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Dry brushing painting for portraits : A painting video tutorial

Dry brushing techniques for portraits a video tutorial on ARTiful painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier
Dry brushing / Painting technique / Step by step demonstrations

Dry brushing painting for portraits : A painting video tutorial

dry brushing painting
Dry brush portrait with black colored pencil and watercolor crayon
Click on image to purchase print
Click on image to purchase print

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

 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

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Canson XL Recycled Bristol Pads

The only recycled bristol on the market, these pads are designed to appeal to students, with superior construction and heavier weight covers. 96 lb (260 gsm) weight.

oil painting video

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.

Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colors, 337 Lamp Black, 200 ml

Economical, genuine oil colors clean up with soap and water. Use with 5 non-hazardous mediums allows all the traditional oil painting techniques and styles. Tubes and sets.

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?

4.6/5 - (5 votes)

Comments (29)

  1. Sunny

    I’m used to doing graphite portraits. Often over the next few days I’ll find some corrections I need to do like lightening or darkening an area. Is there any way to lighten an area after the paint is dry the next day or two? I assume not?

    1. Hello Sunny, you can erase the paint only when it is still fresh.

  2. Johnson Joseph Rozario

    Make up brushes are the best ones for dry brush art. Try it.

    1. Yes, that makes sense, as painting with the dry brush techniques feels a bit like applying make up. I will try it:)

  3. archie

    Hi.. im archie from Philippines, thank you sir for some tips..i do dry brushing and i really like it, than to graphite..i used canson sketch pad 90gsm, it looks good when im done with my work..but i think bristol you used was better..

    1. Great, Thanks Archie. Let me know how you like bristol with this technique 🙂


    Hi . . . Sandrine,

    I have been thinking about using make up brushes for getting better results. If you have done any experiments with it, please let me know.

    I shall let you know the results, once I paint with them.

  5. Essel Richard

    how much does the tools cost

    1. Just a few stiff brushes and one small tube of oil paint. I guess around 30-40 dollars in total


        I have also shifted my entire focus into dry brush from charcoal.

        Dry brush drawings are somewhat permanent when compared with charcoal or graphite. It takes only one hour, while the charcoal drawings need more than 3 hours.

        1. I am working on one big charcoal drawing now, on paper. The two techniques are a bit similar but I also like that you have more room for mistake with charcoal.

  6. Kathleen

    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?


      Watercolor paper is the best. Smooth surface wont give good results.

  7. tareq

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

    1. 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.

      1. tareq

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

        1. Excellent, thanks Tareq 🙂


      I have been thinking about making dry brush drawings/paintings using make up brushes. If it would be a success, I will notify the matter.

  8. tareq

    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 ?

    1. 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.

      1. tareq

        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 .


          I had this same problems at first.

          The solutions are . . .

          1. Use think haired brushes with soft edges.
          2. After taking the paint in the brush, rub the bristles on a palette or smooth surface until the paint gets equally distributed all over the bristles.
          3. Use paper with rough surface (like watercolor paper) instead of smooth surface paper.
          4. Apply the paint on a rough, clean paper before drawing to see whether any blots are present or not.

          Hope this might help you.

  9. Dry Brushing | In Thi Image

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  11. Michelle

    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?

    1. 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.

      1. Michelle

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

  12. Maec

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

    Thanks, marc

    1. 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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