. 

[Related Article: 15 Beautiful Stencils for Watercolor Painting & How to Use them]

**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.**

6 Great Storage Solutions for Watercolor Brushes

Paint Brush Storage Case- Roll-Up

A roll-up paintbrush bag is ideal because it holds your brushes in place and can be stored neatly and easily in any drawer or cupboard, or easily slipped into your bag when you are on the go! This watercolor roll-up bag is durable and easy to clean and if you are in a rush you can pop a wet brush in there and the moisture will be soaked up. It has different-sized mini pockets to hold your brushes securely and is also great for organizing your pens, and pencils!

Paint Brush Holder for Long Paintbrushes

This paint brush holder is a great option for storing long brushes, acrylic brushes and other delicate brushes. It is made out of transparent plastic and so with a single glance you can see where your favorite paint brush has been stored! Durable and waterproof – but make sure your brushes are completely dry before storing them for long periods of time!

Brush Storage Box

This is quite a nifty little capsule! It is a paintbrush holder that is made out of environmentally friendly plastic material. It can also be used for pens and pencils and comes with a lanyard to make it portable and easy to carry. It has adjustable storage and can be extended from 21.5cm to 38cm!

Paint Brush Holder 15

This paint brush holder is essentially a bag that holds 15 paintbrushes neatly in place. The paintbrush flaps can be raised so that it is easy to take out the brushes while painting. This is also ideal for when you have washed them and need them to dry! Made out of durable and strong fabric this is a great option for keeping your brushes safe and organized!

Mezzo Artist Brush and Paint Tube Organizer Corner Rack

This corner rack is ideal for storing your watercolor brushes and paint tubes! (of course, it would also work for acrylic and oil paint brushes and tubes!). If you are lucky enough to have your own art studio, craft room, or even if you need a storage option for your classroom, this is a great solution.

mDesign Plastic Portable Craft Storage Organizer Caddy Tote

This grab and go storage caddy is great if you don’t have your own studio or craft room, and need to move to other rooms in your house! Easy to move it to your in bedroom, laundry room, kitchen, or garage to work on your watercolor painting. Made from durable plastic, this storage caddy will help keep your painting supplies organized and ready to use!

Top Tips for How to Store Watercolor Brushes

  • Never store a damp brush in an airtight container. 
  • Never store watercolor brushes bristle down in water or solvent.
  • Do not store your brushes with paint still left on them. Rinse and clean well with warm (not hot) water and mild soap.
  • Once clean, allow your watercolor brushes to dry on a kitchen towel or paper towel. 
  • When your brushes are 100% dry, you can store them vertically (bristles pointing upward). 
  • It is a good idea to use a brush carrier to carry your brushes when traveling or doing En-Plein air painting. But make sure to regularly air out the carrier and brushes to release the moisture from the bristles.
  • Don’t worry too much if your brush gets misshapen from being stored in a wonky position. Most often, you can reshape the bristles with some warm water and a gentle massage.
  • After cleaning brushes and removing the excess water, reshape the bristles with your fingers before allowing them to completely dry.

What do artists use to clean their brushes?

Some artists use specialized soap to wash their brushes. However, for watercolor brushes this isn’t necessary – in fact often those soaps can be quite abrasive. Your best option is to wash your brushes using mild hand soap at home.

What is the simplest method for cleaning paintbrushes?

  1. Rinse the paint off.
  2. Using a bristle brush, remove any excess old dry paint.
  3. Brush a normal, mild hand soap over the brush gently.
  4. To remove the paint, create a soapy mix by moving the brush in a circular motion in the palm of your hand.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  6. Rep the instructions until there is no longer any paint or pigment visible.

[Related Article: How to Use Pen & Watercolor]

How long do watercolor brushes last?

Brushes that are used many times a week should last at least six months for synthetic brushes and at least two years for natural hair brushes. The bristles should not splay, break, or fall out, so they should keep their unique spring, and shape.

How often should you clean watercolor brushes?

While watercolor is gentler on paintbrushes than oils and acrylics, you must clean everything thoroughly after each painting session.

How do you restore a watercolor brush?

Over time, even the best cared-for watercolor brushes can become damaged, with the bristles becoming splayed, stiff, or unresponsive. However, before you consider replacing them, there are a few steps you can take to restore them to their former glory.

