A novel ERP approach was proposed to index variations in mental workload, particularly in attentional reserve, which is complementary to EEG spectral content thought to reflect mental effort. To our knowledge, no study has assessed mental effort and attentional reserve simultaneously in EEG gel-based and, importantly, dry systems, which are particularly well suited for real-world settings. ... [Show full abstract] Therefore, by systematically considering ERP, EEG spectral, and importantly the combination of both, this study examined if a small set of dry EEG electrodes could detect changes in both spectral and ERP metrics to assess the mental workload under various challenges with a similar fidelity to their gel-based counterparts in a laboratory setting. By employing both EEG gel-based and dry systems, the ERP and spectral markers were computed while participants executed a visuomotor task under three levels of challenge. For both EEG systems, more challenging levels of difficulty were associated with concomitant changes in ERP amplitude, and spectral power reflected a reduction of the attentional reserve and an increase in cognitive-motor effort, respectively. Those variations in attentional reserve and cognitive-motor effort collectively indexed mental workload with nearly identical fidelity for both gel-based and dry EEG systems. These findings promise to assess the mental workload in situations where the use of dry EEG systems could be advantageously employed to examine human cognitive-motor performance.