Real Watercolor - Dry watercolor methods

Now that Painter 12 has been released for a few weeks, I think it's a good time to start blogging about some of the new and exciting features available for Painter's brushes.

First a quick introduction.  My name is Chris, and I am a software developer for Painter.  I love Painter's brushes, and enjoy working on them even more.  Over the next weeks, I will be writing about some of the new stuff available, but I will also include some tips and techniques for some of our older brush technologies.


There is a lot that is new in Painter 12: Real Watercolor, Real Wet Oil, Multicore support, Stroke Attributes and much more.  I am obviously really excited about the new possibilities with the Real Watercolor engine, the realistic movement of water, the pigment mixing and so on.  I could write several pages just on this topic.  But I will try to spread my excitement over several weeks :)


So for now, what I would like to write about are "Dry Watercolor" brushes.  These are what I call brushes that use the "Dry Methods" which are available with the new the Real Watercolor engine.


By default Painter 12 has 2 variants in the Real Watercolor category that uses a "dry method".  


They are:

-Fractal Dry

-Splatter Dry


Here are sample strokes created with these brushes:




If you open the General Brush Control panel, you will notice that both of these brushes use the Real Dry Buildup submethod.  There is another dry submethod available called Real Dry Cover.  I will get back to the difference shortly.



For now, I would like to mention that these "dry methods" are called dry because they only deposit pigment on your surface. There is no water being deposited, meaning that there is no water flow that will push your pigment around. By comparison, Real Wet Buildup, Real Wet Cover and Real Wet Replace will deposit both pigment and water.  I don't know if there is a real world equivalent to "waterless watercolour" brushes, but we are in the digital world! 


Since there is no water flow, brushes that use the dry methods will be quite a bit faster, and are usually good candidates for laying down your groundwork, or filling large areas of color.  Of course they can be used for detailed work as well.  In this image, I converted the Real Variable Tip Pen from the Pens category to a dry watercolor brush to create the detailed stroke.  More on converting existing brushes to dry watercolor a bit later...



Also, since there is no water flow, most of the controls in the Real Watercolor panel do not change the behaviour of dry watercolour brushes.  There is only one control that makes a difference on this panel, this is Concentration which will adjust the pigment concentration.  The effect will be similar to opacity, however it is applied directly to the concentration of the pigment, so you can adjust opacity on top of your pigment concentration.



You can easily convert a wet brush into a dry brush just by selecting one of the dry submethods.  Similarily, you can convert almost any brush in Painter into a dry watercolour brush by selecting the wet method, and a dry submethod. Once you select a Real Dry submethod, your brush will be depositing pigment on a watercolor layer when you paint with it.  


You can combine dry pigment over existing watercolour strokes that were created with wet brushes.  You can even combine the dry pigment with brushes from the old watercolour category (see the Watercolor category),

as long as you paint on a watercolour layer.


In the image below, I used a chalk brush (Variable Chalk) that I converted to use the Wet method, and the Real Dry Cover submethod .  The only other change made to the brush is that I increased grain to 100%.  Because not all brushes interpret grain the same way, the chalk had grain set to 10% which was not enough for the dry watercolor version.  Now that the brush deposits pigment on a watercolor layer, I can use any watercolor brush to interact with the pigment such as the Bleach Splatter variant from the OLD watercolor category.



As I mentioned above, there are 2 new dry submethods.  Real Dry Buildup and Real Dry Cover.  Essentially, the difference is that the Buildup version allows pigment to "buildup" and get darker, whereas "cover" limits the pigment buildup.  Using the "cover" submethod, the pigment will only buildup up to the currently selected color.  So depending on the pigment darkness you want you would choose buildup or cover.  In the image below I used the same color to create both splatter patterns, but the bottom one used Real Dry Cover instead of Real Dry Buildup.




Although not new to Painter 12, the Wet Remove Density submethod can be considered a "dry submethod", because it works without depositing water.  This method is used to remove or erase pigment.  This is useful to lighten areas of your watercolour painting.


You can try these 2 new brushes in the Real Watercolor category which use this submethod:


-Fractal Dry Erase




I like to convert the "Splatter Dry" brush by selecting the Wet Remove Density to get interesting texture in my pigment.





