Before we start, think of masking fluid like gum. It's sticky, it clings, and once it gets onto something (like a paintbrush or your clothes), it can be a nightmare to remove. So, how can we circumvent this? Read on to find out!
Why Use Masking Fluid?
Masking fluid, also known as liquid frisket, is essentially a liquid latex-based product that, once applied to watercolor paper, dries and protects the area it covers. It's useful when painting complex scenes where preserving minute details like the white of a wave or the twinkle in an eye is crucial. You paint the fluid onto the paper, allow it to dry, then paint over it. Once your artwork is dry, simply peel off the mask to reveal the untouched area beneath.
Sounds simple, right? But one of the biggest concerns many artists have when using masking fluid is the potential damage to their brushes. Again, like gum stuck in hair, removing dried masking fluid from your beloved brushes can be a daunting task. Luckily, I have a hack!
Applying the Masking Fluid
Masking fluid is quite simple to use, but as with everything in art, it has its quirks that you need to be aware of. Some products will come with an applicator, these are great - you just have to be sure to store these properly according to their labels after use. You can also apply masking fluid with a regular paintbrush but be cautious, once it dries in the bristles, it can be difficult to remove and can destroy your brush. To prevent this from happening, a little prep.
1. Prepare Your Brush
Dip your brush in dish soap before dipping it into the masking fluid. The soap creates a barrier between the bristles and the fluid, making it easier to clean the brush later.
2. Apply the Masking Fluid
Only apply masking fluid to dry paper. A common place to use making fluid is for a sparkle in an eye, in this case, just use the back of your brush, one dip in the fluid, then one dot on the paper, done. Let the brush dry, then you'll be able to peel it off easily.
Another common place might be the leaves of a tree that are touching the sky. You want paint the sky as one big wash, but rather than painting around each individual leaf, just mask them. By the time you've mixed up your sky color, the mask should be dry, and you can paint that wash in a matter of seconds.
3. Let It Dry
Allow the masking fluid to dry completely before you start painting. This prevents the fluid from spreading and potentially ruining your artwork. Paint it on thin and know that it will almost always be a little sticky to the touch.
You can then paint over and around the masking fluid freely. Once you've finished painting and everything is dry, you can remove the masking fluid by gently rubbing it with your finger or a rubber cement pickup eraser.
Some masking fluid spilled on your watercolor paper, or you've applied it in the wrong spot. No worries, let it dry, remove, then carry on.
6. Removing Masking Fluid
Be sure your painting is completely dry before you attempt to remove the masking fluid. Attempting to remove it prematurely can damage your artwork.
Be sure to store your masking fluid according to the directions on the label, then keep it in a plastic bag...just in case.
Other Tools for Applying Masking Fluid
If you're concerned about your brushes or simply want a tool specially designed for the task, there's an alternative for you. Colour Shapers Tools from Blick Art Supplies are a fantastic investment for anyone regularly using masking fluid. Made of silicone, these tools are durable, easy to clean, and perfect for applying masking fluid. Once the fluid dries, it can be peeled right off the Colour Shaper, ensuring that your tools stay in top-notch condition.
Selecting Your Masking Fluid
Choosing the right masking fluid is essential, as different types offer various characteristics, from color (some are tinted so you can see where you've applied them) to consistency and removal ease. Here are a few of my top-rated options:
Winsor & Newton Art Masking Fluid
Masquepen Art Masking Fluid
Grumbacher Miskit Frisket
Daniel Smith Masking Fluid
Sennelier Masking Fluid
Using masking fluid in watercolor painting may require a bit of practice and patience, but with time, it can become an indispensable part of your painting process. So experiment, explore which one works best for your style and needs.