August 23, 2019 33

How to Use Masking Fluid

How to Use Masking Fluid

Masking fluid lets artists, letterers, and calligraphers easily cover parts of their artwork that they don’t want to paint over, preserving lighter colors and the vibrant white of the paper for details, highlights, and more. We’ll show you the basics of how to use masking fluid along with some more specific techniques. To follow along, you will need masking fluid in either a marker or a bottle, sturdy paper that can stand up to hard use without tearing like this Fluid Watercolor Paper, and paint. We’re using Daniel Smith watercolors for our first demonstration and Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors for some of the other demonstrations. A tool to remove the masking fluid like this Best Test Pickup Masking Fluid Eraser is also helpful. You can find everything in this video at First, make a preliminary sketch so that you can visualize exactly where you want the highlights or details to be and where you don’t want them to be. Stretch the paper but make sure the paper is completely dry by the time you start using the masking fluid. If the paper is still damp, the masking fluid may stick to the paper and tear it when you take it off. Next, mix your masking fluid. If you’re using a marker like this Molotow Masking Liquid Marker, shake and prime the marker by pressing the tip onto scrap paper until the tip is saturated with fluid. Draw or write with the masking fluid just as you would with any other painter marker. Make the layer thick enough that it completely covers the paper, but thin
enough that it doesn’t take too long to dry. If you are using bottled masking
fluid without a built-in applicator, stir it or turn the bottle gently to avoid making bubbles, and then pour a small amount into a separate container for easy use. Cap the bottle to keep it from drying out. Be sure that the masking fluid is completely dry before you paint over it, or it may bind to the paper and you won’t be able to get it off without tearing. When it’s dry, the masking fluid will no longer be shiny and may become transparent. Paint just like you normally would, except without trying to avoid the highlights and details you’ve masked off. This lets you paint more freely with loose expressive brush strokes. Once the paint is completely dry, rub off the masking fluid with a clean tool like the Best-Test Pik-Up. You can also use your fingers or a regular eraser, but those may leave fingerprints or crumbs on your work. Don’t wait more than two days to
remove the masking fluid or it may bind to the paper. Masking fluid leaves hard edges between the masked and painted areas. To make these less stark, use a damp brush to reactivate the paint and blend out the edges. If you accidentally marked off a spot that you meant to paint over, you can also fill that area in now. Now your art has beautifully bright highlights and details! Masking fluid is very versatile and
there’s a lot of different ways you can use it. Here are some of our favorites. There’s no rule that says you have to only mask off white paper. You can also preserve light colors as you add darker layers. This is good for transparency effects like in this lettering piece, as well as distinguishing parts of a
painting that need to stand out from the rest. Be aware that masking fluid often lifts some of the underlying color, so the paint will be lighter than it was originally. For a dramatic effect, try lettering your
entire quote in masking fluid and then painting over it with an impressive background. In this example, we laid down a very wet wash and then added dollops of color for a galaxy effect. You can also use more defined geometric shapes to achieve a stained glass or gemstone look, paint leaves or a seascape, or use
any number of backgrounds. You can also apply bottled masking fluid with a brush to make lines of many different widths, as we’re doing in this lettering piece. The masking fluid will ruin the brushes, so you should always use an old or inexpensive brush. Coat the brush with a small amount of dish soap to help protect the bristles, and then use it like you normally would. If the fluid is too thick, you can thin it with a small amount of water. Don’t use too much or the fluid will be harder to remove later. Place the brush in soapy water whenever
you stop working. This keeps the masking fluid from drying on the bristles so it’s easier to clean. For a fun organic effect, thin a small
amount of bottled masking fluid with a little bit of water, then use a straw or toothbrush to flick the masking fluid at the paper. This scatters small dots all over the paper that are perfect for snow and light reflecting off of water. Here, we use them to show stars in distant galaxies. What’s your favorite way to use masking
fluid? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out all of our masking fluid at Thanks for watching!

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