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Dry brushing for mixed media portraits

If like me you like drawing as well as painting, you might be interested in trying out the dry brush technique. Basically a way to draw with brushes.

This technique works well in mixed media paintings and is quite easy to learn.

You will need:

  • Winsor and Newton water mixable oil paint (I am using the watermixable oil paint because I find it dryer for this technique and it makes the rushes easier to clean as well)
  • A few stiff brushes
  • A few soft brushes
  • Clean rags
  • Erasers
  • Acrylic paint
  • Indian ink
  • Dipping pen and ink


The dry brush technique consist in painting on paper or canvas with a very dry brush that holds very little paint. So you can start by spreading a bit of paint on a piece of canvas that you will use as a palette:



Then you can rub brushes against that “palette” and use them to draw on the canvas


My palette


You can use soft brushes for light areas and smaller stiff brushes for details.


Small stiff brush on details


Amazingly you can erase very thin layers of oil paint.

Here is a video that shows a time lapse of the whole painting process:

When I was done with the portraits I started working on the background:


I used a simple pattern on the sweater with fluid acrylic


And a dipping pen and India Ink


I added patterns on the background with fluid acrylics and markers




The last step was to apply a layer of varnish to the painting.


Slice of Life III- Sisters


Dry brushing for mixed media portraits
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  • aino.shperber61046200

    Your work is always amazing and inspiring! Wow!~

    • Thanks aino.shperber61046200! I am glad you enjoyed this post and the artwork 🙂

  • Susanne

    You have inspired me to try a portrait with this technique! Gorgeous painting, Sandrine!

  • Judy Brass

    Hi Sandrine
    I just wanted to say how inspiring I find your website and your work. I love just about everything you do and I feel I’m learning lots from your examples and demos – now I just have to find the time to put some of them into practice! I’ve never painted a portrait before but I just love the results you have achieved here so I will be giving it a go hopefully. I have your watercolour book and hope to do one of your online courses when I can find the time! Thanks for everything. It’s so kind of you to be so sharing.

  • Is this done on raw canvas? If so, the oil paint will eventually make the canvas disintegrate. I love the look though. Hoping it is on primed canvas because I would like to try it.

  • Barbara Atwater

    I so appreciate your sharing! It is always so inspirational .
    This is beautiful.
    Thank you. Thank you!


  • LOVE how this turned out, Sandrine – it’s beautiful! Even though I’m not a portrait painter, this gives me ideas for my own subjects. Thank you for posting.

    • Thanks Lisa !
      Feel free to post a link to your work if you end up using this technique on a different subject, that will be interesting to see 🙂