Are paint brushes with unruly bristles a familiar sight in your elementary classroom? Better paint brush habits can prevent damage to your brushes and paint sets, and increase their useful life. When kids learn the correct way to use their supplies, their paintings will improve and your brushes will thank you!
How do brushes get damaged?
Most kids are introduced to painting with products that already have water “built in”, like liquid tempera and liquid watercolors.
Getting the correct ratio of paint to water can be a tricky concept for kids, and even for adults! So it makes sense to simplify things for your youngest students and offer them paint that already has the water mixed in.
But the problem comes when kids are later introduced to paint sets where water has to be added. The habit of not adding water can be a hard one to break and therein lies the problem.
The paints in watercolor and tempera sets come in dry or semi-moist ‘pans’ or ‘cakes’. These sets are popular with both teachers and students alike, due to their convenience, portability, and ease of storage.
But as popular as these sets are, they can be very hard on brushes if not used correctly.
Paint pans and cakes need to be activated by water before you can paint with them. And even after activating them, you need to keep adding water to them as you paint.
It’s common for younger students to forget to add water to their paint when they start working with cake-style colors. Then they try to compensate for this lack of water by pressing their brush down extra hard and grinding it into the cake of paint.
This forces paint up into the ferrule (the metal part that connects the bristles to the handle), bending and damaging the bristles. And it makes it almost impossible to get all that paint out of the ferrule later.
The result is what we like to call a “bad hair day” for the paint brush. And it damages the paint set, too! Needless to say, forgetting to add water will shorten the lifespan of both your brushes and your paints.
How can kids learn better paint brush habits?
Kids who know better, do better! Take the time to explain the ‘ins and outs’ of any new medium when you introduce it. Make sure kids know what they need to do in order to be successful with it.
When working with paint sets, do your brushes and paints a favor by reminding students to add some water before they start to paint. Have them first dip their brush in clean water, then squeeze a drop or two of water onto each color. This ‘primes’ the colors for painting as the water begins to soften and liquefy 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 will catch on fast once they develop this habit!
Hearing verbal reminders is helpful, especially when combined with visual reminders, like the images in this post. You can get FREE printable downloads of these images in my TPT store!
Want more tips for watercolor success with kids? You can find them here.