This image shows a combination of dry watercolor effects.  DISCLAIMER: I am not an artist ;)




Well that about sums it up for creating and modifying "dry watercolour" brushes, which is part of the new Real Watercolor engine.   Of course, most of the coolness of this engine comes from actually using wet brushes and realistic water flow, instead of painting with dry pigment.  This will be topics for future blog posts :)


If you have any questions or comments please send them along, in the meantime happy painting!


  • Hey Chris,

    This is excellent information and I am so glad to see it.  I had not thought about changing a variant like Real Soft Chalk to Real Dry Cover and use it on a watercolor layer.  That is a cool addition and makes the watercolor layer much more versatile.  It is certainly a lot easier than droping the layer to canvas, painting with chalk, and then lifting to a watercolor layer.

    With a brush that is set to Real Dry Cover, I can change the color to white and recapture white space.  I wouldn't use the this method all the time, but it does work well.

    Thanks for starting this blog,


  • Excellent info. Thank you so much for some very valuable information.

  • Very good point Skip.   Yes, using white on the watercolor layer is essentially a pigmentless brush.  And if you combine that with Real Dry Cover, you can get another interesting method to reduce or erase pigment on the layer.

    Thanks for the feedback! :)

  • Hi Chris,

    I also like to use subcategory real wet cover or real wet buildup with the Real Watercolor Panel pickup slider to around 80 or above.  Setting the paint to white will also bring back white space, but it has a wetter look.

    Looking forward to your next post.


  • Hey Chris...thanks for the useful info on the RWC brushes...

    With reference to Skip's and your comments on using white and the Dry Cover/Dry Buildup and white, I find that with the admittedly little bit that I've played with this that there's not much control of finesse available and it's frustrating.

    Because of that and because of your statement "I don't know if there is a real world equivalent to "waterless watercolour" brushes, but we are in the digital world!", what I'd like to see is the ability to paint white with the RWC brushes--be nice in the DWC brushes too.

    I don't know what would be involved in allowing this. I wonder if perhaps the "best" approach might be to make it an option to be turned on/off for each brush--I could even live with it as a more general option within Painter as a whole if that would be easier to code. Or perhaps create a "white" brush although I tweak my brushes so much creating my own custom RWC (and DWC) brushes that I'd prefer to be able to use white with any RWC and DWC brush.

    I mean, why not? Why be restricted (in a sense) by the traditional tools? Why not use the flexibility that Painter's digital brushes provide?

    I can't tell you how much fun I am having with the RWC brushes and hope to have all my testing brushes tweaked for the release version soon...'-}}


  • Hi Terrie,

    I would recommend using Wet Remove Density if you want to erase pigment on a watercolor layer.  I think you might have more control over how much pigment is removed and so on.  

    If you want to create a wet eraser, then I would use white with one of the wet methods, such Real Wet Buildup.

    Thanks for your feedback and suggestions :)


  • Hey Chris...

    >>I would recommend using Wet Remove Density if you want to erase pigment on a watercolor layer.  I think you might have more control over how much pigment is removed and so on.  

    Thanks! I'll try that and I'll try creating a wet eraser with white and RWBU...

    One of the reasons, I'd love to be able to paint with white using a RWC (DWC) brush is that I generally use a lot of layers and it gets to be a pita and a half to have to use an erase brush on multiple layers when I could paint with white on ONE layer and have greater control and finesse by being able to adjust the opacity of the white brush, the brush dab type, size and grain.

    Perhaps in Painter 13?? '-}}

    Will have to wait another few hours to play because I've just come back from the eye doc and my eyes were dilated for the exam which really mucks up my color sense...'-}}


  • Hi Chris and a big thank you for this stuff!

    Clear, precise and so pleased that you connect, throughout the blog,with real painting i.e. 'because they only deposit pigment on your surface' This makes the transition from traditional to digital a whole lot easier, understandable  and enjoyable!

    I think to often its too easy to slip into the digital jargon mode and although for those fantastic digital artists out there, it is their language, for the old fuddy duddies, like me, who only know paint as being wet stuff at the end of a wooden stick, to have someone who can express the wonders of digital painting and Painter  in terms of a traditional painter is great benefit!

    Many thanks again and please keep them coming!

    All the best and happy painting too!


    Finnbar is my support dog.

  • Hi Richard,

    thanks for your comment.  I am happy that this is useful for you :)