Masking Fluid Application

I love the unexpected happy surprises that happen when I paint with watercolor. The trick is to let go of having complete control over it. Watercolor hates being told what to do, and will almost always do the opposite.  If you let it do its thing though, it will do some magic things.

Preserving the white paper for your lightest lights is part of the magic., so you have a couple of choices,.  You can carefully paint around your white areas, or you can mask them with masking fluid and paint with abandon.  Masking fluid, like watercolor can be difficult.  Personally I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it, and have given  up on it a few times over the years in frustration.

Here a few things I’ve learned.

First, you need to have a plan.   Planning is vital because it needs to be applied to dry paper. I also use white masking, so I can see what the values will be in my final painting after removing the mask.  I’ve also learned to never shake the bottle of masking fluid! This can cause it to bubble up and coagulate, resulting in a ‘stringy’ lump of blobby fluid, and/or a bubbly mess that looks like fish eggs.  Either way it renders the stuff useless.

When your paint is dry, (you know it’s dry when you touch the painting with the back of your fingers and it no longer feels cold. ), carefully rub it off with a paper towel.  Personally I avoid touching my painting as much as possible, because the oils from your skin can mess up your substrate.  If the paint you’ve applied around the masking isn’t a staining color, you can also soften the edges of the white area by lifting some paint nearby and moving it to the edge of your preserved white area.

Here are some of the tools I have collected and was experimenting with recently.  Some old paint brushes, some wooden skewers, a dipping pen, a toothbrush, and most recently a mapping pen.

These are the various results got when using these tools to apply it:

The dipping pen does a great job making tiny lines.  You can make the tiniest lines with masking fluid and it will still preserve the white paper. The skewer didn’t work very well at all. The toothbrush would be good for spraying an area by rubbing your thumb along the bristles.  The old brush that I used here has many layers of masking that has dried onto it, and it’s very useful for preserving water sparkles if you’re painting a body of water.

I grabbed an extra straw the last time I bought an ice coffee, and  cut it at an angle to use as you would a quill pen, and that worked really well as a masking applicator.  Last but definitely not least is the mapping pen!  I haven’t done a lot of research on exactly what their original purpose is, but I got a tip that they are great for applying masking fluid, and they definitely are.   You can control the width of the line by turning the screw at the top,  It works for making both tiny thin lines or for filling in larger areas.   The possibilities are endless. Try out different things that you have around the house, or check out what they have the next time you’re at the dollar store.