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Dry Brush Watercolor Technique

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Step 1 for dry brush techniques

A watercolor technique for every painter

MATERIALS USED: Arches #140 CP watercolor paper, Grumbacher 1″ flat red sable, and Kolonok’s #4 flat and #8 round Kolinsky red sable brushes.

COLORS USED (various manufacture): Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Medium, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Hooker’s Green Dark, Burnt Sienna, and Burnt Umber.

First off, I lightly sketched a random landscape design on the watercolor paper using a #1 pencil.

With a light wash of Cerulean Blue I scumbled a rough sky in, dragging and pushing my 1″ flat read sable to create texture.


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Laying some foundation washes

I wanted some underlying tones to dry brush the subsequent strokes over.

I made a light wash of Hooker’s Green Dark grayed with a touch of Alizarin Crimson and I painted the backround tree line around what is now determined to be a lake using the #8 round red sable .

Using a wash of Dioxazine purple I painted the shadow areas of the tree, keeping the edges rough with broken washes.

While this was still wet I added some blue accents with a mix of Cobalt blue.


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Letting the underpainting dry

I tried to keep the underpainting as dry and broken looking as possible, except for the lake area which needed some suggestions of the reflections and flow of the water.

Using a gray made of Burnt Sienna, Cobalt blue and Hooker’s Green Dark I scruffed in a foreground bank area.

I let the underpainting dry.


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A tree emerges

I mixed up a strong blue wash from Cobalt and Ultramarine Blue using a #4 flat red sable.

I apply a watercolor technique where I hold my brush at a rather severe angle so I can let it lay on the paper with varying pressure as I dragged strokes to create the shadows and texture on the tree trunk.


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It’s Fall!

After finishing the large tree trunk I decided it was fall (which it was at the time) and using all the Cadmium colors; yellow medium, orange, and red medium, I roughed in fall foliage with some rather garish colors.

I used the Kolonok #4 flat red sable for these washes.


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A change in plans

As I finished the riot of color on the far banks I added a light wash of orange as a reflection in the lake of the large background tree followed by a run of pure Cadmium yellow medium down the bank under the far tree. I mixed a dark bluish gray from some Cobalt blue and Burnt umber and quickly drew in some dark accents strokes on the large tree trunk.

At this point I considered the flaming trees and though of the dark maroon maple trees across the street. Using the underpainting as a base I scrubbed in the main tree shape with a mixture of Alizarin crimson and Pthalocyanine green which gave an adequate maroon color.

As I worked on the big maroon tree in I relied on the natural spread of the #8 round red sable brush to help create convincing foliage textures.


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The classic water effect

I decided the water in lake would be a greenish brown. I used Hooker’s Green Dark and Burnt Umber to get a satisfactory color.

I start dragging texture parallel with the horizon line, across the lake using the not-too-wet #4 flat red sable.


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A lake appears before me

As I pulled each stroke across the lake I varied pressure on the brush to create the “sparkly” water areas.

TIP: If your brush is too wet, you’ll lay a flat wash. Blot your brush on a flat damp sponge or paper towel to adjust the amount of paint in the brush.


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A little detail and punch up

Using Hooker’s Green Dark I made a medium toned puddle of paint. I used my #4 flat red sable brush, charged, and blotted. I tweaked it between my thumb and finger to spread the hairs a bit.

Using an upward “flicking” motion I added some grasses under the tree. I used some of the same color on the far bank.


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Just a minute, almost done…

I decided the lake had some swampy areas near the shore and I added some calligraphic indication of cattails.

By now, the blue in the sky was looking a little too light. I mixed up some more Cerulean Blue, a little darker this time, and scumbled the sky areas again.

Using the same blue and a #8 round red sable brush I added the sky color to the lake reflections.

Finished! Click image to enlarge.