Dry-brush Watercolor Painting Technique

Watercolor Academy

Dry-brush Watercolor Painting Technique

Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor

To give an artwork a more impressionistic look, solid borders and shapes can be broken up and splattered to give a shimmering look. This is when the dry-brush method becomes handy.

Dry-brush Watercolor Painting Technique - Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
Sketch by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor

Of course, "dry-brush" does not literally mean painting with a completely dry brush. The brush just needs to be loaded with less water. Flat, synthetic brushes are well-suited to this task. When using round brushes, strokes can be applied side of the brush, not just the tip.

The key elements of this method are the speed of the brushstrokes and the pressure on the brush. When the brush glides very quickly with little pressure, it will only leave marks on the peaks of the paper teeth, while the dimples of the paper will remain unpainted.

The coarser the paper tooth, the more pronounced dry-brush strokes will be. Hot pressed, very smooth papers are not suited for this method.

Dry-brush suggests forms and shapes, instead of revealing them in full detail, and it is also great for depicting textures. There are many cases when you might want to use this method. For example, you may employ it for painting sunny landscapes: portraying the reflection of light on water and ground, organic-looking branches of trees and foliage, the textured surfaces of wooden and brick walls, pavements, and so on.

When used sporadically, dry-brush adds to the gamut of brush strokes and washes, making an artwork more attractive. However, overusing it might end up with the painting looking dry and uninteresting. A good balance comes with experience.

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