Do you want to know if these will up your Drybrushing game and give you results similar to some of the best miniature painters out there? Come and check out what we think in our Artis Opus Series D Review.
To preface, I paid for these brushes myself unlike most of our other reviews. However, just like any review, below is my unbiased opinion.
I didn’t back these on Kickstarter for one reason. I didn’t have any money at the time. But they appeared for Sale on Element Games a few weeks ago as they were retail backer themselves. As soon as I saw them I snapped them up! And I’m so glad I did.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Summary
I love the D (do not tell anyone I said that), They aren’t magical and won’t make you a better miniature painter overnight. But they can give the best possible result (depending on your skill level) for a variety of techniques such as drybrushing, stippling, smooshing and blending.
Everything about this brand encourages you to care for what you deliver and this can lead you into a whole new realm and style for your miniatures. They haven’t just upped my Drybrushing game. They’ve upped my painting game entirely.
The best Drybrushes for Miniatures
Artis Opus Series D Review – Unboxing
I always add an unboxing to my reviews where possible. in this case, the box is homogenous with the whole product offering.
This engraved wooden case emblazoned with D really screams “I take my miniature painting seriously” and is in line with the rest of the Artis Opus series.
Opening the box you are greeted with a small thank you card highlighting miniatures painted with the Series D. The reverse of this card shows Care information, usage instructions brush soap instructions and the nice bit, a Quality Control stamp and signature.
Below this, the brushes are really nicely presented along with the brush soap and drybrush dampening pad. it’s worth noting here that I had the base retail set. At Artis-Opus.com you can customise the box finish artwork and engraving. This artwork is selected from a predefined list, Gutted I can’t get one with the full FauxHammer logo on the inside.
The brush soap is a small pot with a D sticker on top. I tried using this odourless soap as per instructions but was unable to work up a decent lather. I also found the pot too small for the Medium and Large Drybrush, so I went back to my tried and tested brush soap.
Still, if you don’t already have brush soap, you should and this will probably do the job.
The dampening pad is the most interesting part of this whole concept. I’ll get into the usage later.
I really like the style of this. It’s a frosted glass pot with a wooden lid, laser embossed with D.
The pad itself is a kind of foam sponge, similar to firm packaging material. A bit tougher than the foam you used to get in blister packs of metal GW models.
The lid on mine was odd as it doesn’t screw on very flush and is actually at an angle until you twist and it snaps into place. Not sure of the thread is busted or this is intentional in the design.
The brushes style surprised me initially. I’ve always liked the look of Artis Opus brushes. But these are the first I’ve had in my hand. The body looked gloss white to me in the photos, but up close they are actually a pearlescent white. You can slightly see the metallic grain in the pictures below.
Personally, this pearlescence is something I’m not a fan of. This is just personal taste only I also don’t like plain black brushes. I would have preferred a pure gloss white. But I’m literally splitting hairs (pun intended) in this observation as it matters very little what a brush looks like. The real meat is what it paints like. So shall we have a look at that?
Artis Opus Series D Review – Usage
Right, I’m gonna get this out of the way right now. You probably need to learn how to use these brushes and the various techniques you can do with them. The good thing is, the presentation and style of these brushes is screaming at you, “this is a professional toolset”. So it’s best to treat it like one.
This alone should encourage the research necessary to get the most out of these brushes.
If like many people you have dabbled in drybrushing and see it as a technique used solely for quick application of paint to raised edges on miniatures. Or at most realised the benefit of them is to add texture. Then you may still have been surprised that this set included a dampening pad.
After-all we are Dry-brushing. Wet or Damp surely should not come into the equation?!
Actually this serves a few purposes and results in the application of a smoother blend. What Artis Opus are selling here is more than just a drybrush, it’s a whole new technique which has the ability to generate incredible results.
Look, I could spend forever explaining how this works in my own words. But honestly, to understand how these work, have a quick watch of the video below. This explains them in detail. and shows how they “should” work.
Now, From what I have learned through experience using them.
It’s most important to keep the majority of the bristles dry. Not individual bristles. I mean from the ferrule through 80%-90% of the hairs to the tip. This is what gives the flicking behaviour of the bristles, needed for a good drybrush. If the whole brush is wet it just acts like a big brush as the bristles clump together.
