Not every artist likes to use masking fluid in their painting! It ruins brushes, requires careful planning, and can produce sharp edges that look “unnatural”. If you are searching for alternatives to masking fluid then you have come to the right place!
There are several alternatives that you can use in your watercolor painting. These include: Maskin tape, Wax resist, oil pastel, Gouache, blotting, lifting, splattering, scratching, and finally you can avoid wetting the area you want to preserve.
What is masking fluid used for?
Masking fluid is a liquid used to “preserve” or mask white areas of the paper. It can be very handy when painting waves, reflections, or mountains with snowwy peaks!
To use the masking fluid you have to apply it on the areas of the paper you want to preserve and wait for it to dry. Once it’s dry you can paint over it like normal. To remove the masking fluid, you have to wait until the paint has dried then you gently rub it off.
Learn more here: How to use masking fluid
What Can You Use Instead of Masking Fluid?
The method you choose will depend on what you’re painting and the desired effect. The diagram below shows examples of different alternatives to masking fluid and their effects.
You can cut up pieces of masking tape in different shapes to mask the desired area. Once the paint has dried, you simply have to peel it off. Masking tape works great on large areas or elements with strong edges such as buildings.
However, I wouldn’t use it to mask water reflections. This is because it can be frustrating to cut up tiny strips of tape.
Wax resist works wonderfully with reflections and water. You can get them in a form of a stick and all you have to do is apply it over the paper. It’s usually clear so you dont have to worry about your work looking chalky.
The disadvantage of using wax resist is that once you apply you can’t remove it and paint over the area like masking fluid. You can however apply it on top of a dried layer for water reflections. For example, if you paint a light wash of blue and let it dry then apply the wax and paint over it with a darker blue.
Oil pastel is another alternative to masking fluid that works similarly to wax resist, however it can look chalky.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, gouache is a painting medium that is similar to watercolor but thicker and opaque instead of transparent.
Although you can’t use it to preserve the white of the paper, it can still be effective if you paint over the dried layer. It’s useful when painting white areas like sea foam or ocean waves.
Blotting is when you take a dry paper towel or sponge and soak up the wet paint, leaving a lighter spot. This works well for snowy scenes or clouds.
If you require more delicate lines, then you can lift off the paint using a damp brush while the paint is still wet. The issue may come if the paints you are using are “staining”. This means the pigment won’t come off as easily.
Spattering clean water to cause intentional blooms can also work to reveal lighter spots or areas. This is very useful when painting fields, especially fields with flowers because you can get lighter spots.
Instead of using masking fluid, you can also scratch off some of the dried paint to reveal white lines. This technique works well with reflections, however, you need to be careful not to damage the paper too much.
Avoid the area
This method is an obvious one, but it works! Paint won’t spread to areas where it’s dry, all you need to do is make sure to keep the area you want to preserve dry.
Disadvantages of using masking fluid
Here are some of the reasons why some artists may not want to use masking fluid:
1. Using masking fluid will ruin your brushes, which is why some artists use tooth picks or old brushes to apply it.
2. Masking fluid requires a lot of planning, you need to be able to map out the highlights before you begin painting. If you’re not careful, you can mask the wrong area causing an unwanted spot or two after completing the painting.
3. It produces sharp edges that can look unnatural so you have to go back and soften some of the edges.
4. If you’re not careful or you remove it before the painting has dried, it can rip the paper.
5. The smell can be off-puting.
Those are the different alternatives to using masking fluid! I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful. Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter down below so you don’t miss out on new watercolor posts: