The First Technique

The First Technique

Hello Kris here with a fun little article for your consideration. We all start somewhere and every journey has a beginning. I’m going to talk a little about the first technique we all learn as a hobby painters, the Dry Brush. This technique has a bit of stigma surrounding it as it is seen as a newbie technique. The truth couldn't be farther from it.

Why is it seen as a newb technique? In my opinion this is the case because it is the first technique we learn at the onset of our miniature painting efforts. It can be as simple as dip brush in paint, wipe brush off to remove paint, then briskly move the brush over the surface of the model and see your results. There is a great deal of nuance to good dry brushing and being effective at its application.

It does require mastery as all painting technique does.

What is the Dry Brush technique?

The process of applying paint onto a surface using very little pigment (paint) to catch the raised areas of said surface. What does this mean for us as miniature painters? When utilizing this technique it allows us to catch the raised details of a model be it fur, flesh, cloth and armor. Surface details that have a lot of texture benefit the most from this technique as we can see the results very quickly. Surfaces that are sculpted to look like fur are where the technique really shines.

When do we use Dry Brushing? This technique is often used at the highlight phase of painting a miniature. Why we often use it in this fashion is because it is great for picking out the corners and fine raised edges of details. For example if we are painting a Blood Angel SpaceMarine and have gone through the basecoat phase then applied a shade wash. After those are thoroughly dry we can quickly bring out the details of the miniature by using drybrushing. It wouldn’t be efficient to apply highlights before we had used a shade wash for example as it would cover over our efforts. But that isn’t to say you can’t highlight then shade a model. There are many ways to an end result.

How do I know I’m Dry Brushing correctly? There are three key aspects I will talk about. Firstly knowing how much color to pull from the bristles is one of the tricky aspects to get right from the start. Often we use a disposable paper towel for wiping off the paint from the bristles. I use an old black cotton t-shirt so that I can see the color, as most colors for highlighting are very light in brightness and it is easier to see how much paint I’ve removed. The next thing is knowing how much pressure to apply to the surface. This one requires practice to get the feel for it but in the long run gives you the greatest control of your technique. A rule of thumb I’ve recommended to many students is that if you can feel the model moving in your hand, you are dry brushing too hard. What this means is developing a soft touch is key. Just the tips of the bristles should make contact with the surface of the model. The last key point of good dry brushing is knowing the direction of your brush stroke. I often recommend the brush stroke work against the grain of the model, meaning if the edge of a detail is running north to south your brush stroke should run east to west or vice versa. Now that is just the beginning of knowing the brush stroke. As you tackle larger surfaces you can still dry brush those areas by switching up the direction of the brush stroke. Often for large areas like tanks I use semi circular motion in conjunction with light pressure to apply the paint to the surface. When dry brushing a face I often pull the brush in one direction straight down to catch the forehead, nose and cheeks of the face. With time and patience you can achieve great results on a model with minimal effort. Citadel DRY paints make life in this regard a breeze as they were made just for this purpose.

Drybrushing is an effective technique when employed by the novice and master. As with all aspects of this wonderful hobby the more effort we put in, the more we get out of it. So if you’re new to miniature painting Do not be afraid to venture into the ancient art of the Dry Brush.

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