Masking Fluid for Watercolor Tutorial


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I learned how to use masking fluid from a great teacher, Harold Petersen.  He had a brilliant method that preserves the brushes you use in the masking fluid: coat the brush with dish soap prior to using the masking fluid! 

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The tools you need are a container with dish soap, a brush, a rag to wipe the brush, rinse water and the masking fluid.  Even though the soap helps prevent the brush from being ruined, I don’t use my best or favorite brush.  I use a brush that is a little worn but still has a good enough tip to get detail with the masking fluid.  

The first step is to wet the brush and dry excess water with a rag.  Then coat the brush with dish soap.  

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Wipe the excess soap off the brush.  

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Dip the brush into the masking fluid and carefully begin outlining the areas you want to mask out.

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There are a couple of types of masking fluid.  Some have color and some are white.  The colored masking fluids are helpful when you want to know that you have complete coverage of the area you are masking.  But, the color of the mask, which ranges from yellow to florescent orange, can throw off your sense of color when painting around the mask.  The colorless masking fluid eliminates the color balance problem as it maintains the integrity of a white area but it can be difficult to be sure that every part has been completely covered by the fluid.  I find I often have pin prick size areas that missed being covered by the fluid or some even larger uncovered areas.  As you can see from the picture above, I use a generously thick layer of fluid to maximize fluid coverage.  Two other things I try to avoid are allowing layers of dark paint to dry onto the mask and extremely thin layers of masking fluid.  When removing the mask from the painting, especially if using a masking fluid eraser, if I have let a lot of paint dry on the mask, it can rub into the white area under the mask.  I have found that very thin layers of fluid can also let small amounts of paint through to the white areas of the mask.  If excess paint has dried onto the mask, it is easy to use water, a brush and a rag to wash the paint off the mask before removing the it from the painting.  A dry thin layer of masking fluid can be covered by additional layers.  If the mask is not completely dry before recovering, the underlying layer can be picked up and moved around preventing even coverage.

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After coating the entire area to be masked, tilting the painting can give you a reflection of the area covered by the fluid and you may be able to spot even small missed areas.  After the mask has dried completely, the background is ready to be painted! 

1st layer over masking fluid.tiff


When the painting background has been completed, the mask is ready to be removed.  Some masking fluids are easier to remove than others.  Some can be peeled off, and the thicker the layer the easier to peel, but others are easier removed with a special masking fluid eraser.  As more brands get easier to peel, it gets more difficult to find these special rubber-like erasers.  I don’t know what exactly the erasers are called but it is pictured in the first and third pictures of this tutorial.  


See my next tutorial page "Painting Stage” for the next steps in painting on Gessobord with Absorbent Ground.