Caring for Art Materials 101

Contributor: Stefani Allegretti. Lesson ID: 13345

Have you ever used a paintbrush and forgot to rinse it out? What about leaving the cap off of a tube of paint? Yikes! In this lesson, you'll learn how to properly care for art materials.


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Art materials and tools need to be cared for differently. If they aren't, they won't work correctly. That means you, or another student, might not be able to use them again.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to care for the most basic art materials and tools.

  • What happens if you're using red paint and you dip it into a bottle of white paint before rinsing your paintbrush out?

The paint is no longer's pink!

mixed paint

Begin with learning how to care for two of the most common art tools and materials: paint and paintbrushes.

Paint and Paintbrushes

Paint is a pigmented liquid, so it's easy to mix with other paint if you're not careful. So, it's important to remember to rinse out your paintbrushes thoroughly before double-dipping.

Another way to care for paint is to ensure your paint caps and lids are securely fastened or closed on your paint bottle or tube. When the paint is exposed to the air, it begins to dry up and harden, rendering it useless.

Watch a portion of this video to learn how to secure watercolor paint tubes properly.

Image - Video

Remember, when storing or using paints, especially oil paints, read the labels to know how to store your paints properly.

Move on to paintbrushes. If used paintbrushes dry with paint on them, the paintbrush's bristles will stick together and harden to the point that the paintbrush can no longer be used.

dirty paint brushes

By not properly cleaning your paintbrushes after they're used, you're throwing your paintbrush in the trash!

Part of caring for your paintbrushes is understanding how to clean them properly. For example, it's not as simple as sticking them in a jar of water. Paintbrushes are surprisingly more complex than one might think!

Take a look at the paintbrush diagram below.


If you submerge a paintbrush in a jar of water so the water goes above the ferrule, it can eventually lead to your paintbrush falling apart.

Learn more about taking care of paintbrushes as you watch the video below.

Image - Video

Not all paint is created equal. Oil paint is very different than watercolor paint and acrylic paint because it is used with different types of oils, like linseed oil.

(If you're curious about the chemistry of oil paint, read the article found under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.)

So, cleaning brushes with oil paint is more complex than simply cleaning paintbrushes with soap and water. Take a moment to watch the following video.

Image - Video

Cleaning paintbrushes that have oil paint on them is a process.

It is essential to remember that if you use turpentine to clean oil paint off paintbrushes, you follow the instructions and read the warnings on the label. Also, always use turpentine in a well-ventilated area and NEVER leave turpentine bottles unsealed. This can be toxic, thus, hazardous to your health.

Again, read the labels before using any chemicals, like turpentine, to clean oil paint off of your paintbrushes.

Now, move on to another material used often in art classrooms: clay.


artist working with clay

Clay is a demanding material. It needs to be kept moist to mold and sculpt properly. So one of the best ways to care for clay is to store it properly.

Clay should be stored by wrapping it in plastic or an airtight container. This will keep it malleable.

Watch the video below to learn more about storing clay and clay projects.

Image - Video

Markers, Pencils, and Pens

Markers and inking pens, like paint, dry up if the caps aren't properly secured. Always remember to put the caps back on, and you'll be good to go!


Another way to care for markers and inking pens is to be aware of how hard you are pressing down on your paper while using them. This can cause the marker or pen tip to become smashed and ultimately unusable.

Generally, all materials from colored pencils to pens to graphite pencils to erasers to anything else you can think of should be properly stored in containers or the boxes they came in. This will ensure that they last longer and don't get damaged.

Move on to the Got It! section to see how much you remember about caring for art materials.

Image - Button Next