Watercolor 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 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 catch on fast once they develop this habit!