The dampening pad keeps the first 10%-20% of the tip damp so that paint flows more smoothly from the bristles. This stops paint from fully drying to the bristles whilst it’s in use. Essentially it helps your drybrush last longer.
Showing us how to actually use them though is the bit where Artis Opus is lacking. Credit where credit is due though, these brushes are brand new, and Artis Opus are pretty new themselves. But right now us buyers have this incredible tool and are floundering to get the most out of it.
I got in touch to ask where I can see usage guides and they pointed me to their YouTube channel. They have a good few kinda-good videos on there. Such as the quick 10-minute overview above. But most videos are an hour-long showing more of the results than the technique. Whilst the videos give a decent explanation, it all could be condensed down into a thorough 15-20 minute user guide.
After watching them all and a few others for various online sources. I’m still no clearer as to how much water I should have on the brush when applying paint. I’m sure “it depends” is the answer, relative to the paint you are using. But we could do with a close-up of the brush being loaded and the detail showing how we can tell if you have enough/too much. Depicting how the paint should behave etc.
There should be a full and clear step-by-step so everyone can get the most out of these.
There is a very fine line in using these which takes you from Artis Opus to Absoluta Pulmentum (Work of Art to Absolute Mess – That line sounded smarter in my head, but at least now you know what Artis Opus means).
In the end, I subscribed to Bohun on Patreon (A master-level drybrusher). Just to get the idea that I was on the right track here. I was but had a few tweaks to make.
I rang Artis Opus recently to give some initial feedback on the videos, and my experience. Before I even got to listing my issues, they said, “we need a close-up of the dampening pad and paint behaviour on a palette”. So it’s great to see them already engaged with the community and aware of the challenges we’ve had. This attention to their consumers is one of the many quality benefits which comes with the Artis Opus brand.
Below I’ll take you through the techniques and what I learned from them.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Stippling
Literally the first thing I tried with these brushes. Having just come off the David Soper Troggoth Course was stippling. This is to show texture and was still very much in my mind. With these brushes, however, stippling doesn’t just give the impression of surface texture. It creates texture. Which is really important for the whole drybrush step.
Drybrushing is is a process where raised areas are painted and recessed areas are left alone. Directly after priming a miniature, you’ll end up with a surface which is only less smooth than the base plastic. So in order to get decent drybrush coverage across a flat surface, you need to give it some surface-texture. Some raised areas, something for the paint to actually bite to.
This is where stipping comes in. But it also creates an interesting effect in and of itself.
The Tank above is what I call my practise tank. I melted the tracks on it ages ago and now just use it to try out new techniques. Although I may now leave it as it is, having drybrushed it with Series D. It’s not in the best condition before I began as and already has quite a bit of texture, especially on the port side.
Generally, though, you would have a smooth surface texture directly after a primer. So the stippling step seems like a must on your base layer. The videos confirmed this thought process.
Without even looking for Artis Opus guides, I remembered what I’d seen in previous videos. I just started throwing paint at the model using a stippling technique. I should have tutored myself butI was just so eager to have a go with these brushes. This first layer used the large Series D drybrush.
I applied Mournfang Brown (a reddy-brown colour) all over the tank by roughly jabbing the brush at the surface. As I said above I didn’t look online I only applied the few techniques I’d previously picked up on, without any consideration why. I stippled the brown on to make a base layer which would nicely contrast the upcoming layers and look like a rusty under surface.
AS I said, at this point I didn’t understand “why” I was doing this. It was later that I came to the realisation how this was adding the minute level of surface texture for the later stages. If I’d known this at the time, I’d have encouraged this texture stippling as the paint began to dry.
The other thing to note is that with this first layer I had bristles flying off everywhere. I thought this was due to me being heavy-handed but the videos explained that these brushes do work better as they are worn in. After the first use, I cleaned them with soap and dried them out, the heads were more domed than when I had started.
For the next layer, I added my actual surface colour, The Fang. Again using the Large Series D drybrush.
I’ve shown the opposite side of the tank here, only because I didn’t take photos at this stage. By the time I had realised, I’d already painted the other side of the tank.
The existing texture on this side (due to it being a roughly painted practise tank) restricted my brush from getting into the depths of the surface. But it acted exactly as it needed to for a drybrush.
