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My Favorite Brushes & How I Store Them

I am so deep into the furniture painting underworld, that I could talk for days about the benefits of good brushes, and the necessity of cheap brushes. The right tool for the job is always important, whether it is a 50 cent version, or a $50 indispensable must-have.

I have seen so many cool ways to store brushes, peg boards, coffee cans, old paint buckets, the list is endless. I was particularly envious of a repurposed swing-arm kitchen towel holder, and still might make that happen, if I can ever find one! But, I am a much more practical girl than that, and even though some of my brushes are my prized possessions, I sometimes treat them like crap. Reality always sets in. I am in a hurry, always. I want them as clean as 2 minutes will get them at the end of the day, and to be right where I need them when I’m ready to paint.

A Pinterest-worthy hanging organizer would be the bees knees, but I probably wouldn’t use it anyway. (After I got that first good picture, anyway, if you know what I mean.)

So, this is how I do it. I have a home studio, and a work studio. 3/4 of my supplies are in a tote bag going back and forth between the two at any given moment. Truth. But, I do have a system that is reliable, for the most part. (Like when I actually get them out of the tote bag.)

At my home studio, I have about 6 of the stackable bins from the Dollar Tree. That’s how I knew that I was onto something with this particular storage idea. Except I have broken 2 of them already, trying to tote them from room to room. They can’t handle heavy stuff, and they are not meant for carrying stuff around, but when I am ready for a particular brush, I know where to look. The cheap side of me is very proud of this find.

The “these are the tools of my trade” me, that likes to shock my husband with what seem like frivolous expenses, LOVES the set that I bought on sale at Northern Tool. We go there for him, and I come home with something every time. (If you don’t want me to buy things, quit bringing me to cool places, right?)

So, these yellow bins ran me about $20 for a set of 3. I am never gonna break a hunk off just trying to carry it from my paint room to my painting area. It’s not going to happen. They are made for mens nuts and bolts and stuff. They are big, don’t wobble, and have plenty of room for me to reach in and grab a brush without having to take the stack apart. (Although, I usually still do, so I can get a good look. That’s more a middle-aged eye issue than a bin size issue.)

Turquoise iris brushes, dick blick brushes, paint brushes

I keep my artist (little) brushes, and the butter knife that I use as a Paint can opener, and my palette knives in the top bin. There are a lot more tiny things to dig through in that one, so I really do need to see it better.

(I will do a separate post on brush selection, but my favorites are the Turquoise Iris collection from Paint Pixie, and whatever is on sale at Blick. The rest are el-cheapo’s that I pick up in multi-packs at Michaels or Amazon, so that I can abuse them, or let the grandkids paint with them. They are the chip brushes of the art world.)

My middle bin holds my chip brushes. I use the crap out of these things. Technically, you throw them away after use, but I can’t say that I have ever been able to do that. (Cheapo me wins again.) Chip brushes come in a bunch of sizes, and in higher and lower quality. I buy them by the case at Harbor Freight, and sometimes just pick one up at Lowe’s, or on Amazon, if I am grabbing something else and want all of my supplies to be together when I am ready to roll. (LOL, no pun intended, but I guess we should discuss rollers, too! – Look for that in another post.)

I use the 1” and 2 1/2” chip brushes the most, but I have 3” and 4”, too. My Dixie Belle chip brushes feel like a “real” paintbrush, not something disposable, and are still under 2 bucks. They are the type of brush I used before I knew there was a difference in paint brushes. They hold lots of paint, create a good finish, and technically, I guess, could be thrown away after use. (Maybe fancy girls throw them out? Hmmmm.)

Anyway, I abuse the heck out of my chip brushes. The faster I slap something on with them, the longer I forget them soaking in my water pot, the more stiff and ragged they get, the more I love them. When they are so stiff that there is no saving them, half of their bristles are broken off at the end, and what is left of them is in one hard clump, I paint a face on them, and they still make me smile!

The “shabby chip brushes” as Sonia of Junk Monkey Paint calls them, are perfect for creating a distressed finish, for framing in the side of your piece with a line of paint, and for dry brushing. Any time you want streaks and for some of your undercoat to show through.

I, quite often, cut the ends off of my old chip brushes, leaving just an inch or less of really stiff bristles. This is the perfect tool to use to get wax or stain into the deep details and crevices of a piece. Then and only then, I MIGHT throw them a way. (Usually, I save them, just in case I need to use the same wax/stain on another project. As if I would know where to find it anyway!)

I also use the cut off chip brushes for stenciling, when my fancy stencil brushes aren’t handy. They are so great for that!

Most of all, I don’t feel guilty when I abuse them. When I forget them out. When I leave them all weekend in my water. They come out of the mess all the better, and ready to be used for some other cool project! (Like Mod Podge or texturizing!)

