Drybrushing Miniatures

Painting Miniatures in 1:72 Scale

Drybrushing Miniatures.

Airfix Prussian Landwehr being painted as Freiwillige Jäger. Dark green undercoat, light green drybrushing. Since there are only three figures in this wargame unit, and they are all easily reached with the paintbrush, the miniatures were mounted on a 38 × 38 mm Volley & Bayonet light infantry stand even before they were undercoated. The basing material is a mixture of sand and kitty litter stones, which will paint up very well and give the base a rough finish.

Drybrushing applies lightly coloured pigment to all raised areas on the figure, where the sunlight would brighten the normally darker colour of the uniform. Creases in the cloth and similar areas not exposed to direct sunlight will not be effected by drybrushing, they remain shaded in the darker base colour.

Drybrushing is a trick, ideally suited for the mass production of figures in this small scale. Large figures are usually shaded and highlighted using a more detailed and time consuming layering technique, involving as many as seven different shades of the base colour. Clearly, small scale figures do not warrant such attention, and they may look clownish if the traditional shading technique is employed.

Tools and Accessories

  • Size 10 flat paintbrush
  • Dry cotton rags or tissue
  • Cardboard
  • Artist Acrylics


Figures must be painted or completely undercoated in a slightly darker shade of the required uniform colour before they can be drybrushed. The lighter shades of colour applied during drybrushing will lighten the figure overall.

Loading the Brush

Drybrushing requires an enormous amount of pigment, which is why we use a large broadheaded brush which holds enough paint for several figures. Another advantage of the wide brush is that it does not have a pointed tip which might accidentally enter the shaded folds and undercuts on the figure and deposit lightly coloured pigment there.

Drying the Brush

Pigment in the brush must be very dry to allow us to control the amount of highlight which will be applied to the figure. If the pigment is still too moist, one stroke of the brush can destroy the previous paintjob. Load the brush with paint and squeze the water out of it with a dry cotton rag, leaving most of the pigment in the brush. Then take a piece of dry cardboard and strike the tip of the brush along the edge of it repeatedly, in an up-and-down motion. At first, the edge of the card will be streaked with wet paint, but after a dozen passes you will notice that the paint deposits are turning to dry pigment which only attaches to the raised areas of the rough paper. This is the consistency we want.

Drybrushing the Figur

Using the dry brush we just prepared, lightly brush the figure from the top down, applying brightly coloured pigment to raised surfaces and carefully avoiding the shaded parts. Apply only very light pressure at first, to test the brush and ensure that the pigment is dry enough. If the brush was not dry, it will apply so much paint on the first pass that the figure can be ruined. In that case, continue to extract more water from the brush, by striking it against the edge of the cardboard a few more times. With a little practise, you will be able to determine the right amount of water and pigment in the brush without fail.

Selecting the Colours

Drybrushing can be applied in several layers, ending with a white or very bright layer to bring out the finest detail. Usually, it will be sufficient if the figure is undercoated in a darker shade, drybrushed in the highlighted colour and drybrushed again very sparingly in a white, offwhite or yellowish hue.

Dark or Medium Blue Uniforms

  1. Indigo undercoat
  2. Medium blue drybrushing in the uniform colour
  3. Light blue and/or white drybrushing to highlight raised detail

Green Uniforms

  1. Black undercoat
  2. Green drybrushing in the uniform colour
  3. Yellowish green and/or white drybrushing to highlight raised detail

Red Uniforms

  1. Umber undercoat
  2. Red drybrushing in the uniform colour
  3. Bright red drybrushing to highlight raised detail

Grey Uniforms, Greatcoats, Trousers and Blanket-rolls

  1. Black or dark grey undercoat
  2. Light or medium grey drybrushing in the uniform colour
  3. White drybrushing to highlight raised detail

Khaki uniforms and Camouflage Patterns

  1. Umber undercoat
  2. Khaki drybrushing in the uniform colour
  3. Apply camouflage patterns in red-brown, green and black
  4. Light sand coloured and/or white drybrushing to highlight raised detail and ammo pouches

Drybrushing Equipment

37 mm anti-tank gun in French service

Occasionally, you may want to highlight shoes and other small items of equipment during later stages of the painting process. In order to protect adjacent areas of the figure, we use a size 2 paintbrush for this detailed work. Otherwise, the process of drybrushing does not change.

The rims and tires on this 37 mm anti-tank gun were drybrushed to bring out the fine detail of the Roco model. The main gunner is an ESCI figure, the two infantrymen are World War 1 French Infantry from Revell. Painted in the 1940 uniform colours, these figures make convincing WW2 infantry.

Swords, Bayonets and Metal Waterbottles

  1. Black undercoat
  2. Dark metal or light silver drybrush

Shoes, Boots and Leather Equipment

  1. Black undercoat
  2. Dark grey drybrush
  3. Careful light grey or white drybrush to show the reflection of light.

Hair and Calfskin Knapsacks

  1. Khaki undercoat
  2. Umber stain
  3. Light khaki or white drybrush

Powdered Wigs

  1. Grey undercoat
  2. White drybrush

Dust on Footwear and Equipment

  1. Light sand coloured drybrush
  2. White drybrush to bring out fine detail

Drybrushing Vehicles

German Wehrmacht Opel Blitz truck

Drybrushing was originally developed for weathering vehicles and buildings. This Airfix Opel Blitz truck was undercoated in black and painted entirely using the drybrush technique.

Vehicles of the Wehrmacht

  1. Black undercoat
  2. Panzer-grey drybrush
  3. Rusty stains around rivets, chains, bumpers and fenders
  4. Black stains indicating oil leaks and fuel spills
  5. Metallic drybrush on tanktracks, handrails and areas where paint has chipped
  6. Black drybrush around exhausts
  7. Dusty drybrush on windows, tires and flat surfaces.

Walls and Buildings

  1. Dark grey undercoat
  2. Brick red drybrush
  3. Black stains indicating streaks of dirty water
  4. Dark braun stain on wooden surfaces
  5. Dust coloured drybrush on wooden surfaces, roof tiles and shingles

Drybrushing is a valuable and versatile painting technique for figures, vehicles, buildings and terrain pieces in 1:72 scale. Drybrushing is easy to learn and it provides stunning result even if you are just beginning to use it.

Painting Miniatures