As I was still learning how to handle the brush and apply water/paint, the result was inconsistent with some areas being heavily painted and others having a gentle stipple texture. Leaving the deepest recesses in brown to accent the physical forms of the tank.
The next step, although equally inconsistent in the application, is where things started to stand out. This time I swapped down to the Medium Series D drybrush as the large was too big to get into some of the smaller areas without overpainting. (I didn’t do the best job with this in some areas but improved as I went on).
Hopefully, you can see from the above that this approach can give a really interesting look. We have created a surface texture which has depth due to the changes in the stippled on colours. We have the impression of a smooth blend by starting the stipple at the innermost parts and working outward as we reduce paint on the brush. When it is reduced down fully, we can then wipe this off on edges to pick out edge highlighting too.
What this gives us is a result similar to airbrushing bit with the benefit of texturing & edge highlighting thrown in.
All of the above layers were done in about 2 hours. Stippling is a repetitive jabbing technique and after this much time, it was starting to hurt my unpractised arm.
Looking back now, I definitely think I should have spent more time creating surface texture on the brown layer (something about that sentence sounds really wrong). But this was all part of the fun learning process doing something entirely new (this sentence doesn’t help).
After this stage is when I decided to do some more research on usage before going any further.
It was a couple of weeks later, inspired by Bohun’s Patreon, that I went back to my tank and continued with the stippling. What really stood out to me (having previously seen his photos on Instagram) is just how much surface texture is actually on the models when shown up-close.
This isn’t the sort of “is that even paint!” smooth layers you would find from a painter like Brushstroke. The surfaces are really roughly textured layers, somewhat akin to full-body oil paintings. Yet this is with acrylics.
Knowing the target was not a smooth surface, I was re-inspired to get back to my tank. this time finishing the Russ Grey layer and stepping down again to Fenrisian Grey.
I’m quite proud of the result here, an event for a first attempt. Especially as I applied no real effort. I have never tried this technique before, never used the brushes before. What you see above is truly my first play with the brushes along with the technique. It’s safe to say that the brushes pretty much did the work for me!
Artis Opus Series D Review – Blending & Smooshing
One of the other techniques I picked up from the Bohun Patreon was drybrush blending, sometimes called smooshing.
This is very similar to stippling, however, it is more localised and controlled. The original stippling layers are applied as shown above. Which just acts like sketching in highlights when painting with normal brushes. Generally giving only the impression of what light should be. Play around with these stages until the forms are correctly pronounced and your light is bouncing off the correct surfaces.
Like sketching in highlights you can play around with the stippling stage until your heart’s content.
Blending and smooshing is defining these sketched layers. sitting somewhere between stippling and we blending. you go back and forth with the colours, “smooshing” them together until you create a smooth blend.
I’m unpractised with these techniques too and this one really takes a while to learn how to pick out certain nuances. If you look at work from the likes of Bohun, then you will see the master-grade level of work.
This is the result after much more practise and experience with this type of technique with more practised subtle nuance applied. But the approach is the same.
Work the paints together an move them into each other until you get a result similar to the effect of airbrushing. But with a lot more pop and texture.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Drybrushing
After all the above, we finally get to drybrushing for which these are great. The set comes with a large, medium, small and extra small drybrush. There is also a separate extra-large brush available to order for those who need it for things like terrain.
I spent most of my time with the medium and small drybrushes. The extra small had only one use case. This was fixing some missed rocks (those which are part of the model, not part of the base) in the picture below. perhaps there are more use cases for this extra-small brush, but I don’t know what they are and I hadn’t seen it used in the whole several hours of video I watched. Glad it was there to get me out of my jam though.
These bases were so easy to do. I just sprayed them brown. dry brushed with a sandy colour, a lighter drybrush using a light-cream, then heavily glazed a couple of coats of green.
Whilst we are looking at these guys, I also have to note that if you have never tried drybrushing metallics, you really ought to give this a go. The texture this leaves behind is a really simple way to show off a metallic surface. I have these metallics for another review
The shape of these brushes really is a huge strength. If you have used any of the main hobby brand brushes you will have noticed that many of them are flat. You have probably also noticed that after a couple of uses they are pretty much dead, with broken hairs all over the place.
These stray hairs can be the bane of that drybrush’s existence on any further uses. Most of these are made with harsh hairs too. Like Game’s Workshops drybrush which is made of synthetic and Ox hair, which is coarse and brittle, greatly exacerbating the snapping hair problem.
