One of my students recently asked my about the use of masking fluid for water colour painting. This useful tool was introduced to me only a few years ago, and it is very helpful for keeping areas of your paper pristine for later washes or for the white to show through.
The accepted way of painting water colour is not to use white, but to allow the white of your paper to show through and around your colours. this method also helps the painting to look more ‘painterly’ and can create a sarkle and added dimension to the light.
Winsor & Newton provide a quality masking fluid, which is the only one I have used to date. There are probably others on the market, so I would suggest asking your art provider about whether they recommend them, and if they have tried using them.
A couple of things to note when using masking fluid, is that due to is make-up (latex and a creamy colouring agent) you need to use an old brush that you don’t need for painting, as this material can ruin brushes fairly quickly. You also need to remove it from the paper as soon as it dries so that the colouring in it doesn’t taint your white paper.
Given the above, it is a creative idea to try out different things to apply your fluid, like old rag, an old texture roller, scrunched paper, or even an old plastic bag scrunched up. All of these will give you a variety of textures.
Another method is to flick the fluid on to the paper, resulting in a great look for starry night skies. The little white dots that result from this can can be used for lots of textural effects.
Remember too, that the masking fluid can go over a dry wash, so you can lay down a colour, allow it to completely dry, then apply masking fluid, paint another wash, then remove the masking fluid.
By creative use of masking fluid as you work your way through washes and layers of colour in a painting you can get some beautiful and creative results, useful for both realist and abstract subjects.
To remove the fluid when dry, you can gently rub it off with your finger, or a clean eraser which is what I have tried out – just make sure the eraser is very clean. There are also ‘removers’ available as far as I know, so if rubbing with fingers isn’t for you, they may be worth investigating.
NOTE: Remember to properly close the lid of the fluid as soon as you use it, as it can dry out in the bottle quickly, turning into a blob that you can’t use.
If you like to paint using water colour, I really do recommend giving this fluid a try, it allowed me to stop thinking I needed white so much (as a regular oil painter), and just requires a bit of planning ahead for where you want to leave paper showing through.
I will leave you with the first water colour painting I did using masking fluid, so you can see how useful it can be, and how quickly you can learn to use it to great effect.
For an informative video about how to use masking fluid go to the following link: