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Learning tools for artists

Brush Techniques | Dry Brush

Dry Brush techniques with watercolour are explored here, with Cadmium Yellow and Cerulean Blue. When we talk about a ‘dry brush’ we don’t really mean that it is dry, but that it is not holding a tremendous amount of water and pigment, and it is used with a light touch to leave the texture of the paper showing through. Beginning with the lighter colour, as you do in watercolour, a large area of colour is painted out from a solid, wet wash to a drier brushstroke that allows the surface of the paper to show through. When this layer is dry, Cerulean is painted on top in the same sort of wash, from wet to dry. Where the solid colours are layered on top of each other, green is created. In the dry brush areas, you can see green, the original yellow, areas of pure blue and the white of the paper. Varying the amount of paint and pressure when you put colour on the paper will allow you to achieve a variety of effects.

Video Transcript
0:06    Today, we're looking at using dry brush in watercolour. I'm going to mix the first of the two washes, which is Cadmium Yellow. When we talk about dry brush, the brush is never actually dry. But the key is to have just the right amount of paint on the brush to create a confident effect. This is also combined with the pressure and speed of the stroke. Essentially it's a fast, light stroke. As we paint the marks become increasingly lighter as there is less paint on the brush.

0:40    It may not be obvious, but my work surface here is tilted at about 30 degrees. Now that the first wash is dry, I'm going to add a second darker blue wash. As with all watercolour work, I'm working from a lighter tone to a darker tone. Even though the first wash has dried, the paper underneath is still slightly damp and swollen, so when I add a second darker wash with the same stroke, it's possible to replicate the brush stroke.

1:12    So the paint, the paper and the brush are doing most of the work for you. You can see the paint has not only mixed to create new colours, but has not touched these white areas at all. So you have the pure colours, yellow and blue, plus the green tones, and the contrast of everything against the white. You can use this technique in conjunction with others to diversify your mark making. As your technique grows, you'll be able to achieve a whole range of dry brush effects. Thank you for watching.