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Buglips's Guide to Drybrushing

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Sorry about the delay, I became Busylips this weekend. I'm popular, everybody wants a piece. ::P:


Okay, so I'm going to go over a couple more basics in this post and then hopefully soon after this I can start showing some neat things in practice. In addition to Rauthorous's wings and some volunteer skeletons, I have an incomplete 1/35 panzer IA which has generously donated itself for science.


But before that, we need to do this:



1. Brush Loading





This is one of the most common questions I get when people are starting to use drybrushing. It's a hard thing to describe, easy to show. To that end I got some paper towel (more on that in a minute) and did up some rows. In the upper portion, all those are too much. Way too much. But in the yellow circle, that's just right. Now there's still some play there, as you can see. But the whole zone is usable, it just depends on how much build-up you want to do, or how powdery a look. In general, the less coming off the brush on the towel, the more powdery and light the coat will be. You can really dust with some stuff, it's kind of neat.


Also, in one row you'll see a blob of thicker paint in the midst of thinner blobs. That's where I rolled the brush - always remember to empty off both sides! You'll be in for a surprise if you don't.


2. Powderiness





One of the limitations, as well as a strength, of drybrushing is a powdery look to the application. This is in contrast to the more refined smoothness you would get from layering, and one reason why drybrushing fell out of favour as people shared tips over the interwebz. But as I noted when doing Kaladrax, sometimes that texture look is what you want.


In general, the more white a colour has the more powdery it will look when drybrushed. And the darker, the reverse. That's not a constant, but it's a good general rule. This goes all the way up to pure white which is, you can probably guess, the most powdery of all. Note that this can be handy for adding a bit of snow or frost effect in some places.


3. The Exceptions




Like any rule, there are exceptions. I picked out a few examples. Here's where things get a bit weird. White tends to be powdery, yellow works the opposite. The more pure the yellow, the less powdery it will be. Note that where they square off, like in the powdery yellow above closer to the "more powdery" end, the white will win.


So very strong, unusual pigments containing strong greens or yellows will generally not be powdery. We'll get to some places where that's handy later.


4. The Other Exceptions




Some brands of paint, like Coat D'Arms above, produce very little powdery effect - even with the pure white. This is a product of difference in manufacture. All the CDA I have used produce a "gloopy" build-up, rather than powdery. So you'll have to get to know your paint a little, and certain types like CDA you would not want to use for things like stone. But it's still handy for some other uses, which I will demonstrate later.


(It occurs to me that this series of posts may be longer than I originally thought, but it should be pretty thorough when done)


An additional note on the question of what to unload your brush onto before use. I've seen coffee filters mentioned, but don't have any on hand to try. This presents me with some present java-related difficulties, actually. Anyway, I can't think of any reason why those wouldn't work.


Generally I use paper towel, whatever brand is handy. Sometimes I'll use plain copypaper, which is dead smooth. I discovered an interesting effect with it - it takes longer to unload the brush for use, but generally it will also produce a smaller particle size that may apply a little smoother. That's not worth its own demo, just something to try for extra credit sometime if you're feeling experimental.


I strongly recommend against toilet paper or tissue - those will very likely produce "fuzzies" that will clump on your brush and mar your work. Some people have mentioned a concern with that and paper towel, sometimes in the context of using coffee filters as an alternative, but in 25 years of drybrushing I've never had that problem using paper towels. But if you do run into that issue, try the filters.


So I think that covers the basics before moving on, and may help lend clarity to some of the terms and particulars I'll be using when I show application.




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Awesome tutorial.


Something that might help new painters (like myself)

Is mixing ratios for each of the techniques. paint : water/retarder

I know everyone recommends diffence ratios but knowing a good place to start is helpful for me. I kinda wing it most of the time and am now starting to keep track.

Im looking forward to the dampering one I have not heard of that. Ive heard of the others...and recenlty learned alittle about glazeing.


EDIT: Silent whispers from the wind say "you tube you tube you tube" "video video video"

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Buglips, I just wanted to say THANK YOU again for putting this thread together! It's already answering a bunch of questions I didn't even realize I had! (such as which paint colors tend to go powdery) :)


@Bane - It's my understanding that you just use paint right out of the bottle, though that may differ depending on the brand of paint used. I seem to recall buglips mentioning that he'd discuss paint thinning at some point, so he's probably already planning on addressing that. ::):



--OneBoot :D

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Agree with the others Buglips, thanks for this very informative tutorial. As a brand new painter, its one thing to read "wipe it off on a paper towel until only the raised parts are collecting paint" and another to see a picture of said towel.

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Buglips, thank you for the tutorial. I have a large pile of Dwarven Forge tiles that I've just started drybrushing. I'll get through a fair number of them with this, but eagerly await more of your tutorial here. Hopefully you'll cover some additional things that I can incorporate with the more finely detailed pieces.

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Great thread! I've come back into Mini painting after a hiatus of about 8-10 years, and found that most of the techniques I rely on have fallen out of favor. :) Nice to see someone talking about drybrushing, as that's my primary tool.


For bigger work I actually use a decent-sized cat's tongue brush, I forget the exact size. For smaller work I use a Citadel "drybrush" - it's good for working in tight places. You could certainly use a good-sized spotter as well -- I'll probably re-commission my 5/0 spotter for drybrushing when it starts to fray.

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I'm running seriously behind on some things. My apologies, I know you're eager to see more stuff and start playing with it. I'll try to get some more stuff up soon.


How dare you have a life outside of us. Cad.


...do whatcha gotta, meng, you know we'll be here when you're ready. ^_^

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I strongly recommend against toilet paper or tissue - those will very likely produce "fuzzies" that will clump on your brush and mar your work.


Also leaves visitors with a concerned look when they use your facilities and see globs of color on your toilet paper roll. ;-)
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Great tutorial man! This is nearly exactly how I was taught back in the early 90s when drybrushing was king. Its an amazingly easy technique when it's spelled out like this. I mostly use it for bases, dusty snow effects, and chainmail these days but it got me through the 1st 100 or so minis. When a guy names Sven showed me the dry stages on a paper towel it clicked. This should be a sticky.


This much win doesn't need apologies... just praise.

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"Nontoxic" apparently actually means "nontoxic as long as you are using them the normal way." That is, they don't... release noxious fumes? Consuming them in any manner might still be a bad plan.None of which stops me from using my fingertips to test wash consistency, of course.

Actually, "nontoxic" means "does not fall into the category of having been tested and found toxic."


Note that this does not require any actual testing before a substance is given the "nontoxic" label.


To put it another way, all chemicals are presumed to be nontoxic until and unless they are tested and discovered to be toxic.


What if they are never tested? Well ...


Most art supplies have never been properly tested. The chemical industry has little incentive or requirement to test industrial chemicals for toxicity, so on the whole it does not.


While it is likely many substances used in the arts today are in fact harmless, it is unwise to presume that "nontoxic" is any kind of certification of safety.

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