Add the Technique of “Scumbling” to your Arsenal

Add the Technique of “Scumbling” to your Arsenal

Scumbling or Dry Brushing can be described as broken paintbrush strokes that expose or overlay layers below.

In real life, what’s broken tears us up inside. We struggle to handle things not appearing whole or fully composed.

But on the canvas, inconsistent spacing and unbalanced layering emanates an honest beauty and vitality formerly unimaginable, in our everyday. 

The Scumble technique values not the clever perfectionist, but the one who dares to play with uncertainty and is brave enough to unpack the incredible range of pigmentation that exists within everything.

Use the Scumble technique to capture various elements of nature: the clouds, trees or a fallen feather from the wing of a bird overhead. It’s breathy, texturizing abilities will add immediate dimension, body and integrity to your paintings.

How to Scumble:

Step 1: Gather together your painting materials: whatever surface you are working with, brushes, paints (watercolor/oil/acrylic), a bowl for clean water and a bowl of water for washing brushes between strokes.

Blending and Scumbling with Acrylic. Screenshot Retrieved from Youtube


Step 2: Wet your brush in a color/color blend of your choosing. Next, bring your brush to an angle such that the tip of it is never pointed perpendicular to your blank canvas. You almost want to let it lay, or splay its sides out onto the surface. Press down while moving in various directions and allow the paint to meet the friction of its surface. Then raise your brush and continue to drag it, with varying pressure, until you reach your desired effect.

Tip: This technique can appear as harsh or pliant as you like. More paint or less paint changes the tone of the painting. What’s important is that you are always working off of a dry surface, be it an unpainted canvas or one already coated with a layer/layers that are no longer wet. Then begin, you can begin again.

Scumbling - Art Vocab Definition. Retrieved from Youtube

Step 3: Don’t worry about water. This Dry Brushing technique often goes without it. See the clip below where the artist/instructor created a horizon-scape without a drop of H20.

Tip: You don’t need anymore! You got this :)

Scumbling Painting Technique Using Acrylic. Retrieved from Youtube

Suggestions for Application:

Strategy A: Scumble first, underneath. Start with a blank (dry) canvas. Notice how those first scumbling brush strokes will immediately stand out against a white/plain backdrop. Feel free to continue to scumble or implement other painting techniques in conjunction with or contrast to what you’re placing onto the page.

Strategy B: Scumble after, overtop. Paint a section or the full background of your surface, allow it to dry, then carry out your scumbling technique over the dried paint.

Now, Scumble away…

Ephemeral Veil” Retrieved from EvAntArt

By: Camylle Fleming 




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