How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes Between Colors!

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With the huge spike in the number of people taking up painting, particularly acrylic painting as a way to relax and pass the time, we have seen a correlating spike in the number of questions being asked from the community. One of the more commonly asked questions that we have noticed time and time again is how to clean acrylic paint brushes between colors.

Although there is plenty of information online on how you can clean your acrylic paint brushes at the end of a painting session, there is very little going over how you are able to clean them while painting between colors. Due to this, we have decided to publish this article in the hope that we will be able to help our readers clean their paint brushes as easily as possible during their painting session.

This should be able to help you quickly move onto the next acrylic color you need for your artwork without your brush contaminating the color and having a negative effect on your paper or canvas once your paint has dried. Although there are additional methods you could try, we have attempted to focus on quick and easy methods to clean your acrylic brushes during your painting session as to not slow you down and waste time.

How To Clean Acrylic Paint Brushes Between Colors!

We have laid the main methods out in descending order of what we would recommend our readers try to implement when looking to clean their acrylic paint brushes. This means that the easier and quicker options at at the top of the article and then as you work your way through it, the speed and efficiency of the various methods starts to drop off.

Although the last few methods that we have chosen to feature are the least efficient of the options cover in the article, they do still work but just take more effort and time to actually use to clean your brushed. That said though, due to your specific situation, they may be the best option for you and your needs so it is a good idea to at least skim over the whole article if possible.

We always see beginners to acrylic painting trying to just swirl their brush in a cup of water to clean it and as you probably know, this does little to nothing. This is due to acrylic paint requiring friction being applied to the bristles of your brush to actually get the paint off them. Thats why so many people seem to be reaching out for quick and easy ways to clean their brushes.

Take Advantage Of A Cleaning Cup!

Although this is a relatively new addition to the market that has only been released over the last two to three years, a brush cleaning cup has to be our number one recommendation to our readers who are looking for ways to clean their acrylic paint brushes while painting. Cleaning cups have proven to be very effective and have rightfully managed to quickly earn themselves an outstanding reputation amongst the arts and crafts community.

The unique design of the cup allows you to quickly and easily clean the paint from your brush and then go right back to painting as needed. The cup offers a two step process for getting the acrylic paint from your bristles by allowing you to dab the brush on the textured surface at the base of the cup in water and then run it through the squeegee lips around the rim of the cup to remove the last of the paint and water to get your brush ready to go again.

Although some people do tend to add a little brush cleaner to the water in an attempt to speed up the process, we usually just recommend that our readers use regular water. Due to the duel action of the base of the cup and the squeegee lips applying all the friction you could ever want, regular water performs just as well.

Try A Cleaning Basin!

Although the various types of cleaning basin have been available for decades and are a little dated, many people do tend to still go for a basin over the newer and more efficient brush cleaning cup due to the basin being around a third of the price. The basic principal of cleaning your brushes with a basin is very similar to using a cleaning cup though.

Different types of cleaning basins do have slightly different designs to each other but most have a regular cleaning section where you will dap your brush against the base of the section in water. This gets of the thick of the acrylic paint from your brush quickly and then allows you to move your brush over to the second section with the various brush draws that allow you to pull the bristles of your brush through them to remove the rest of the paint.

If you are on a budget or are not in a rush to clean your brushes as quickly as possible while painting then a cleaning basin can be an excellent option for you. They are still a very popular option amongst the arts and crafts community and still see strong sales each year even though the cleaning cups are usually the more popular choice these days.

Have A Go At A Stainless Steel Brush Washer!

The good old stainless steel brush washer is still a relatively common option with the same basic design having been used for hundreds of years. Although the design is very basic, it can get the job done but due to being made from stainless steel rather than plastic, the prices of these old school brush washers are almost as much as the more efficient brush cleaning cups so we would recommend you go with the cup if possible.

The stainless steel brush washer is based around a single cleaning section with a cleaning plate close to the base with water surrounding it. Although larger brushes will only be able to be dabbed against the cleaning plate, smaller brushes can be pushed into the holes to quickly apply friction to the bristles of the brush to remove any excess acrylic paint.

As you may be able to guess from such a simplistic design, a stainless steel brush washer is not as efficient as either of the options covered above but it can still work, especially if you only use smaller brushes with your acrylic paints. Due to the cleaning basin being a better cheaper option and the brush cleaning cup being a considerably better slightly more expensive option, we would recommend that our readers take either of those over this method though.

Take A Multiple Brush Approach!

We know that this is not strictly cleaning your brushes between colors but simply picking up a spare brush set for $5-$10 is becoming an increasingly popular option amongst artists. The idea is that you have enough brushes that you have one for each color of paint that you will be using on your artwork and then simply hang them in a brush holder near your canvas or paper when not in use.

You then hot swap between the brushes as required during your painting to switch from color to color without actually cleaning them while you go. Then once your painting session is over, you clean all of your brushes at once helping to save you a considerable amount of time over your painting career.

Due to the low price tag and efficiency of this method, it is becoming more and more popular with a number of popular social media and YouTube influencers in the painting community usually using this method now too. If you need to reduce the time wasted while painting then this is probably going to be the best option available for you as it can save you a surprising amount of time during each painting session.

The Good Old Paper Towel!

We know that the good old paper towel gets a ton of stick from the community due to it being inefficient and often putting small bits of paper onto your brush but it is still a very popular option for a huge number of people. If you are on a very tight budget then using a paper towel or an old rage may be the best option for you but it is nowhere near as quick or effective as the methods covered above.

The idea is that you will have a cup of water on your desk with you, dip your brush into it when it needs cleaning and then run the brush through the paper towel or rag between your finger and thumb to apply the friction require to remove the paint. You then repeat this process a few times to ensure that your brush is clean, apply your next color and then crack on with your acrylic painting.

We really are not fans of this method as it can take a large amount of time and also leave some acrylic paint on your brush. If you are using paper towels then the amount of time wastes just getting small bits of the paper towel out of the bristles of your brush usually convinces people to quickly switch over to any of the methods above.

Rub The Bristles Under Running Water!

Although this is far from efficient, this may be the only option open to some of our readers and although it can work, it tends to be slow and require you to move away from your canvas or paper to actually clean your brushes dropping it even more points over the options above. The idea is that you just clean your brushes as required at a source of running water while running your bristles through your finger and thumb while under the water.

This is not effective enough for most people though and simply takes far too much time, if this is going to be your main option for cleaning your brushes then we would highly recommend that you implement the spare brush method explained earlier in the article. It tends to go well with the running water method while still keeping your costs as low as possible but keeping the wasted time to a minimum.


That brings our article going over how you can clean acrylic paint brushes between colors to a close. You are able to quickly and easily clean your brushes with most of the featured methods keeping the wasted time during your painting sessions to a minimum while also ensuring that you get rid of all of the acrylic paint on your brushes between colors to prevent cross contamination too.