Dry media such as charcoal, pastel, and dry pigment can be applied to paper in a way that can create interesting expressive effects, preserving little specks of paper through the media. This has much potential for creating interesting line quality in a piece. Most dry media is used by touching the material directly to the picture surface. It can also be applied and then blended to create areas of soft coverage over a paper surface, or to create blending effects from one value to another or one color to another. Most dry media must be sealed onto the drawing surface with a spray varnish called spray fixative to keep if from smearing.
Liquid media such as ink, or paint must be applied with an implement of some kind like a brush, pen, or pallet knife which can help control the media and create varied effects. Liquid media generally allows for more coverage when creating solid shapes and lines in a piece. An artist also has the capability to mix wet media before it is applied to the picture surface to create precise color effects. Most types of paint can be dry brushed onto a surface to achieve an expressive line quality.
Each type of liquid media has specific capabilities that an artist may choose to utilize in a painting or drawing. For example, oil paint can take many days to dry on the canvas, giving the artist time to work. Watercolor paint can be blended or mixed with salt or isopropyl alcohol to achieve different visual effects.