  1. Soak in Warm Water: First, if your watercolor brush has dried paint on it that’s making the bristles hard, you’ll want to soak the bristles in warm water. Fill a container with warm water (not hot, as hot water can damage the brush hairs and loosen the glue holding the bristles), and let the brushes soak for about 10-15 minutes. This will help to soften the dried paint.
  2. Clean the Brush: After soaking, it’s time to clean the brush. If there’s still paint on the brush, you can use a mild soap or a commercial brush cleaner to help remove it. Gently swirl the brush in the soap or cleaner, then rinse it under warm water. Continue this process until the water runs clear from the bristles. Be careful not to be too rough or scrub the brush, as this can cause further damage.
  3. Brush Conditioner: For brushes that have lost their shape or are feeling particularly rough, you may want to use a brush conditioner or restorer. These are specially formulated products that help to soften the bristles and restore their natural flexibility. Simply apply the conditioner to the bristles, following the instructions on the product.
  4. Reshape the Bristles: Once you’ve cleaned and conditioned your brush, it’s time to reshape the bristles. Use your fingers to gently mould the bristles back into their original shape.
  5. Dry the Brush Properly: Lay the brush flat to dry on a clean towel or hang it with the bristles facing down. This helps the brush maintain its shape and prevents water from soaking into the handle, which could cause the bristles to loosen.
  6. Storage: After your brush is completely dry, store it in a dry place where it’s not pressed up against other items that could deform the bristles. Ideally, you should store them horizontally or with the bristles facing upwards.

Remember, prevention is the best cure when it comes to brush care. By cleaning your brushes properly after each use, you’ll extend their lifespan and keep them in good working order for longer. But when they do start to show signs of wear, these restoration steps can help bring them back to life.

How to Clean a Watercolor Palette

Cleaning your watercolor palette and brushes is an essential part of any painting session. It not only ensures that your tools are well-maintained but also contributes to the longevity of your art supplies. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your watercolor palette.

Begin the cleaning process as soon as you’re finished with your painting session. It’s much easier to clean your palette when the paint is still wet. Using a sponge or a soft cloth, wipe away as much paint as possible from the surface of the palette.

Next, for stubborn paint residues, add a few drops of mild detergent to warm water. Scrub the palette gently using this solution. Be careful not to scratch or damage the surface. Rinse the palette thoroughly under running water until no soap or paint is left.

Now let’s move on to the clean watercolor brushes part. Proper cleaning of your watercolor paint brushes is crucial as any residual paint left in the brush can harden, damaging the brush and impairing its performance.

Firstly, rinse your brushes thoroughly under lukewarm water. Use your fingers to gently spread the bristles apart to ensure all paint is removed. Be careful to keep the direction of the water from the ferrule (the metal part that holds the bristles) to the tip of the brush, as water under the ferrule can compromise the glue holding the bristles together.

Commercial brush cleaners can be an excellent choice for dealing with stubborn paint residues. They’re designed to break down paint without harming the brush fibers. To use a brush cleaner, follow the instructions on the package, usually involving swirling the brush in the cleaner and then rinsing.

Another alternative to commercial brush cleaners is a simple mix of mild soap and warm water. Gently swirl the brush in the soapy water and rinse until the water runs clear.

Once your brushes are clean, reshape the bristles with your fingers to their original shape. This step helps to maintain the form of your watercolor paint brushes.

Finally, lay brushes flat to dry on a towel. Laying brushes flat or hanging them upside down is key, as it prevents water from seeping into the ferrule, which could loosen the bristles over time. Never stand brushes on their bristles as this will cause permanent damage.

In conclusion, regular cleaning and proper storage of your watercolor palette and brushes are fundamental to the life and performance of these precious tools. Now that you know how to do it, make this cleaning ritual an integral part of your painting session. Your brushes, palette, and ultimately, your artwork will thank you for it.

How to store watercolor brushes pin


I hope you now have a good idea of how to store watercolor brushes and how to keep your watercolor brushes in tip-top condition! The way you take care of your watercolor brushes is a huge part of being a good artist. Your brushes deserve love and attention just like your artwork. No matter which method you choose, the right storage can make all the difference. Your brushes will thank you for it, and so will your next masterpiece. Remember, the best tool is a well-cared-for tool, so store your brushes wisely!

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3 thoughts on “How to Store Watercolor Brushes: 6 Great Storage Solutions”

    • Hi Breena! I do have a list of my favorite stencils to use for watercolor painting. Have a looking under my art supplies tab…I will also put a link to the stencils in this post!
      Let me know if you can’t find it!


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