3 Tips to Banish Boring Brushstrokes

acrylic brushstroke debiriley.com

I want powerful, dynamic brushstrokes!  I want them lively, not boring.  And, I want  1 brushstroke to do the job of 20……. Its not that I’m slacking off,  I tell myself I’m  ‘efficient.’   I’d like  my time, effort and energy to be optimised to the maximum possible. You too?  I thought so!  Let me tell you how a House Paintbrush has livened up my brushstrokes and I love it!

the way of the brush acrylics debiriley.com
The Way of The Brush acrylics one brushstroke debiriley.com

“Less is More” as well as   “A picture is worth a 1000 words”   lies behind the concept of today’s post with these 3 techniques and tips.  I really like the idea of expressing more,  but using less  actual brush strokes.  I’ve been enchanted with the textures, colour variations, gradations and tonal nuances made possible using this approach.  I love looking into the brushstroke at all its variations, its possibilities. The abstract creates a ‘real’ sky,  or land, or hill, etc.

All of the images shown in the post, were created using just  One brushstroke!

3 Tips to Banish Boring Brushstrokes

The 3 key points are:  using one brush, an old house paint brush  and selecting 3 paints in Light, Mid, Dark Tones   and   Do NOT Return to the brushstroke

1. use one medium size 2.5  inch old used house paint brush

2. select 3 paints that correspond to a Light tone, Mid tone, Dark tone  (acrylics, watercolours, oils)

3. don’t go back into the brushstroke at all, once it has been applied



acrylics  one brush stroke debiriley.com
Liven it up with One
Brush Stroke side by side debiriley



Today’s Processes.

I rounded up 10 sheets of paper and some old canvas to work on.  I needed to make sure I had plenty.  This lessens the likelihood of my fiddling – then damaging the loveliness of the brushstroke.

house paintbrush acrylics debiriley.com
House PaintBrush One stroke acrylics debiriley.com


I selected scarlet red, naples yellow, white, burnt sienna, cobalt teal, indigo, black, indanthrone, magenta and yellow green in acrylics.

Heading for the garage, I located a very old tattered house paint brush. About 2.5 inches wide, the worn split bristles were perfect for the job.  This brush is great for giving me texture, gradations, movement, singular threads of colour and tone.   And, its cheap!

The common house paint brush is a fantastic tool when I feel the need to Tame the Dragon ‘perfectionism.’


I needed to sort the paints into light, mid, dark  groups.  These tones are  essential for creating depth, form, shapes, distance and enough interest.   You might find my prior post on tonal values, Into the Light, Tones  helpful.  Within each grouping of colours I made sure I had the required Light tone,  Mid tone and Dark tones tubes of paint.  For one brushstroke painting I chose yellow green, cobalt teal, and indigo – creating my light, mid, dark tones.   For more depth  information and tips see  Depth in landscape paintings which can give extra tips.

Grabbing my plastic picnic plates to mix on, hake brush for dampening the supports and my spray mister  I was just about ready.

crimson sky acrylics debiriley.com
Crimson Sky Acrylics brushstroke debiriley.com

I chose the first group of paints, dipped the brush into all 3 colours. Usually I put the Light on one side, Mid in the middle, and Dark on the other side.   Sometimes I have the mid tone have a higher ratio and the dark tone just a tiny fraction, 2% or so. I play with the ratios.  I have lots of paper out, so I feel free to play and experiment!

Next,  I decide if I want the paper slightly dampened to give a subtle softness – or not.   If  I do, I will use my big  Hake to dampen the paper a bit.   Then,  big breath.   ONE STROKE  as far as it will allow me to go.  It will usually get somewhat ‘dry brush’  like towards the end as the paint runs out.  Excellent,  its creating texture for me.  It also created gradation of tones. Perfect!  oops.  I mean  …. FanTanstic!

The big 2.5 inch brush spread out and down into the paper seems to enlarge in size. Most of my images tended to go about  4 inches across.  If I’d have used a 4 inch brush,  even bigger. But, I was in the kitchen and it was messy. I ended up getting acrylics in a few places I really didn’t want to.  What can I say?  I am not a ‘tidy little artist’!

acrylic brushstroke debiriley.com
Acrylic One Brushstroke house paintbrush debiriley.com

This process can be used as a stand alone technique to create the image, or combining 3-5 strokes onto a canvas using this approach. There’s a lot of ways you can modify to suit your personality.

I will be continuing on in the next post with some of the other colours including the cobalt teal, indigo, indanthrone grouping using the house paintbrush in the one continuous stroke.



Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

4 thoughts on “3 Tips to Banish Boring Brushstrokes

  1. I know what you mean about making bold descriptions with less effort. Some painting can look very over-worked and this is the antithesis of those muddy images.


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