How to Ruin a Paintbrush in One Simple Step

"No More Bad Hair Days"... For a printable pdf visit: or tempera paint in cake form offers lots of advantages for elementary students. But this kind of paint can also be hard on brushes! When younger students are used to painting with liquid watercolors or liquid tempera, they often forget to add water to their paint when they switch to working with cake-style colors. Then, they compensate for this lack of water by pressing down extra hard on the cake of paint. This bends and damages the brush’s bristles, forces paint up into the ferrule (making it hard to clean), and generally results in what we call a “bad hair day” for the brush. And it’s not so good for the paint set, either! Needless to say, it shortens the lifespan of your brushes and your paints when this happens.

Do your brushes a favor by teaching students to first dip their brush in clean water and then squeeze a drop or two of water onto each color before getting started with their painting. This will start to soften and liquify the paint. Then remind students to keep adding water as they work. It takes practice to get the ratio of water to paint just right, but kids catch on fast once they develop this habit!

"Take Care of Your Brushes and Your Paints"...  For a printable pdf visit: more tips for watercolor success with kids here. For a printable download of these images, visit my store at Teachers Pay Teachers!


4 Responses to How to Ruin a Paintbrush in One Simple Step

  1. sandy daly July 6, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Simple solution to the wetting your watercolors and cake tempera problem…..I keep several spray bottles of water on the tables. I generally do the first spray but anytime their paints are getting dry they may spray their own.

    • Cheryl Trowbridge July 7, 2014 at 10:40 am #

      Great idea, Sandy! It seems so obvious… I wonder why I never thought of that?! Not sure about leaving the spray bottles on the tables, though! ;-)

  2. Kevin Smith November 8, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

    simple mistake from many beginner.
    This is simple and great tip ever!
    thank you!


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