With the Series D, the hair is much softer and denser. The domed head means that all of the edge bristles are protected by other bristles so long as you drybrush from the right direction. You bring the brush into the model from the side and exit in the middle. Pushing from the middle first to the edge can lead to the same snaped hair issue. Doing it the right way will give you a softer blend and ensure the brushes last much longer than your regular drybrush.
The model above had a stippled coat of Incubi Darkness using the large Series D. This time I was aware that the base coat should build up surface texture. After that, it took me less than 20 minutes with the Medium Series D to add 2 neural grey layers, then a warm white layer to pop the highlights.
I could stick a few contrast paints on this model now and happily call it done. Instead though, I’m working toward my own version of Rock-Texture Stormcast models.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Texture Palette
First up. I don’t have this. I noticed it during the Kickstarter and didn’t fully see the point of them. Now I have the Series D. I understand the benefit.
Like with any paint, you need to understand how the paint behaves before committing it to a model. With the normal painting, you don’t want your paint too thin or too thick. It’s easy to do that test by brushing it on your palette and after time you learn decent paint consistency.
With drybrushing, you need to test it on something with texture to understand how it will react to the texture on your model. Becasue now you have two extra dimensions to consider. Too thick and it will sludge, too thin and it won’t be very visible. Too wet it will run and too dry it will flake.
The texture palette is a cheap little add-on which will help you do that. I don’t have one and I regret it.
Instead, I use my old (1990s) Citadel palette which has some texture from chunks of old paint, but that paint has smooth edges. I need more jaggies.
To be honest I’ve found that the best drybrush testing palette I have to hand, is my left hand. I’m glad acrylic paint isn’t toxic.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Cleaning & Maintenance
This is where the value of these brushes really comes in. They really last. So long as you take care of them.
Using the dampening pad is the first stage of this. by keeping the ends (and only the ends) of the bristles wet. You are doing the first stage in protecting them from dry paint.
With the rhino tank shown above, I used the same large brush (shown below with orange on) for over 3 hours straight. Regular use of the dampening pad and with multiple colours applied. It was still back to almost new at the end of the session. Becasue I cleaned it.
These brushes, like all Artis Opus sets come with a small tub of brush soap. This is the first time I’ve used this soap and my immediate impression is. It’s fine.
I’ve used brush soap for years with all my kolinsky sable brushes and it’s now ingrained into me to use it at the end of every painting session. Rinse the brush in water, brush it in soap to work up a lather. I use the palm of my hand to work the soap into the bristles. Rinse and repeat until the brush is clear. This is no different.
I have however found that the tub is a bit small for the larger Series D brushes. so in this example below I washed the small drybrush is the Artis Opus brush soap and my large Series D in another popular brand of soap.
And in comparison, both the soaps do the job. I have no idea if one is better than the other on a chemical level and in all honesty, I don’t really care. They both clean my brushes to an equal degree as far as I can tell. I would favour my current brand of soap for one reason. The pot is bigger and it’s just easier to use.
Maybe one day I’ll bother to do a comparison of best brush soaps. But on that day I think I’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel for content!
I’m happy that the set includes some brush soap, as with all the Artis Opus range. At the very least it says to buyers “use brush soap” and this can’t be stressed enough. I see so many online posts asking “why are my brushes forked” and nine times out of ten its becasue the poster is using quality brushes but not using soap and conditioner. But only becasue they didn’t know hey should. We’ve all been there at some point.
So, well done AO for leading the charge on this and shoving the most important step of brush care in peoples faces.
Now, whilst you can get hours of use out of a brush in a session before you need to clean it. You need to be aware that once you have gone into the cleaning process and soaked the brush (like with any drybrush). You need to wait for it to fully dry through to the core before you can use it again. due to the size of these brushes, the domed shape and volume of bristles, they will hold water for longer than a smaller square-tipped drybrush.
Just having the awareness of this on your part helps. I’ve been caught out after washing a brush then going to a smaller size, only to realise I need to go big again. I had to wait until the next day. Just as I have had to wait overnight between taking the wet and dry photos above.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Price & Availability
I don’t know where you are from when you are reading this so I can’t really talk in terms of $, £, € or Imperial Credits. So let’s look at this in a relative currency. Citadel Drybrushes/
Your middling Artis Opus brush (medium) costs approximately 3 Citadel M Dry brushes. With the other brushes having a balanced spread of cost depending on size. The Largest Artis Opus brush costs just slightly over 3 Citadel M dry brushes and the smallest costing just over 2 Citadel M dry brushes.
