A DIY brush shaper is a great way to ensure that your brushes maintain their shape and provide optimal painting results. While you can use commercial chemicals to hold the brush in shape, you still need to shape the brush manually. By using simple materials like foam, cotton thread, rubber bands, and a pair of scissors, you can create a custom brush shaper that shapes your brushes perfectly.
All you need to do for a DIY brush shaper is grab some hair gel (because brushes are basically hair) or diluted medium, rub it into a cleaned paint brush and shape the brush with your fingers, and hope the bristles stay in place.
For stubborn round brush bristles, you can shape the brush by hand, then wrap or wind the bristles with some cotton thread or fine wire. Do not wrap them too tightly.
For flat bristle brushes, you can shape them by hand and lay flat or you can wedge the bristle between two pieces of foam offcuts or thick card stock and hold them together with an elastic band or weigh the ends down until the hair gel dries.
Below are some supporting photos showing a flat and a rounded brush being shaped.
Shaping a flat brush
The following images show how I flatten and shape a flat brush with my DIY brush shaper technique. While I use hair gel you can buy professional shaping solutions.
Shaping a round brush
The following images show how I shape a round brush with my DIY brush shaper technique. While I use hair gel you can buy professional shaping solutions.
Explanation of what a brush shaper is and why it is useful
I have been painting longer than I have known how to write so I know how important it is to have properly shaped brushes for optimal painting results. A good brush shaper is more than a chemical that you dip your brushes in, it is a tool that you can use to maintain the shape of your brushes and keep them in top condition.
What is a Brush Shaper?
There are two types of brush shapers. The first one is a commercially available brush shaping agent or chemical that you use to coat your brushes and you then manually shape them with your fingers. The second brush shaper and the one I am describing in this article is a DIY tool and technique that helps to maintain the shape of a paintbrush.
I have typically made them from cheap offcuts of foam or other pliable materials and they have been designed to wedge over the bristles of a brush for flat brushes.
For round brushes I simply wrap them up in in cotton thread to hold them in place.
By holding the bristles in place, my DIY brush shaper can help to prevent them from getting misshapen or bent out of place when not used for long periods of time or when you have left a brush somewhere and it has become damaged.
Why is a Brush Shaper Useful?
There are a few reasons why a brush shaper is useful for painters. Firstly, a brush shaper can help to extend the life of a paintbrush by preventing the bristles from getting damaged or misshapen. When brushes are not properly cared for, they can become unusable and need to be replaced. And with the cost of living going up, even average quality paint brushes are becoming expensive.
A brush shaper can help to prevent this from happening, saving artists like you and me, time and money in the long run.
Secondly, a DIY brush shaper can help to improve the quality of painting results. When a paintbrush is misshapen or has bent bristles, it can be difficult to apply paint evenly and accurately. A brush shaper helps to keep the bristles in the correct position, making it easier to apply paint with precision.
Finally, a brush shaper can help to make the process of cleaning brushes easier. When brushes are not properly shaped, it can be difficult to clean them effectively. By using a DIY brush shaper, painters can help to ensure that their brushes are clean and ready for use the next time they need them.
Why not buy a Brush Shaper?
While it’s possible to buy a brush shaping solution such as Mona Lisa Speedball or Trekell brush shaping solution, these solutions still need you to know something about manually shaping the brush and ensuring it stays in shape while the solution does its magic.
You can go ahead and buy the solution if that is all you are seeking but there are several reasons why making your own DIY brush shaper using items you might already have around the home can be a good alternative.
Here are a few reasons why you might consider making a DIY brush shaper instead of buying one:
Cost: One of the main advantages of making a DIY brush shaper is that it can be much less expensive than buying one as the materials to make one are virtually available anywhere and thus free. By using simple materials like foam cotton thread, you can create a custom brush shaper for a fraction of the cost of buying a replacement brush.
You can also use alternative solutions to shape a brush instead of the commercially available starches such as hair gel, or diluted painting mediums.
Customization: When you make your own DIY brush shaper, you can customize it to fit your specific brushes. This can help to ensure a snug fit and provide optimal support for the bristles. With a commercially available option, you may need to settle for a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t provide the same level of customization.
Availability: I turned to making DIY brush shapers as I actually could not find anything available commercially (this was pre eCommerce, internet and Amazon years).
Sustainability: This is a big one for me, as making your own DIY brush shaper can be a more sustainable option than buying a commercially available option. By using materials that you already have at home or can easily obtain, you can reduce waste and avoid contributing to the demand for new products.
