Dry brush effect used over the top of Annie Sloan's Gilding Leaf on on French sofa

How to: Use the Dry Brush Painting Technique

Learn everything you need to know about dry brushing with Chalk Paint®.

Dry brush painting is a great technique to try if you love the rustic look. It creates an authentic worn finish, well suited to a farmhouse or country aesthetic. Applying your paint with a dry brush will really bring out brush strokes. The finish is rough and ready, not smooth and sleek.

In this tutorial, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about dry brushing using Chalk Paint®. The beauty with Annie Sloan’s brand of furniture paint is that it can be applied thickly or thinly, diluted with water to create a wash or here applied with a dry brush for a rustic finish. This total flexibility means you can use the paint in whichever way suits your style best.

What is dry brushing?

The secret to dry brush painting is to apply the paint with the very tip of your brush. Work with a clean, dry brush and scrub it over the surface you’re painting. Use a stabbing motion to really push the paint into any crevices. You want to work quickly to brush the paint out well.

When dry brush painting, we like to work with two paint colours to create a layered look. Your first coat – or base coat – can be a contrasting or complementary colour to the second. You want to apply your base coat as normal and use a dry brush for the second coat. Dry brushing creates an uneven finish, revealing glimpses of the base coat wherever the paint is thinner.

Dry brush vs wet brush – what’s the difference?

You can apply Chalk Paint® using a dry brush or wet brush technique. The difference really is in the finish you’ll achieve. For a smooth, even look, you want to really charge your paint brush with Chalk Paint®. The brush is wet with paint meaning it will go really far and give the best coverage. When wet brush painting, you can often paint a piece of furniture in a single coat.

Dry brushing paint will not give great coverage. But that’s the intention! You are trying to achieve a rough and uneven finish. When you dry brush, you don’t want to cover the whole surface but rather reveal some of the substrate. The resulting effect will make your furniture look like it’s been left out in a barn or backyard and aged naturally in the elements.

How to dry brush using Chalk Paint®

So you’re ready to try dry brush painting? Here’s where to start. First you need to choose your Chalk Paint® colours. You want one colour for the first coat and a contrasting colour for the second. Make sure you have a great brush to hand. Chalk Paint® Brushes are strong yet pliable and cover lots of surface area quickly. When you dry brush paint, you want to be able to work as swiftly as possible.

What materials do I need?

Before you start, make sure you have all the materials you need for dry brush painting to hand:

7 easy steps to using the dry brush painting technique

  1. Apply a first coat of Chalk Paint® onto your piece of furniture. Move your brush in every direction to create a bit of texture and to achieve full coverage. Allow to dry.
  2. Take a clean, dry Chalk Paint® Brush. Dip the tip of the brush in Chalk Paint®. You only want the very ends to be charged with a small amount of paint. The bristles should still be separated and not soaked in paint.
  3. *Tip* if you accidentally overcharge the brush, you can dab it onto some newspaper or paper towel to remove any excess.
  4. Apply your second coat of Chalk Paint® by wiping over the surface. Use the tip of the brush at first and then a scrubbing motion over the surface. Work quickly: you want to brush the paint out really well. You can also use stabbing motions to push the paint into any crevices.
  5. *Tip* Add a little bit of paint at a time rather than loading the brush up as you go.
  6. When the paint has dried, apply a layer of Clear Chalk Paint® Wax with either a wax brush or clean, lint-free cloth.
  7. Wipe away any excess wax with a lint-free cloth and allow to dry.

What interior styles work with this technique?

Dry brushing Chalk Paint® is a great way to achieve a realistic worn look. It’s a great technique for a farmhouse or rustic country style, but can also be used over Gilding Leaf if you’re looking for a touch more glamour. Dry brush your paint with a pale colour like Old White for a bleached effect and it wouldn’t look out of place in a coastal home either. The beauty of this technique is you can age a new piece of furniture without getting out a single piece of sandpaper too – not bad for a day’s work!

If you’d like to try dry brush painting yourself, visit your local Annie Sloan Stockist to get all the supplies you need. Shopping with them means supporting a small independent business in your community. Remember to also share your before and after projects with us online using #AnnieSloan. We can’t wait to see how you get on!

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