Last, but not least, by far, are my “good” brushes. If my husband had any idea how much money we have invested in paint brushes, he wouldn’t feel nearly as bad about buying a new table saw!

Sisterhood of he Traveling Brush is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Other affiliate links may be included, as well. Any opinions expressed are my own honest opinions, and any small fees or commissions that may be earned will not affect my opinion.

My first “good” brushes were Purdy angled Lil Cub’s. They are still one of my favorite brushes. If I could, I would sneak a new one in each time we went to Sherwin Williams for a project. Somehow they always went amiss. (I recently found a stash in Arick’s shop. He likes to clean my brushes for me because he is convinced that I will wash paint down our drain and ruin the septic system. As long as he thinks that, I am good. It’s nice having someone else wash my brushes! He just needs to learn to give them back, so I won’t continue to “invest” in more.)

I was always proud of my Lil Cub, they run about $10, and you can get them at Amazon or Lowe’s, now. Good brush. I was painting very little furniture in the Lil Cub days, more walls and displays, and it was everything that I needed. But, when I started painting more furniture, I really wanted to try the cool brushes that the “famous” girls were using. Surely I would paint just like Dionne, if I had one of those fancy brushes, right? (Wrong, I still paint like Terri, but a much better, more efficient version of myself!) So, I ordered my first Paint Pixie.

Fireworks here. Wow. Wow. Wow. I had never seen or held anything like it. It was heavy and held so much paint! My #12 took a licking, but kept on ticking. Then I ordered a #8. These natural bristle brushes were artist brushes for furniture. They were/are amazing. I love them. Love them!

Then I had the fever. Like the Beanie Baby fever of the 90’s. I HAD TO HAVE THEM. I needed more than one of each. They were my TOOLS. MY TOOLS. I NEEDED them! So, I became a retailer. (If you want a Turquoise Iris, Paint Pixie or Dixie Belle brush, I would be proud to send you one. You can e-mail me to order, or use the links provided to order them directly from the manufacturers.)

In the last couple of years, Josi of the Paint Pixie has came out with so many new spectacular brushes. Natural bristle and synthetic. I use Paint Pixie wax brushes and buffers exclusively. I use the natural bristle brushes (#4, #6, #8 and #12) almost daily. These brushes I take care of. They are always out of the water at night, and hung or laid out to dry. They are an asset to my painting business.

After having so much success with the natural bristle brushes, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to try synthetic brushes again. Until I tried the Dixie Belle brushes! I LOVE them, and use them daily, as well. Because of my broken wrist, (I only got 70% use back after my surgery.) sometimes the style of the natural bristle brushes and the way that the weight is distributed when the bristles are full, gets a little heavy for me when painting a large piece, or a tall piece, where I have to keep my arm over my head for an extended period of time.

So, I first eyeballed the mini’s in Dixie Belle’s synthetic bristle line, because they reminded me of my beloved Lil Cub. I know that I am saying that I loved them too much, but I don’t care. I do. I love them. There is a flat mini and an angled mini. The bristles are so much fuller and hold so much more paint than my Lil Cub ever did. When you are painting day in and day out, the number of times that you need to dip your brush counts. It counts a lot. At least to me it does. I want to get a lot of painting done in between dips in the paint. The short handles move the center of gravity closer to my hand, and take some of the pressure off of my wrist. I use them all of the time. If I was painting a dresser, or a buffet or an armoire, I would grab a Dixie Belle mini first in a heartbeat.

Another of my favorite Dixie Belle favorites are the ovals. I don’t know how to explain it, but they are long. Long, long. Not just the handles, but the bristles. You can strrrrrooooookkkkkkkeeeee across the piece with them and they just flow. Flow so smooth. Go so far. They are not wide, and while they hold a lot of paint, it’s not as much as the natural bristle brushes, so they don’t get as heavy on the end, and it doesn’t put as much strain on my wrist. I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t feel like I have to do a lot of dipping with them, and I get a very smooth finish that does not leave a lot of visible brush strokes, especially when compared to a natural bristle brush.

I guess I want to say that there is a use and a need for a variety of brushes, and I will detail brush selection for each type of brush (artist, wall, furniture, wax, etc.) in separate blog posts, so that you can get all of the deets that you are looking for, without having to scroll through all of them. Brush cleaning will be a separate post, as well.

As a side note, I store sandpaper, sponges, pads, rags, transfer burnishing tools, mini mister bottles, and quite a few other necessities in these bins.

I hope you enjoyed this little ditty about how I store my brushes, and a little about some of my favorites, and I would love to hear about your favorite tools! Please share!

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