DIY Approach to Making a Brush Shaper
A DIY brush shaper can be easily made using simple materials that you may already have at home. One popular method is to use foam that is cut into a shape that matches the shape of the brush. The foam is then wrapped around the brush, and the bristles are gently squeezed into the desired shape. Other methods involve using cotton threads or rubber bands to hold the bristles in place.
Importance of Having Properly Shaped Brushes
Having properly shaped brushes is crucial for achieving optimal painting results. When a brush is misshapen or has bent bristles, it can be difficult to apply the paint evenly and accurately. One of my pet peeves when painting fine lines is to have a rogue bristle pop out the side and create a line that ruins all my hard work. A badly shaped brush can also lead to streaks, smudges, and other imperfections in the finished painting.
A cheap DIY brush shaper helps to maintain the shape of the bristles, making it easier to apply paint with precision. It can also help to extend the life of a brush by preventing the bristles from getting damaged or misshapen. This can save painters time and money in the long run by reducing the need to replace brushes.
You will also find that either using a commercial brush shaping solution or hair gel can give your brush the feeling of a new brush so you will need to gently massage the bristles back to life if they are too stiff.
Helps with cleaning brushes
In addition to improving the quality of painting results, having properly shaped brushes can also make the process of cleaning brushes easier. When brushes are not properly shaped, it can be difficult to clean them effectively. By using a brush shaper, artists can help to ensure that their brushes are clean and ready for use the next time they need them.
What are Other Materials needed for making a DIY brush shaper (e.g. foam, scissors, craft knife)
To make a DIY brush shaper, you will need the following materials:
Foam offcuts: You can use small pieces of packaging foam to create the brush shaper. The foam should be thin enough to be soft and pliable so that it can mold to the shape of the brush. You can find foam at any craft store or do what I do and keep some aside whenever you buy electronic goods that come with shaped foam. Just cut a bit off with a small serated knife or hot wire.
Scissors/Craft Knife: You will need these to cut the foam into the shape of the brush.
Cotton thread: You will need this to shape round brushes.
Elastic bands: You will need a few to hold the foam pieces in place while the gel or brush shaping solution dries.
Once you have gathered the necessary materials, follow these step-by-step instructions to make a DIY brush shaper:
- Cut a small length of packaging foam with your hobby knife or scissors
- Cut the foam to the size of the brush that you want to shape. Make its larger than the brush so that it will cover the bristles, and some of the brush handles and can accommodate an elastic band without touching the bristles.
- Wedge the foam around the brush and gently squeeze the bristles into the desired shape.
- Use a rubber band or two hold the foam pieces in place. For round brushes just use cotton thread wrapped directly around the bristles so that is shaped around the bristles.
- Your DIY brush shaper is now working its magic with the hair gel or shaping solution.
- You will find that your brushes will gain their shape back within a day. For stubborn bristles, you may need to cut away any persistent hairs that will not play along.
Making a DIY brush shaper is a simple and cost-effective way to maintain the shape of your brushes and improve your painting results. The step-by-step instructions provided above make it easy for anyone to make a DIY brush shaper at home.
Tips and tricks for using the brush shaper effectively based on my personal experience
I have found that using a brush shaper is a great way to maintain the shape of my brushes and improve my painting results. Over time, I have developed some personal tips and tricks for using the brush shaper effectively. Here are a few that I have found to be particularly helpful:
Prevent misshaping brushes to start with: Store them properly and keep the bristles facing upwards and not down into a jar or container. Or better yet, store them flat and in a protective case like a toolbox.
It also helps to wash your brushes thoroughly after use and use water and soap to remove any excess paint or medium that can misshapen your brush.
Squeeze the Bristles Gently: When using a brush shaper, be sure to squeeze the bristles gently to avoid damaging them. The goal is to mold the bristles into the desired shape, not to crush them.
Leave the Brush Shaper in Place: Once you have molded the bristles into the desired shape, leave the brush shaper in place until the bristles are completely dry. This will help to ensure that the bristles maintain their shape.
Experiment with Different Materials: While foam is a popular material for making brush shapers, don’t be afraid to experiment with other materials. For example, I have found that wire and rubber bands can be effective in holding the bristles in place. And for flat brushes, I have even used thick card stock and held them into place with a paperclip.
In my experience, making a DIY brush shaper has been a game-changer for my painting results. By using the right size brush shaper, gently squeezing the bristles, leaving the brush shaper in place, cleaning the brushes properly, and experimenting with different materials, I have been able to maintain the shape of my brushes and achieve optimal painting results and keep my expensive paint brushes going for many years to come.
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
He also loves all things watches (ok it’s an addiction) so show him some love and visit his other website https://expertdivewatch.com