How to Dry Brush
Dry brushing is pretty simple to do. With a little practice and experimentation, I'm sure you'll find a way that works best for you.
What does dry brushing do for me? Dry brushing will bring out the detail of a figure. Therefore, you want to make sure that the figure you wish to work with is a good quality figure. The more detail the better. That's why I really like doing my bigger figures like the dragons shown on my site.
1. I select the colors I wish to use. I generally try to use colors that contrast each other. The undercoat color should be darker and the lighter color is the one we will dry bush on. A lighter shade of the color underneath is what I prefer.
2. The first coat of paint I use is the primer. On larger figures black primer helps with the shading and will help to darken the figure. Still this is just a preference. Try each and see which you prefer.
3. Once the primer dries, you'll put on your first coat of paint. This does get a bit complicated if you are having to do smaller areas but it still works. It also works when you have multiple areas to paint. It just takes a bit more time and a bit more patience.
If you have more than one area, you can put all the base colors on, but when you start dry brushing, you'll need to be certain that you don't overlap your colors. I generally do my entire brushing first, then the detail painting and finally clean up painting.
The above picture was painted using dry brush techniques as well washes. I'll explain washes in the Wash section. These are 2 separate pieces and I've made my own scene here. If you click on the image you'll be able to see a bigger picture which you can really see the shading on. This was my first attempt at dry brushing and shading.
I put the dragon together before painting it. I started with a black primer. My base coat was a very dark blue on the blue areas of the figure. I used a brown on the white areas to get coloration at the base of the spines. In the mouth I used a darker red. So as you can see it is possible to do multiple areas with dry brushing.
4. Let each of your base coats dry fully before applying another to another section. Once you have all of your base colors in place you are ready to start your dry brushing. Now it is possible to dry brush the dark under color on, but it does take a bit more time. I have done this on occasion also. Try a few different ways and see which you prefer. In my case, it generally depends on what and how many figures I have to paint using this method.
5. Now you're ready for your next coat. You'll need to have a clean cloth or paper towel handy and it helps to make sure your rinse water is clean. On big areas such as my dragon there, I found that using a wide flat brush 1/8 inch bristle or so. Don't get a huge brush or you'll run into overlap problems. Or maybe a 5/0 round brush. Again this will be a preference choice. Experiment with different ones and find the one you are most comfortable with.Now, you will dip your brush into the lighter paint color. Don't get too much paint on the brush. Next, wipe the brush onto the cloth to get as much paint as you can off. This takes practice but after a while you'll figure out just how much you need to wipe the paint off. If you get too much off, you won't have any for your figure. If you don't get enough off, you get too much paint on your figure. I try to start in areas where I don't mind getting a little extra of the lighter color. Then I gently brush across the area I want to lighten.
I brushed against the detail to raise the image on the scales. I went up and I went sideways. I didn't go with the detail because I wanted the center of the scale to be darker. On the wings, I brushed out and concentrated my dry brushing on the raised areas. My dry brushing did 2 things here. First of all, it added texture to the wings as here was texture on the wings. You can just see the small raised areas if you look at the photo closely. This also added the shading and lighting for various curvatures of the wings. On the legs you can see definite skin texture and the creases on the legs and feet as well as other areas are highlighted. While dry brushing I paid extra attention to the spine areas of the wings, raised areas of the face and the rest of the body. It took some time, but I was very happy with the results.
Once the blue was done and dry, I dry brushed an off white on the claws towards the body. I didn't go all the way to the blue and left a just a bit of the brown showing. I was careful when I overlapped to allow the colors to blend with the dry brushing. I used the same method on the teeth. Once that was dry, I went back with a lighter white again starting out on the tip and brushing towards the body. I stopped just short of the edge of my darker white to give the effect of growing claws. On the teeth I did the tips towards the body. On the tongue I used a lighter red and left parts of the inside of the mouth darker red.
Once all of this is painted and dried, I go back with a smaller brush that allows me to get into the cracks. I use my base color and just touch the grooved areas lightly where I've accidentally hit them while dry brushing. This also brings out those areas. You can actually do the whole area that way. Once that dries, I use my lighter color to highlight a few areas also.
Along the spines of the wings, you'll see the darker line. I retouched that just enough to cover for the dry brushing, then along the edges of that, I retouched with the lighter color. I also worked on other areas to clean up the figure. For the eyes, I did the white and iris of the eye before finishing the detail of that part of the face.
Once you've done your clean up and detail work, you've pretty much finished the figure. You'll need to take care of basing the figure. Basing can actually highlight your figure. For my dragons, I put them on a base. You can see a partially finished one in one of my pictures of a green dragon.
As I said, the warrior was a separate piece. He is a 25mm figure. I used my black primer, and dry brushed layers of colors onto him. For the chainmail, I dry brushed shiny silver over it to raise the detail. I will explain in washes how to get a similar effect.