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Dry brushing painting for portraits : A painting video tutorial

Before painting I am scrubbing my brush on the oil paint, then I dry it on paper towel
dry brushing painting

Dry brush portrait with black colored pencil and watercolor crayon

 

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Dry brushing painting supplies

For this portrait I did use the dry brush painting technique and a bit of black colored crayon for adding a few lines and corrections.

Here are the brushes I used:

  • 1 big soft round brush for subtle shading
  • 3 sizes of smaller bristle oil brushes for details
brush painting techniques

brushes

 Then you will need:

  • A kneaded eraser that you can shape to pick up small areas
  • An eraser
  • Lamp black Oil paint (I used water-soluble oil paint because brushes are easier to wash but it is working very well for this technique as it is a bit dryer than regular oil paint)
  • A black colored pencil to add small details
  • Bristol or watercolor paper ( I like Bristol paper because it is very smooth, if you are using watercolor paper, take one that doesn’t have a rough texture as this would make it difficult for you to paint smaller details)

dry brush supplies

 

bristol paper fro dry brush technique

 

oil painting video

dry  brush painting technique

 

Before painting, spread the oil paint on a piece of cardboard and rub your brush on this cardboard so it picks up only a bit of the paint, then I dry it on paper towel. Your brush should feel very dry and hold very little tiny quantities of paint. Try it on a spare piece of paper before painting so you make sure that you won’t paint any lines on your drawing, you want only a really subtle shade.

 

Start by painting the bigger shades area with the big soft brush then go progressively into darker and smaller details.

Here is the time lapse video of the making for this portrait, that will show you in what order I did paint that portrait.

Dry brush technique for portraits, video tutorial

Have you tried dry brush technique? What is you biggest challenge?

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • Kathleen June 28, 2014, 11:11 am

    Hello Sandrine, lovely work and thank you for the information.
    I just heard about this technique a couple of days ago and as someone who adores the soft look of charcoal but not the time it takes layering this is quite a find. I have enjoyed experimenting with dry-brush, one fellow recommended diluting the paint with sewing machine oil which helps the viscosity and he said he used water colour paper. I noticed you indicated “I did use bristol paper” Does that mean you prefer something else? I tried a Canson fine grain, cold press which was OK and a smooth bleed-proof paper for pen and ink but it wasn’t absorbent enough. I’m going to contiue experimenting but I wondered if you found a paper that worked well?

  • tareq October 27, 2013, 1:28 am

    could you tell what the best brushes for dry brush painting ?

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 27, 2013, 7:28 am

      Hi Tareq, for the big round soft brush, I recommend a watercolor wash brush, and for the small brushes I used for details, I recommend oil brushes in smaller sizes.

      • tareq March 26, 2014, 10:03 pm

        thanks sandrine its now start to work much better than before, i think i need more practice

      • Sandrine Pelissier March 31, 2014, 8:46 am

        Excellent, thanks Tareq :)

  • tareq October 20, 2013, 12:31 am

    hello … for more than one week i tried dry brush many times but, i need more details about how to add pain and scrub it correctly , the pain look dry in the photo but for me still wet and when i start painting there is some lines especially with large brush , so could you help me for that ?

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 20, 2013, 8:21 am

      Hello Tareq, from what you are describing, it seems that you have still too much paint on your brush, it has to be really dry. You can try taking off some of the paint from your brush by rubbing it on a paper towel.

      • tareq October 22, 2013, 10:27 pm

        thanks sandrine , its gonna been work yesterday, but still need more and more practice, but my problem when i want to use the big round brush , its still produce lines even after good rubbing but the other small brush work well .

  • Michelle July 16, 2013, 6:00 am

    Thanks for the video! I can’t paint very black (Asian hair) with dry brush painting, without looking very ugly. Was wondering if i can add pencil to dry brush painting. So I can! It will stay?

    • Sandrine Pelissier July 16, 2013, 7:06 am

      Thanks Michelle :)
      I think the trick for the very dark areas not to look messy is to paint them not in one go but in many layers.
      You could try adding pencil but the pencil will look more shiny than the paint especially with black paint. This can also add an interesting mixed-media effect.
      You can also try black coloured pencil, I used it on some of the dry brush paintings.

      • Michelle July 16, 2013, 5:57 pm

        thanks Sandrine! appreciate ur reply :D will surelytry the coloured pencil~

  • Maec January 6, 2013, 9:27 pm

    Iv tried to dry brush using oil paints but i can rub anything out so i was wondering what im doing wrong?

    Thanks, marc

    • Sandrine Pelissier January 7, 2013, 7:56 am

      Hello Maec,
      Taking off paint with an eraser will work only on the very light areas. If there is too much paint, you can’t make any correction, I use the eraser mainly to introduce highlights in light areas. I recommend working slowly from light to dark as you can easily add more paint but can’t really take much off.

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