View Full Version : Technique: Dry Brushing for Blending with Oil Pastels

10-11-2011, 10:14 AM
I saw a wonderful primer on the Oil Pastel Society website on dry brushing for blending to achieve a fog or hazy atmosphere. I believe that Ann Tucker was the author.

The demo said to use two hard bristled brushes: large and smaller sizes for this blending.

I am looking to try this technique on my seascapes when building a hazy or foggy atmopshere. I assume that for this technique your brushes would have to be able to really stand-up to abuse with the vigorous brushing. I tried this and my bristles started to come out.

Can anyone recommend a brand of well-made "hard bristle" brushes that will stand-up to abuse?

Thanks, Mary

10-11-2011, 06:49 PM
Mary, try using a stencil brush, these are round short stubby type brushes and work well for this sort of technique.

10-11-2011, 08:40 PM
Hi Mo:

That's exactly what I needed to know - thanks so much. I really appreciate it! Mary

10-13-2011, 10:30 AM
I haven't tried them but I would think scrubber brushes would also work.

10-13-2011, 04:57 PM
Hi Everyone:

I'm giving Mo's suggestion a try today, because the seascape that I'm doing has a bit of a distance and foggyness to it. So far the results are starting to achieve the atmosphere I've been looking for. We'll see what the final painting looks like.

Thanks for your suggestion Hal. I'm not sure what scrubber brushes are - can you describe these for me?

Thanks, Mary

10-14-2011, 08:20 AM
Mary, scrubber brushes are designed to scrub out watercolor off watercolor paper. They have short stiff bristles and I would think they would work nicely in tighter areas for your blending process. My stencil brushes are all larger and might not be suitable for tighter areas of a painting.

10-20-2011, 05:52 PM
Hi Hal: Thanks for the information. I found two different sets of stencil brushes at a local hobby store: one set (round: 3/4" and 1/2") and the other (flat: from 1/4" on up) that I found are perfect for pounding the oil pastel for the hazy look.


10-20-2011, 09:17 PM
I'm new to this but would a toothbrush work? I live in Hawaii and am doing a lot of seascapes and weather..junglejude

10-21-2011, 10:03 AM
I'm new to this but would a toothbrush work? I live in Hawaii and am doing a lot of seascapes and weather..junglejude

Hi junglejude, welcome to the forum.

I would expect a toothbrush would work just fine. I personally don't use any of these brushing techniques and can't vouch for them.

I would certainly experiment on scrap paper before trying it on a "Keeper."

10-21-2011, 06:24 PM
Hi Junglejude:

Here is the difference that I see in using a toothbrush vs a stencil brush, is that while you can get a hard bristled toothbrush you may not be able to stand the toothbrush straight up and down (like you could w/a stencil brush) if you are working in a small area or an area that you are trying to pound into the work surface. I did try a toothbrush a while back and I couldn't get the leverage that I was looking for.

You may be able to go to a local hardware store, sometimes they sell art kits and you may find supplies for stenciling (i.e., let's say someone wants to stencil a wall border in a room - on HI where would they go to get stencil kits?).

I agree with Hal also, try your technique out on a piece of scrap paper first.

Welcome - Mary

08-16-2012, 05:29 PM
Depending on the type of toothbrush (i'm assuming just a cheapo brush with a hard plastic handle) you could melt the neck and bend the handle of the brush. Once you let it cool, you'll have an "L" shaped toothbrush, giving you more leverage.

08-24-2012, 10:06 AM
Hi Frida: I like your suggestion - could work.

Update - my findings:
I experimented quite a bit with the tooth brush method and stencil brush both to see if I could get any kind of misty atmosphere. Both seems to take the paint and mix it in with the underlayers to a point (no matter how soft or hard I used these tools) where the surface was turning an ugly flat gray that was not giving an illuminous atmosphere of fog.

So upon further investigation on how to create a misty/foggy atmosphere with OPs w/o having the paint turn a flat gray: Using my cream/white/ very light gray (all depended on the final look I was after) I started moving my pastel over the layers that were already painted in, but didn't blend this layer in. I swept the pastel over the mid-to-lower sky, past the horizon and slowly moved forward as I worked the OP down into the mid-water. I had to decide where I wanted the atmosphere to clear up. You could call it a scumble, but it was a very light touch.

If at the end of the pass the fog wasn't heavy enough, I would start at the beginning running the pastel over it again in the same manner as described above.

BTW, before the oil pastel was layed down I waited a day for the original OP layers to set - this gave the surface a bit of a rough texture.

03-09-2014, 09:59 PM
Mary, as you noted on my recent portrait, I used a stencil brush to dry brush(actually jab) dark grey oil pastel into the first layer creating the look of stubble on a man's face. It was not easy to do as I ended up thinning the end of the oil pastel stick with Turpinoid, dabbing the brush to the stick, then dabbing again in a clean paper towel then once more into the surface of painting.

On a side note I used a makeup brush to smooth and blend the forehead skin tone. I just thought I would post for anyone looking at brush techniques.

03-09-2014, 10:51 PM

03-09-2014, 10:52 PM
Fore head

03-10-2014, 11:40 AM
Very effective Mike. I agree it does take some doing and a lot of patience.

This technique would also work quite well if you were looking for a molten or pocked look to rocks, or the fašade on an old stone building.