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6 masking fluid tips on ARTiful,painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier

6 masking fluid tips

Watercolor and acrylic paint are somewhat translucent by nature, so it makes sense to preserve some areas of your paper or canvas so they stay white or light. Masking fluid is the best way to achieve that result.

Of course you can always use white gouache on top of watercolor, or paint with white acrylic on top of acrylic or watercolor, but you are loosing that transparency effect that is so unique to these media.

You might also be interested in:Watercolor and fluid acrylic: similarities and differences

You can paint with gouache on top of watercolor

You can paint with gouache on top of watercolor, like in the background of this portrait, but you are loosing some of the transparency of the medium. Although in portraits I like this effect of transparent and opaque passages.

Tip 1- Don’t shake the bottle but stir it

There are some chemicals composants in masking fluid, mostly latex and ammonia (preservative) that will agglomerate if you shake the bottle. So if you want to avoid big lumps in your bottle, gently stir the contents. If the fluid becomes too thick you can add a bit of water until you get to the right consistency.

don't shake the masking fluid bottle but stir it

Tip 2- Don’t Dry it with a hair dryer

It is tempting to use a hair dryer as masking fluid takes a long time to dry, but I don’t recommand it, especially on paper. The heat will make the latex bind to the paper and the masking fluid will be very difficult to take off.

The same thing can happen if the temperature in your studio is very high.

 

Tip 3- Masking fluid is great to preserve some details in a paintingpreserving the letters on the sign with masking fluid.

Masking fluid works well for all the details that would take too much time to paint around like letters on a street sign or details in a flower.

You can preserve small areas with masking fluid like the bird legs

Here I used masking fluid so I did not have to paint around the tiny bird legs.

Tip 4-Silicon brushes and dipping pens are the perfect tool to apply masking fluid

Masking fluid will stick to regular brushes and even if you cover them in soap before, it won’t be long before the brush feels like a stick. I find that the most convenient tool to apply masking fluid is a silicon brush, once the fluid had time to dry you can just peel it off the brush.

a silicon brush is the perfect tool to apply masking fluid

A silicon brush is the perfect tool to apply the fluid.

you can also use a squeeze bottle to apply masking fluid

For bigger areas I also like to use a squeeze bottle to apply the masking fluid.

You can also apply masking fluid with a dipping pen.

6 masking fluid tips on ARTiful, painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier
you can apply masking fluid with a dipping pen to write letters
You can apply masking fluid with a dipping pen

 

taking off masking fluid for lettering

Tip 5- It works great on canvas

Masking fluid is great for watercolor on paper but it works also really well with fluid acrylic on canvas. I use it all the time on my big canvas paintings to preserve some areas from being painted.
masking fluid works great on canvas

Here I want to preserve some light green fern leaves on a painting, I am using masking fluid to do so.

peeling off masking fluid on canvas

You can peel off dried fluid from a canvas the same way you would from paper.

Tip 6- Soften the edges

Masking tend to make very hard edges. If you want a more realistic look you might want to soften some of those edges.

On paper I would use a stiff brush and a bit of water to do so.

masking fluid leaves hard edges on paper

The edges left by the masking fluid are often very hard edges

you can soften hard edges with a stiff brush and water

You can easily soften them with a stiff brush and a bit of water.

On canvas you could paint over each masked area with a light white glaze or use a Mr Clean Magic eraser sponge and a bit of water to soften the edges.

A Mister Clean magic sponge works wonders to lift off acrylic from canvas.

A Mister Clean magic sponge works wonders to lift off acrylic from canvas.

Do you have some tips you would like to share about masking fluid?

 

 

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  • Barlene

    Using a 24″ x 36″ canvas I am preparing to paint an egret. I have ideas for the background but masking off the large bird presents a problem. Considering the size of the bird on the painting, at least 2′ tall what would be the best product for making the area while allowing me to freely paint the background?

    • I would use masking tape to fix something waterproof like Saran Wrap on most of the surface and then use masking fluid only to fill out the space between the tape and the edges of the egret.

  • Priscilla

    Hi. It has been hard for me to lift off the masking fluid from my paint. It comes out tearing pieces of the paper and I have to disposal the paint. I am a beginner. I use good quality paper (300) and good quality paints. What can be wrong?

    Thank you for your feedback.

    • Excellent question. Actually the quality of the paper makes all the difference. Even more than the quality of the paint. I know professional quality paper is more expensive but it really worth it.
      You paper won’t tear when removing the masking fluid if it is good quality paper.

      Watch also the temperature, if masking fluid is exposed to high temperatures, it will stick to the paper and become very difficult to take off.

  • Luisa

    Thanks for the tis . Very helpful

  • Andrée Lachance

    Very useful tips, thanks.

  • Almut

    I do not use my masking fluid very often and the contents of the bottle have now solidified. As it is still over half full, I wondered whether the fluid could be resurrected ?

    • That is a good question. Unfortunately no, once it is solidified, you cannot liquefy it. Just take of the solid parts and keep using the liquid.
      If you shake your masking fluid bottle instead of stirring it, you will have more of these clumps inside the liquid.

  • Rina vanderHam

    I had bought the masking fluid but not tried it out yet. Thanks for the tips. They revealed things I didn’t know and will be very handy.

  • Kyra Smith

    Hi Sandrine, I was wondering if you had any insight into how to remove the masking fluid without damaging the paper itself, as when I remove it, I always remove a layer of the paper too. Is this just my paper being weak?

    • Hi Kyra, I think your issue is more likely related to the quality of the paper. It is worth it investing in good quality paper like arches or strathmore as it makes a big difference when removing the masking fluid or scrubbing off colour.

  • Becky robertson

    “Stirred not shaken” ….just what I needed to know. I wondered where those bubbles came from. Thank you so much for the tips. Now I will buy masking fluid by the gallon. You are a jewel to share.

    • Thanks Becky, I am very happy to hear this post was helpful to you 🙂

  • These tips came in really handy while trying my hands at painting a watercolor forest. Thanks for the great post! By the way, your article on painting trees in watercolor inspired me to attempt this painting in the first place…so, thanks again 🙂

    • Thanks Nandita! I am very happy to hear this post was helpful to you 🙂

  • A palette knife is also a great tool to apply masking fluid.

  • Helpful suggestions, Sandrine – thank you! I’m always looking for the *perfect* tool to apply the mask, and I’ve wondered how it works on canvas. I’ve only used it on paper so far. Will have to look up silicone brushes!

    • Thanks Lisa! I am sure you will like the silicon brushes, they are very convenient.