How To Dry Brush Paint? (Easy 5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On August 25, 2023

Are you wondering how to dry brush paint?

You've come to the right place!

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • What the dry brush technique is
  • How to prepare to dry brush paint
  • How to apply paint with a dry brush

And much more!

How To Dry Brush Paint? (Easy 5-Step Guide)

Looking for a unique look when painting furniture? Trimwork? Try the dry brushing technique. 

Dry brushing is an easy way to give your paint job a unique look quickly and easily without using too much paint. You can dry brush with oil, chalk, and latex paints. 

So what exactly is dry brush painting? Read this article to learn more about all the ins and outs of using less paint to create more depth.

Here at Pro Paint Corner, we want to help you perfect your DIY projects.

So, before you do dry brush paint, I recommend you read this step-by-step guide to help you do it correctly.

What You Need To Know About Dry Brushing Paint

Dry brushing is a technique used to get a faux vintage or worn look on projects like coffee tables, side tables, painted furniture, wood furniture, etc and is typically done using white paint, chalk paint, 

Drybrushing creates depth in your paint project and it brings out contours that aren't visible by simply applying paint.

Supplies You’ll Need For Dry Brushing Paint 

  • flat and stiff bristle paintbrush/chip brush
  • sanding sponge
  • cleaning solution(water for latex/chalk paint, paint thinner for oil-based paints)

You can find any of these tools/products by using sites like Amazon and Google to take advantage of the best pricing.

Did you know: The first known origin of paintbrushes was in 300 B.C. in the Qin dynasty of China. However, the first mention of a paintbrush in history didn't happen until Tuscan painter Cennino Cennini documented it.

Why Use The Dry Brush Painting Technique?

Good question! The most important factor of why dry brush painting is used is to make the painted surface "pop" with depth.  

Another more artistic factor would be utilizing thin painted bristle lines to create shadow and create natural occurrences like light shining through; any brush stroke that appears to have a 'light touch' could technically be classified dry brushing. 

Ideas On What To Paint Around The House With The Dry Brush Technique

  • Wood trim

Want to add an extra flair while painting wood trim? Add a dry brush effect after the fact to bring out the wood grains or edges. 

  • Props

Dry brushing is a classic technique in making theater props look authentic

  • Coffee table/furniture painting

Try a dry brush effect on your coffee table, even if it has already been painted to give it a different vibe. Any and all types of wood furniture, antiques, etc are going to want you to try some dry brushing on them.

  • Picket fence

Maybe you have an old wood fence and only a small amount of paint? Try sanding and dry brushing to give the fence more personality.

It's all about putting lipstick on the pig sometimes.

How To Dry Brush Paint (5-Step Guide)

  1. Prep painting surface
  2. Apply a small amount of paint to the brush
  3. Wipe the paint off of the brush
  4. Apply the paint using the dry brush technique
  5. Apply clear coat to avoid wear (optional)

Step 1 - Prep painting surface

Step one includes applying the desired color that you want the project to be, and then cleaning/sanding it to satisfaction.

The extent of your prepping can be however much you want. If it's wood you are definitely going to want to sand it, especially if it hasn't been sanded already. Why use sandpaper/a sanding sponge?

Because wood excepts paint kinder after it has been sanded, and it will let you get the most out of your project. 

For example, some painters like to just use tape while others use markers where the tape and paper/plastic connect in an easy to roll out the tool to cover more of the painting surface. 

Sanding is also another factor to consider when getting ready to paint.

Sandpaper is nice, but what you really want in most painting situations is a medium grit sanding sponge, or possibly even a palm sander to get a nice clean painting surface. 

You are probably going to be dry brushing over something that has already been painted over, so after the base color has completely dried, wipe the surface off with a damp cloth to guarantee maximum acceptability of the n

Step 2 - Apply a small amount of paint to the brush

The first step is to load a small amount of paint onto the palette. 

The paint should be as thick as possible in this step, especially when using oil paints to saturate the paint brush well.

But remember, the key to dry brushing is using just a little bit of paint.

Excess paint definitely isn't the idea, and won't give you those light paint patterns with every bristle seemingly coming out in the final draft. 

Instead, using too much paint when dry brushing will result in the paint running into itself from each bristle and bolder colder will happen. 

Step 3 - Wipe the paint off of the brush

But wait! Before you go painting with the paint you just dipped into the canister, STOP! This is dry brushing; it's a specific paint technique that requires the paintbrush to be almost dry. 

Use a piece of cardboard, paper plate, or another disposable surface to swirl the paintbrush into it and get rid of the wetness of the paint.

Now at this point, your brush will appear to be dry, but what you don't know is that there is still paint slightly loaded onto the brush. 

Step 4 - Apply the paint using the dry brush technique

After you have applied paint to the tip of the brush and wiped it off, you are now ready to start dry brushing.

The key to getting an ideal dry brush effect is by using a light pressure to go over the contour of the wooden furniture or whatever it is that you are embellishing. 

Step 5 - Apply a clear coat to avoid wear (optional)

After you have your project looking spectacularly dry brushed, it's time to lock in the look by applying a thin layer of clear coat. 

This is an optional step because you don't have to add clear coat to a paint job, especially if it is an item like a picture frame that won't be moved or touched.

Clear coat is recommended for items that will be painted and used, like a coffee table that is always been interacted with and could lose its lightly touched dry brush embellishment over time.

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Brushes For Trim?

Other Valuable Resources on Dry Brushing Paint


Have you tried whitewashing? Whitewashing is a perfect solution for furniture makeover and coloring wood while maintaining the grains visible. 

All you have to do is mix the desired water-based paint (typically white paint) with water, and you can use either a rag or brush to apply it to the wood. 

We're not going to rule out that the original dry brushing might have been simply a technique of painting without water (or with little water) using the kalsomine powder form of paint as a method to lightly cover wood without consuming too much of the product or making a huge paint powder mess.

Ready For Cleanup?

Cleaning up after painting is far from the funniest part. But don't let this bothersome chore discourage you from painting!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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