Monday, July 8, 2013

Drybrushing vs normal painting. Result vs time input

The Dark Eldar are coming along. I've got a fire in me to finish the painting as fast as reasonably possible since I've got a bit of break from teaching as various clients take a week here or there for summer vacations. I've also got to clear the decks as much as I can before moving onto the new projects. I'll be going historical with my gaming thanks to Warlord Games. More on that in other posts as I break down my reasons and plans.

Here is the army as it stands so far with respect to painting. I've done the base coat for the Razorwing but it needs to go through a couple of layers of highlighting before it'll really pop out on the tabletop. The warriors are getting there with just the details and faces that need sorting out now. Those with keen eyes will notice the Dreadfleet auxiliary warships on the left. I needed a break from painting red and they are one of the few things left from the box I haven't painted. I'm quite keen to have a fully painted game of that soon.

So how do you paint quickly? 

One of the common techniques that people learn early on and then sometimes drift away from is drybrushing. I'm sure that most of you have used this technique but if not, it involves wiping most of the paint off the brush (so it's nearly dry) and then flicking the brush lightly over the model so that only the protruding parts get the paint left on them. It's particularly useful for hair, fur and chainmail when it would be very tiring to put down all the lines individually.

I used drybrushing to build up the basic undertones on the Dark Eldar warrior armour before doing the edging work with regular brushwork. When it came time to do the vehicles I had a dilemma as I wasn't sure that drybrushing would work well over flat surfaces. The first venom I did a few shades of drybrushing and then finished off with careful brushwork and thinned paints to bring out the highlights. I quite liked the look at the end but it took a long time and I was worried about doing it on the Razorwing, just for the time involved. 

The next venom I decided to do entirely with drybrushing to see if it worked out well and was a quicker way of doing things. It definitely was faster, but I had to work on the technique a bit. My suggestions for drybrushing vehicles are:
  • Take your time with layers and don't be afraid to go over it again if it needs to be more even.
  • Don't stop moving your brush. I found that the first few strokes left lines but that as I worked the brush over more and more, things evened out. 
  • Vary your angle of drybrushing so that you catch the lines you want to highlight. For example, I brushed down from the edge of the cockpit, from the leading edge of the wings backwards, generally along the hull and across the prow of the venom. 

So the question is, which one do you prefer? One of these venoms has been done only with drybrushing, one with a mix of techniques. The drybrushing was faster. Which of these venoms looks best and which one do you think is the drybrushed one?

Once somebody has had a go at the answer in the comments I'll reveal the truth ;-)

Good luck


PS: I think the Razorwing is getting drybrushed as the time savings are just enormous. 


  1. I prefer the one with the xenos skulls (tyranid) on the side. It's a bit of a tough decision though....I think a lot of the noticeable difference is based on changes in the lighting during the camera shot.

    I like it b/c the red looks more evenly applied on the top down shit. In the distance shot (of all the eldar) I like the shade of red it appears, but I think that is a lighting effect.

    In the side view, however, I prefer the other one. I think this is b/c there is better coverage over the black in this angle.

    Obviously if they are this close, it stands to reason you should go for the faster technique. It will be the highlighting and accesory colours/details that really make it pop in the end.

    My guess is the xenos headed one is dry brushed. If only b/c the heads have ended up with red on them, which would indicate a beat up brush with spread bristles that is covering everything near it with red.

  2. Hi Dave.

    You are the winner of this tiny contest and can bask in a self satisfied glow. The xenos skull model was purely drybrushed whereas the other had two layers of drybrushing before I painted over the top.

    It's definitely the faster of the two methods and so I'll be using it for the remaining models where possible. On reflection I think I will go back over them for another layer to even out the colour and make it a bit smoother.

    I still have to figure out how to make the rest of the model pop out. I need something bright and eye-catching for the front centre, around or in the cockpit.

    Thanks for the thoughts

    Pete :-)

  3. I agree making the cockpit pop a bit will be a great effect. One idea would be how you do the face shield on the pilot.
    Maybe a metallic two tone ala

    A horizon effect (whether blue or some other colour) could be cool as well.

    You might choose to make the instrument panel cast some coloured light on the inside of the cockpit. It's easier said than done (I recently tried this technique with a torch and wanted to beat my head against the wall), but depending on the colour you choose, (maybe look at a colour wheel for a complimentary or anatagonist colour?).

    You may want to choose these colours to match the spirit stones to tie things together.

  4. I like the metallic idea a lot. I think that could tie in with the metallic back end of the models nicely and give it a good bright centrepoint for the eye. I think I'll go with silver to get a three point pattern when combined with the rear blade fins.

    I'm thinking about doing some OSL in the cockpit but it depends on how much energy I have to paint that. I think I'll get everything else done first and then see how I feel.

    Thanks for the feedback :-)