Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dry Brush & Scumble

Evil Mermaids
with updates

What is dry brush and scumble? They are a technique used in painting (oil, acrylic, watercolor, etc.) that involves scrubbing dry pigment (dry paint) onto a painting to blend. Note: The paint is not completely dry, it is semi-damp, but mostly dry, and therefore will not put unwanted globs of paint onto a nearly finished work of art. The key is dry paint. The paint brush can be loaded with paint, but if it is dry, then it will not make a thick layer of paint (impasto) on top of your picture. Impasto technique would cover your image, with dry brushing and scumbling, you are not covering your image, but rubbing small highlights into the surface to blend with the paint. The images created in this style usually do not include linework, and the brush strokes are individually hidden because the colors are blended well. Overall, you can see the texture created by dry brush and scumble, but not many individual strokes.

Dry Brush = using hard bristle paint brush (these are stiff bristles - usually found in cheap paintbrushes) that is used to drag semi wet paint to another area. This can be used to blend paint. Long or short brush strokes can be used. The paint brush be loaded with dry paint or can be used as a dry, scratchy blending tool without paint. The final effect is long blended strokes that smooth the transition from one color to another.

This video tutorial offers a visual demonstration:

Scumble = Scumbling and dry brush go hand in hand. Scumbling is painting with a dry brush that is filled with dry paint (the bristles can be rubbed onto a napkin or pallet several times to help dry the pigment fast) so that when the dry pigment (paint) is added, the viewer can see the new paint color as well as the layers of paint color below the scumbling. Scumbling is different from dry brushing because it is done by literally scrubbing the paint into the surface of the painting. Since the pigment is dry, it will not stick as easily to the painting surface and so it must be rubbed in, or blended, with the painting. The final appearance of the painting is a scratchy or feathery blending effect (depending on how blended the artist wanted the scumbling layer to look like). Scumbling can also be achieved with a rough sponge or crumpled cloth instead of a paint brush.

Artists who use the dry brush and scumble technique include:

Wyeth is a famous artist (1917-2009) who received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 two years before his death at age 91. He received a Doctorate of Fine Arts (Bates College), which is impressive, and it shows in his beautiful artwork. I love the textured look of his dry brush paintings.

Kazarin uses this technique to draw with oil paint. He creates portraits and uses the dry brush technique to blend. He offers many quick speed demonstrations on youtube.
"People often ask me, what I use to draw a portrait in a dry brush technique. Many people think that I draw my portraits with charcoal or graphite, but it is not so. I draw only oil."
--This quote is found on his dry brush demonstration video on youtube:
His personal website:

Halloway offers many tutorials on his website. He is an oil painter, and explains that he uses this technique to blend highlights into his artwork. Note: Dry brushing can be used for highlights AND shadows. A video that explains his use of the dry brush and scumble technique can be found at this link:
His personal website:

1 comment:

  1. Mermaids show the effect quite nicely. Good work Laurel.