Specialist Artis Opus Dry Brushing Set

Champions are brilliant at the basics. [John Wooden]

Back to Basics...

Aside from the physical challenge of getting back into my model making again because of my health issues ('nuff said) there was also the long hiatus from crafting which caused it's own problems.

I'm very much a person who learns and improves through repetition, the more I do something the better I get. Conversely though, I go 'off the boil' very quickly if I neglect a technique. This is made worse by the fact that I have so many hobbies, and being a 'jack of all trades' - rather than a specialist - I am only ever mediocre at any of them in the first place.

I wish I could be one of those people who latch onto ONE activity or subject and spend all their time perfecting it. At 62 years of age I would be fantastic at 'something' by now if I did... But I didn't. Instead, I like the variety of different new things and I have always said that my hobby is collecting hobbies!!! 😁

So here I am, back into model painting and finding that I have to start again learning the basics!

Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals. [Jim Rohn]

Niggling School Boy Errors!

It was my recent model railway models - my railway station, gas station and small shed - that highlighted how my techniques had suffered. After my attempts to paint these small buildings I was left thinking that 'I used to be a lot better than that' and I even went back through my Flickr photo album to check older work to see whether or not I was mis-remembering... I wasn't!

Even elementary painting techniques had suffered and I spotted a lot of school boy errors in my recent work but just couldn't remember how to rectify them. So back to square one...

The first basic painting technique I want to tackle is my dry brushing.

N Gauge Garage - Drybrush Weathering
Above: Luckily I have a video of me doing some dry brushing which exemplified
some of the things I was doing wrong. At least, here, I made an attempt to use a
better brush, usually I would do what a lot of beginners do and use an old knacked
brush for dry brushing. Paint loading & palette use was another issue.

This is such a fundamental in model painting that getting it wrong is not only so obvious but incredibly frustrating and can ruin any other work that you put into a project.

In the case of the above video, you can see as I dry brush using a cardboard palette I make several mistakes which culminate in streaky, inconsistent and clumpy brushing. My palette dries out to quickly, I overload my brush and as the paint dries on my brush I use extra force to try and get paint onto the model.... All very bad.

It's like baking a cake, but getting the ingredients wrong... Nothing can make things right after that.

Back to School...

Luckily, YouTube has plenty of videos on model painting techniques so it didn't take me long to find a good video which covered the subject made by an expert model painter...

A small part of the overall process that seems so counter-intuitive is the importance of moisture! After all it's called 'DRY brushing' so the temptation is to do exactly that.... Use a dry brush. But in fact having an extra dry dry brush leads - as with the example of my model that went wrong - lead to what a lot of expert painters call 'graininess' where the paint clumps leading to streaks.

The application of some moisture - apparently - softens the the coverage when dry brushing, as this video explains...

Using a Texture Palette

Like many dry-brushing novices, I've using both a paper kitchen towel and a carboard sheet for my dry brushing palette. The idea is that I remove excess paint from the brush, drying it out so that I only apply the barest of surface paint to the model. The problem is that both materials tend to dry out the paint too much and you end up having to constantly re-applicate paint to these 'palettes' to continue to get the same effect. This can waste a lot of paint and lead - as I have mentioned - to you brushing too hard with the brush.

So, unfortunately, the results are often inconsistent. I - and other painters - try to alleviate this inconsistency by testing the coverage by swiping the brush on the back of our hands a couple of times before brushing the model. This is why you often see my hand covered in paint! 😄

But I discovered a different sort of palette use that integrates both these requirements and gives you a better idea about just how much paint your brush will be delivering to the model... A Texture palette or 'dry box'...

Sorry this post is so video heavy, but it's the best way to really explain both the issues and the remedies.

Anyway, I'm going to make my own texture palette, I have a whole box full of spare and left over model parts and other materials that can replicate the sort of texture that I might want to dry brush onto.

One thing I have been told is to be careful abut how aggressive you make you textures and making them too textured - like, say, using course grit - can have almost a sandpaper effect on your brushes and wear them out quicker. It's a balancing act, you want texture BUT not to sharp a texture over a large area (don't go pasting down a sheet of large grit sand paper thinking that would be a good thing)!!!

And Finally, The Brushes...

The last key to good dry brushing seems to be - logically - what type of brush you use. As a novice (which I feel I am again) you tend to think that any old brush - with the emphasis on 'old' - will do.

You tend to relegate your brushes down to dry brush duty at the end of their useful lives. This is actually a bad move on several counts...

First of all, a 'bad' brush is a bad brush. Simply changing it's use doesn't make it good again and you will soon find this out when you start to dry brush with it and start to notice 'fly away' lines of paint in what you hopes would be a smooth blended paint job!

Dry Brushing - Old Brushes
Above: Old brushes relegated to dry-brushing & stippling duty.

Also, old brushes tend to be like a Hill Billy's teeth... Every other hair in the brush is bent or missing, and this has an effect on how the paint is passed from the brush to the surface of your model. So, you really want a good bush, with a full compliment of hairs.

Finally, shape is important. Another reason that using ordinary paintbrushes as dry brushes is that most of you used brushes will be of the pointed type (for precision work). What you need for dry brushing is coverage so you need a broad brush.

Dry Brushing - Flat Brushes
Above: Old broad flat brushes, better but not by much!

In the past I have got round this by using some of my old flat art brushes. They do give broader coverage but have tended to have a hard angle of attack as they are uniformly wide (this bit is hard to explain)...

What I learned is that ROUNDER broad brushes like the ones used to apply make-up are far better for a more blended look (that's what they are designed for). And that what I have been using recently (again, see my above video of me painting the model roof). BUT - predictably - there is a catch...

Dry Brushing - Make-Up Brushes
Above: Cheap cosmetic brushes, getting there but a overly soft (but nicely
domed shaped).

Make-up brushes tend to be soft and flexible and bend when you are dry brushing. What seems to make more sense is a broad rounded brush but that has a firmer body of hairs that keeps it shape better.

Enter the Artis Opus 'D' Series dry brushing set....

Now these are expensive. I can't deny that, but once I have these I no longer have an excuse.... If my dry-brushing still sucks, then it's ME! 😆

To be fair, in paying for these brushes I am now in the Artis Opus ecosystem and the do have a lot of very useful and exceptionally well produced video videos on their website which covers the use of their products.... And I love the wooden box! (It'll make me take care of these brushes, unlike my usual cheapies which I treat like disposable items - I never clean them)!

The brushes - being new - don't suffer from the unpredictable 'maverick hairs' or gaps that I get using tired old brushes. They are also dome shaped so have a nice 'fade away' towards the edges of you paint application area, unlike the flat (chisel shaped) art brushes I used to use. And finally, the Artis Opus brushes are firmer than cosmetic brushes so the hairs don't bend away while dry brushing.

One last advantage of the Artis Opus brushes I should mention is weird advantage that buying such expensive brushes gives... And that' that you feel more like taking care of your brushes!!!

I have in the past treated paint brushes as disposable items. I only ever bough cheap modelling brushes and used them as a one use product, buying new ones when I was about to start a new project!

They were never costly enough to encourage me to take the time to clean them and look after them properly, despite there being plenty of products out there to help you care for you brushes...

But now, you can be damn sure I'll be taking care of my Artis Opus brushes! 😆

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