Food Styling Tricks: Working With a Brush

In the first part of a series of posts on specific food styling tricks and techniques, we looked at brushes. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any serious food styling kit list will include a variety of brushes. But did you know that its uses go far beyond simple retouching? Read on to discover many other helpful food styling tricks you can do with a brush.

While you’re unlikely to find many professional food stylists with 6-inch home painting brushes among their food stylist kit, any food stylist worth their salt is sure to pack a wide selection of brushes whenever they shoot. These can vary greatly in shape, size and shape. And most of them aren’t even brushes designed for food: Food stylists will use anything from paint brushes to make-up brushes and manicures. Whatever gets the job done.

Brush technique is an essential element of any food stylist’s arsenal, so grab a handful of brushes for yourself and try out some of these professional food styling tricks!

9 Food Styling Tricks with a Brush

Repair Job #1

The most obvious food styling trick done with a brush is simply touching up tiny details on a plate to make it ready for a shot. While many problems can be easily fixed in Photoshop later, it’s almost always better to get things looking the way you want from the start. Having a good selection of different sized brushes means you’ll be ready to fix minor blemishes or untidy stains on food at the last minute before shooting.

#2 Cleaning

Again, another fairly self-explanatory food styling trick that can be done with a brush is simply use it to sweep away dust, powder, hair, or unwanted food items from dishes, vessels, or the background of the set.

#3 Spreading the Material

Just as you can use a brush to remove unwanted substances and details from food, a brush can also be used to add additional materials and decorative elements for arrangements. For example, wider brushes are especially useful for distributing small, delicate items like seeds or spices and spreading them over food, plates or other surfaces in a controlled way.

#4 Applying Semi-Liquid

It’s hard to get a semi-liquid liquid like syrup, oil, or cream exactly where you want it when you pour it straight onto the plate. A brush can help you move thick, clumpy materials exactly where you need them, and in the right shape and form.

This is very important because liquids and semi-liquids are highly reflective, so once the dish is under a lamp it is very noticeable if a substance has not been applied evenly. You have to make sure that all surfaces of the food are well covered. For example, a brush can be very useful if you have trouble getting substance deep into the nooks and crannies of large foods such as chicken, turkey, or roasts.

#5 Adding Shine

In some cases, you’ll want to add some sparkle to the dish no calls for any liquid or semi-liquid in the recipe. For example, to give the appearance of freshly baked meat. One of the best ways to achieve this is to paint the food with oil or glycerin.

This food styling trick can also be used to add extra shine to plates and other serving containers.

#6 Dress Selectively

On the other hand, sometimes you want to avoid glitter altogether. Or keep it only in certain areas of the dish, so as not to create ugly and distracting reflections.

For example, by using a brush to paint dressing over a salad – instead of just smearing it like you would when you were about to eat a salad – you can ensure that the dressing is only used where it is intended, and that it is not reflecting light where it is not wanted. .

#7 Applying the Texture

A large part of food styling involves playing with the contrasting textures and finishes of the various components of a dish. Using a brush, you can apply textures and speckled effects to semi-liquids and other soft and malleable substances.

#8 Painting

Sometimes the metaphorical cherries on a plate actually takes the form of another whole decorative technique, such as painting. If you are skilled with brush strokes, you can create patterns on food or backgrounds, or paint letters on a flat surface. The truly skilled stylist can even paint intricate designs or visual likenesses of people and objects using food materials. Try!

#9 Browning/Staining

Not everything that looks perfectly cooked actually is is perfectly cooked. Or even have to be cooked at all!

A common food styling trick is to apply molasses or another dark liquid to the food using a brush to give it an attractive golden brown shine. Alternatively, apply more selectively for a toasted look along the edges.

This technique can of course work with other colors as well. Although the average person’s taste buds will find the electric blue dish open to debate.

As we’ve seen, using a brush to style food does more than fix minor blemishes. Indeed, in the hands of a truly gifted food stylist, the brush can be a powerful creative tool.

Have you tried some of these brush techniques in your own food photography and styling? Have any other food styling tricks to share with readers? Let us know in the comments!

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