Having used both I can confidently say that thanks to the domed shape, softer densely packed bristles and included care guide with soap. Any of the Artis Opus brushes will easily outlast the peak performance of a citadel drybrush 5 times over. Very probably more, I’m yet to see any degradation in the Series D. I’ve drybrushed, stippled and smooshed (love that word) with them for over 20 hours solid. I’d be on Citadel brush 2 or possibly even 3 by now.
The next comparison I’ve made is with cheap make-up brushes. which were my previous go-to product for all dry brushing. You can pick up make-up brushes for next to nothing at budget stores. I picked up a ton recently (check my Instagram) for an article I planned to write which I now see no point in.
In my experience. If you pick up cheap synthetic brushes, they can’t be cleaned as well as any natural haired brush. They are also usually more brittle and prone to snapping, meaning they won’t last as long.
My girlfriend took me shopping around numerous makeup stores looking for natural hair brushes and they are 3 times the cost for equal-sized brushes!
Whilst many, myself include may have initially baulked at the price of one Series D brush, I’m now realising these are actually a bargain.
Coupled with the fact that to get various sizes of makeup brush you need to shop around different brands, get different brushes with different bristle types and therefore different behaviours. Worse still if one of your favourite brands goes out of stock or has a material change.
With Series D, you have a consistent set of brushes that you can work the same every time. It saves you learning a new tool, and that helps you focus on improving your technique.
Having used many a makeup brush for drybrushing, these also offer a softer result. don’t take my word for it. Check out a master at work, directly comparing them in the video below.
This was also one of the more useful Series D tutorial videos available for free.
If you use make-up brushes and they work for you, that’s fine, they worked for me for ages. But I do recommend you try at least one of these (probably the Medium) to see how they can improve your results.
They are brand new with Kickstarter backers only just receiving them. They are available from a growing list of stockists, so check with your Friendly Local Hobby Store or Online Hobby Store for availability. You can get them from Artis Opus Website which gives you some Case artwork customisation options.
I had mine from Element Games in the UK.
Will Artis Opus Series D Improve My Hobby
If you are into your painting and have only ever had your hands on the Boardgame manufacturers brushes, then these will definitely be an improvement. They work out much cheaper in the long run and open you up to a world of new techniques.
If you have been drybrushing with makeup brushes then the benefit to you is having a range of sizes which are more consistent and can offer a smoother result.
Artis Opus Series D Review – Final Thoughts
Range of Techniques
Brush Care Included
|Needs better tutorials|
Does not make you Bohun
Hands down these are the best drybrushes available and they are capable of more than just drybrushing. In fact, that is the least of what I did in my time with them.
The quality and care shown throughout the brand shines through and they are more than just a tool, they open you up to a world of techniques.
Its the fact that these techniques are so alien to many of us that knocks these initially. I’m sure Artis Opus is working on it, having already had the feedback about us needing tutorials. I just couldn’t wait and jumped ahead by looking at painters who use these and similar brushes already. I love being part of that initial wave, which you may know if you’ve followed the site for a while. I love these Kickstarted products, made by people who are part of the hobby community themselves.
For the majority though, better user guides are a must, maybe as a stopgap, Bohun should start offering free trials to his Patreon with every purchase of these.
For experienced miniature painters, these will provide the most consistent results for any drybrushes. Intermediate painters will benefit from the wealth of new techniques. Even beginners and mass army painters could benefit from the way you can easily apply quick shading and highlights before adding some coloured inks over the top. Impressive army painted fast.
I can honestly see people who take the right approach with these replace zenithal highlight with an airbrush approach. The Series D can give you the Zenithal highlight and edge highlight in one.
When I look back at changes to the landscape of miniature painting in 2019. I’ll remember 2 things. The lesser of those is Contrast paints which still IMHO are just inks rebranded and marketed in a new way. The greater thing is the Artis Opus Series D, which can actually make a real difference to how we can all approach miniature painting.
When coupled with some basic colour theory, these things will really make your miniatures stand out.
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