I’m sharing all of my tips for getting the best results while using watercolor masking fluid. Masking should be fun, and come with no frustrations! I’ll also share all of the things that didn’t work for me in today’s post and hopefully, that will help you!
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What is masking fluid?
Masking fluid is also widely known as liquid frisket. It is an easily available supply in all art stores.
It is used to preserve the white areas of your artwork. The fluid dries up and resists the watercolor you apply over it. Once you have finished your painting you can simply peel off the masking fluid to reveal the white underneath.
What is masking fluid used for?
Using masking fluid is a great way to keep white areas on your paper. In my example, I am able to create this soft and rich colorful composition which contrasts beautifully with the white lines. It also creates an illusion that the whole thing was painted painstakingly carefully.
Artists often use this fluid to preserve the white area of an eye in a portrait or to preserve white highlights in the water.
Step by step Masking fluid TUTORIAL
Watch my video tutorial for this: Lettering with masking fluid on IGTV!
Step by step tutorial showing you how to apply and remove masking fluid to create a watercolor resist effect
Total Time: 45 minutes
Step 1: Use the masking fluid to create a design
Apply masking fluid onto a piece of watercolor paper in the resist design you want. I lettered the word “read more” and added stars and circles. If you get any air bubbles on the page, use a craft pick to carefully pop them.
Step 2: Let the masking fluid dry
It is best to let this sit on a desk and air dry for several minutes. It might take 15 to 30 minutes depending on how thick your masking fluid application is. Using a heat gun or tool to speed up the process does not work here at all. Air drying is the best.
Step 3: Paint on top of the masking
Using your watercolors, paint on top of the masking, and go in rainbow order., after all, these are rainbow bookmarks
Step 4: I’m using all rainbow colors!
I’ve found that starting with the yellow works well, it is in the middle of the color spectrum. I like to go down and paint my warm colors first and then work upwards into the cooler colors.
Step 5: Blend all of your colors with some water
Using your paintbrush, and just some water blend your colors softly
Step 6: Let the masking fluid dry, then rub it off
You can rub off the dried masking using your fingertips itself. It’s easy and goes quick.
Step 7: Optional, use an adhesive eraser
When you are working on a larger piece, it is a great idea to save your fingertips and use an adhesive eraser to gently rub off the dried masking
tips for applying masking fluid
In today’s video, I used the Nuvo Brand and this bottle comes with a plastic applicator tip. I used that tip itself to draw my design out. This is not a very narrow tip, it can feel like the masking fluid is pouring out quickly but once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy to control.
You can also draw your design by dipping an old paintbrush in masking fluid and painting with it. That brush will probably get ruined and won’t be reusable, so don’t use your best brushes.
Many people also use a convenient pen-like this Molotow one and that might be a great option for you as well. Note that the Molotow pen is available in 2mm or 4mm tips.
How can you remove masking fluid without damaging the paper?
A very good question!! Try not pull the dried masking fluid up (like in the photo) but instead use your finger tips or an eraser to gently rub the masking off in a circular motion. Many companies also sell a rubber pick up tool- like in this one.
Some things to keep in mind- do not apply a really thin layer of the fluid, a little bit of thickness comes in handy when it comes time to peel off.
Do not let the fluid dry on the paper for days. I have found great results when I apply and then remove the masking within a few hours.
Can I use masking fluid on any papers?
Short answer, no. I have used this same fluid on a 90lb mixed media paper with dismal results. The thicker heavier paper is better for this technique. If the paper has too much texture or grain, the chances of the paper peeling while removing the masking is higher. But you might still see some tiny rips depending on the watercolor set you use. You will have to do a few tests before you are able to create something you like and love with liquid masking. Trial and error will help you find the right paper and watercolor combination.
alternatives to masking fluid
Rubber cement, a basic white crayon, using embossing powder, and then ironing it off are also alternate options. Some people have used white chalk!
In this example I created a colorful design on watercolor paper to make a note card.
Supplies I’ve used here:
- Masking Fluid: The watercolor masking fluid I am using in the video today is by Nuvo and not too expensive. I have been using this off-camera for a few weeks now and it is a great product. It does have a strong odor to it though. These other two ones also have been recommended to me by friends – Winsor Newtons and Pebeo.
- Paper: I have trimmed some Canson Watercolor paper that is 140lb a great weight to use with watercolor masking fluid. I’ve trimmed each sheet of 9 by 12 paper into 4 equal rectangles.
- Paintbrush: Lately I have been using this Round 2 paintbrush a lot!
- Watercolors: To do my watercoloring today I am using Tombow Dual Brush Pens, the exact color numbers can be seen in the photo below.
4 Important things to keep in mind while using masking fluid
- Never shake your bottle, like never. This will just introduce air bubbles into it.
- Even without shaking the bottle, you could end up with small air bubbles in your design. Use a toothpick or a craft pick ( a very handy tool to have on hand- I love mine!) to pop those air bubbles before the masking dries.
- Try to apply the fluid as evenly as possible. If your lines go thick and thin then it will not dam the watercolors effectively.
- Always let the masking dry completely before painting over it. Do not try to speed up the drying with a heat tool. This will make it impossible to neatly remove the masking at the end. Let the masking dry naturally away from sunlight if possible.