Scumbling refers to a painting technique which involves applying a thin layer of paint with a dry brush and a loose hand over an existing layer. The idea is to allow parts of the already existing paint below to remain exposed.

What Is Scumbling?

To keep these classes free please leave a donation for the teacher here.

When To Use Scumbling In Art?

Here are some of the common uses of scumbling:

-To add texture to the surface.

-To create a sense of atmosphere and depth.
-To break up a background area to make it less monotonous.
-To build up highlights on top of a dark background.
-To make slight adjustments to color shapes.
-To soften the transition from one color to the next.
-To create a broken color effect which takes advantage of optical color mixing.

Motley Muse


How To Use Scumbling?

To use the scumbling technique, pick up a small amount of paint straight from a tube with a dry brush and apply it loosely to the canvas. You do not want the paint to blend with the existing colors or to be so thick that the colors below are completely covered; you want the paint to scumble and break on top. You should also vary the strokes you use so that it does not look repetitive.


Tip: When scumbling color on top, use this as an opportunity to keep building up a sense of form and structure. Allow your brush to follow the contour of the subject.

General Tips For Scumbling:
In general, it is more effective to scumble light colors on top of darker colors.

If you are using watercolors, then instead of scumbling white paint on top for your highlights, you should just leave areas of the paper exposed. The white paper is far more effective than white paint as your lightest light. But you could use scumbling to recover any white areas you accidentally cover up.
You should avoid using any additional mediums or solvents when scumbling. In most cases, paint straight from the tube is the most suitable.
Opaque color is often used for this technique, rather than transparent color.

Challenge: Follow the instructions above and paint a painting using this technique. The more you practice the better you'll get.

For more fun here is a link to a page on my website that has links to all my different social media accounts.


For more free classes click here.


Back to blog

Leave a comment