How to Paint Textured Products Realistically with
Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is one way to add realism to products made by mold making and casting. How to dry brush.

Original plaster casting
After black base coat
After brown dry brush
The original plaster casting
After a spray-painted black base coat
After dry brushing with brown and adding a clear spray sealer

The "dry brushing" technique of painting is also known as "antiquing" and "high toning". By using the technique, you can obtain very realistic effects on your cast products. The effect is greatly enhanced if your casting has a textured surface - for example: fur on animals, bark on trees, bricks on a house, shingles on a roof.

The technique is easy to do. Just follow these steps:

1) Paint your entire product with a background color. The background color is usually black, but doesn't have to be - see the examples later. Paint every nook and cranny, and every surface. Use a flat paint, or a primer type of paint, not a gloss paint. The second coat of paint may not stick well or cover properly if the first coat of paint is glossy. Let the paint dry completely. Spray paint is good for this step because it gets into all the crevices. You can also dip your product into stain or thinned paint to get the base coat. Or, you can add color to the cement, plaster or plastic you use when you make the casting, so the casting comes out of the mold ready for the next step.

2) Choose your top color. Dip a stiff-bristled brush into the paint so that just the tips of the bristles get wet. Remove as much paint as you can by scraping the brush on the edge of the paint can. Then wipe the brush back and forth on some old newspaper so that almost all of the paint comes off the brush.

3) Using a quick back and forth motion, and just the tips of the bristles, paint over the entire surface of your product. The brush will leave color only on the high spots, and will not leave any color in the low spots. If color fills in the low spots, there is too much paint on your brush. Wipe it off more completely on some newspaper - you want the brush to be almost dry.

4) If you want another color for a "high light", let the first top color dry completely, and then repeat steps 2 and 3 with a lighter color and an even dryer brush.

Some examples of what you can do:

For the effect of "bronze": paint your product black, let dry, and then use a brown dry brush. Your eye will combine the two colors and the product will look like dark weathered bronze.

Tree Bark: Paint your product black, let dry, dry brush with a light brown, let dry, and dry brush very lightly with white.

Christmas Tree: Paint your product brown, let dry, dry brush with green, let dry, and dry brush with white. The final effect is brown wood, green leaves, and white snow.

Bricks on a house: Paint the product gray, let dry, dry brush with red, let dry, and dry brush very lightly with white. The final effect is weathered red bricks with mortar joints.

Weathered copper, or "verdigris": Paint the product white and then dry brush with blue-green.

General rules for dry brushing:

1) Think about the different layers of color you want in your product, and which color should be in the grooves or the low spots. This will be the background color - the color you paint the entire product as a base coat. In the "bricks" example above, the mortar color is in the valleys or grooves of the finished piece, so you use gray as the base color. The next color is red, because the bricks sit higher than the mortar joints.

2) Always let each coat dry completely before applying the next. In the example of the Christmas tree, if you don't let the second coat dry completely before you put on the third, you will combine the white and green paints into light green, instead of the white on green effect that you want.

3) You usually want more coverage from your first top coat, and less coverage from the second top coat. This is so the second top coat doesn't completely obscure the first top coat. You accomplish this by using a "wetter" brush for the first top coat, and a "dryer" brush for the second top coat.

Alternate Techniques

You can also achieve the same sort of realistic effect with a slightly different technique. For example, if you wanted a casting of tree bark to look realistic, you could spray paint the entire casting brown and let it dry completely. Then, spray paint or brush paint the casting with black, but before the paint dries, take a rag and wipe the black paint off just the top surface of the casting, exposing the brown color. The black paint will stay in all the nooks and crannies of the casting and create an effect nearly identical to the "brush" method.

This "wipe off" technique also works well with plaster castings and stain. Dip the casting into an ordinary woodworker's type stain, then immediately take it out and wipe the stain off the surface of the casting. The stain will stay in the grooves or texture of the casting and be darker. The top surface of the casting where you wiped off the stain will be lighter. This is a great way to make castings with fur, hair, bark, or clothing look more realistic.

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