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"The Secret to Drybrushing Is..." Topic

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19 Apr 2018 5:17 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

1,681 hits since 30 Sep 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian30 Sep 2017 8:10 p.m. PST

What is the secret to being successful at drybrushing?

wpilon30 Sep 2017 8:41 p.m. PST

I'm guessing it's the same as getting to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice…

Grelber30 Sep 2017 8:42 p.m. PST

Brushing the right direction? Think about where the light is coming from and brush away from that point.

Getting the paint to the right consistency, and using the right brush are also important.

So is waiting until the undercoat dries so the dry brushing doesn't pick it up.

I sure have made a lot of mistakes dry brushing over the years, haven't I?


bsrlee30 Sep 2017 9:07 p.m. PST

Yep, practice. And having the right paint helps – some paints just won't do the job, either too much pigment, not enough binder or not enough pigment.

Not enough pigment can make a nice over-glaze effect after you have set up a light/dark background with dry brushing tho'.

PrivateSnafu30 Sep 2017 9:51 p.m. PST


Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2017 11:50 p.m. PST

Using the end of the brush with bristles

John Armatys01 Oct 2017 1:21 a.m. PST

Use a goat mop brush.

Dagwood01 Oct 2017 2:03 a.m. PST

Don't overdo it. Especially not with pure white, as I've seen some people do. Use a lighter shade of the paint beneath, not pure white !

Von Trinkenessen01 Oct 2017 2:48 a.m. PST

Less is more.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2017 3:47 a.m. PST

I agree with practice..I'm still trying to get it correct.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

Better have too little paint on the brush than too much, nothing worse than big obvious paint streaks over a model.

Use more than one colour

Don't use it as the answer to every problem

Dynaman878901 Oct 2017 5:25 a.m. PST

It is something I have not learned and am not sure I ever will. I watch tutorial videos, I think I do the exact same steps, and end up with garbage.

It's like watching Bob Ross and trying to do what he does, he makes trees – I make blobs of color…

YouTube link

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

I'll go with "practice." There seem to be at least two workable ways to do it, and sometimes I hit one or the other by accident.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Oct 2017 6:47 a.m. PST


Including having a practice "dummy". A bit of something of the same material with the same other paint on it (like some sprue bits) to practice just before hitting your figures.

DyeHard01 Oct 2017 7:48 a.m. PST

Similar to the "dummy" idea from Etothipi, start with the simple case. White drybrush onto black primed subject. I did this to try the preshading technique. I learned a lot more about drybrushing than preshading.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP01 Oct 2017 9:04 a.m. PST

Don't drink and paint.

whitejamest01 Oct 2017 11:09 a.m. PST

I think half the battle in drybrushing is recognizing that it is not suitable for a lot the situations people use it in. It's great for picking out small sharp detail. When people try to drybrush detail that is to big, it just comes out splotchy. It's not a great way to add variations to a broad flat surface – unless the consistency and the brush quality are absolutely perfect. The old acrylic Polly Scale paints used to be wonderful for that… before Testors bought them and switched to enamels for some mysterious reason.

Apart from that I agree with a lot of what's being said. Paint consistency is key. If the paint is too thin it will smear on. Too thick and it will turn into gummy clumps. And it is better to err on the side of having too little paint on the brush. Easier to add than to take away, once it's on the model.

jwebster01 Oct 2017 11:58 a.m. PST

Lots of good advice. It sounds like an easy technique but I found it hard – not yet mastered.

Very soft brush, not worn out regular brushes
+1 on Goat mop – artists term for soft brush, although hard to find small sizes. In cheapo brushes, camel is soft. I have a bunch of drybrush brushes because if I use one colour then wash the brush, it isn't dry any more ….

Start with very small amount of paint on brush, wipe most of it off and build up slowly

It is a bad approach for highlighting folds in clothing or similar, but fantastic for textured surfaces, such as chainmail

I often get too much paint on the model when drybrushing – a wash will bring it back down. Very often I do successive drybrushing and washing until I get the effect I was looking for.


tigrifsgt01 Oct 2017 1:27 p.m. PST

I always use a stiff bristled flat end brush. It picks up very little paint and leaves very little paint.

bobspruster02 Oct 2017 1:53 a.m. PST

I haven't tried it, but I read somewhere that touching your brush to a paper towel will draw out enough moisture to make the task easier.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2017 4:12 a.m. PST

Using the above techniques of less is more, brush across the grain not with the grain of the detail.

22ndFoot02 Oct 2017 6:36 a.m. PST

A bit of cardboard to brush excess paint off it is much more absorbent than kitchen roll or newspaper and, as you use the same action as brushing the model, you don't mess your brush up.

Chgowiz02 Oct 2017 8:01 a.m. PST

I second the idea of using cardboard, it works wonders to get the wet out and pick up the thick pigment.

It also helps to go light and be patient. I used to scrub the brush across and I would leave blotches.

Patience is the key. If you do a very light drybrush coat, then wait 5 to 10 seconds, then go back over it, repeat and repeat, you'll see the dry brush "build" and look good.

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP02 Oct 2017 8:34 a.m. PST

Just did some dry brushing. Takes practice and I am not the best at it but I am better with it than with washes. I use the approach of getting just a little paint on the brush (short somewhat stiffer bristles), wiping on paper towel and lightly brushing across folds or mail armor. On one set of figs I had painted a green that I was beginning to regret, after the dry brushing, they looked much better. They Foundry Pict bowmen, just so you know what I am painting. I am still not sure on the basic shade of green I used, but the dry brushing made them look more acceptable. I went a bit to the point of lighting the overall look of the capes with the lighter color, also.

Mutant Q02 Oct 2017 12:30 p.m. PST

A little goes a long way.

When I first started dry brushing, I neglected to remove enough paint from my brush. The results where far from desirable.

So, use a little bit of painted and make sure the brush is "dry." Apply sparingly, focusing on the surfaces you want to highlight. You can always add more if needed.

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member02 Oct 2017 3:13 p.m. PST

I prefer a slightly "wet" drybrushing. I work faster if I can mix the paint literally scrubbing it lightly onto a still wet surface. Light hand, and just hit the high spots. Old beat up brushes or stiff spent oil painting chisel brushes do a good job.

Henry Martini02 Oct 2017 4:05 p.m. PST

As regards the amount of paint required, you should be wiping your brush as if you were trying to remove all the paint without actually cleaning it in thinners.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Oct 2017 4:09 p.m. PST

For buildings and terrain it's best to go from dark to light in thin coats. I use cheap Ceramcoat or any other 2 oz bottle paint for
drybrushing because they are more forgiving. Mistake are easily rectified, because of the lack of pigment in those paints. Plus, there are hundreds of shades to choose from.

I use those stock prospectus booklets that come in the mail to wipe the paint off the brush. No I'm not rich. They are generally concerned with your 401 K. Usually some nonsense about Board meetings.
Anyway the paper is perfect for wiping the paint off the brushes.
It's recycled grainy paper that holds moisture.
And there are dozens of "This page intentionally left blank" pages,
so you don't get print on your brushes.

I also take old brushes and cut the bristles down close to the metal. I use them to to do my brushing. Always use flat brushes.

DHautpol05 Oct 2017 5:42 a.m. PST

When I think I've got the consistency and amount of paint on the brush to where I want it, I lightly draw the brush across the thumb of the hand holding the figure. If it just highlights my thumbprint then I'm ready to go.

Marc at work06 Oct 2017 9:33 a.m. PST

Washes/glazes can tone down over agressive drybrushing and reduce chalkiness/graininess

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