July 14, 2012

Comic Tools: Latex Masking Fluid

Watercolor resist is basically just a tiny bottle of tinted liquid latex. There are a number of ways to mask out areas of watercolor and ink drawings, but I like the way the resist leaves natural brush lines around and inside the masked area.

You'll need: a bottle of "Art Masking Fluid" (I used Windsor and Newton, above), and some cheap, relatively stiff, paintbrushes. Paint the resist onto the page, in a medium thick layer, the thinner the coating, the more difficult it is to pull it up and peel it off. This latex is tinted so that you can see where you've painted.

When you are done painting, immediately dunk the brush in warm water. If the latex is allowed to dry on your brush for even a moment it will turn the bristles into a horrible, gummy, mess.
brush-ruining gunk.
You can dry the brush on a paper towel before you use it again, so as not to water down the masking fluid, but it's always best to err on the side of rinsing the brush too often. You'll still want to use cheap, disposable, brushes for this, because no matter how careful you are, the latex will start to build up in the bristles after a while.

Allow the resist to dry completely, then paint over it with watercolor, ink, or gouache. Once the paint is dry, you can carefully peel up the resist. The results are kind of magical.

This is the fun part
Try to peel, not rub, whenever possible. Rubbing at the page can cause any pigment that is sitting on top of the resist to transfer to your fingers, and from your fingers to the blank page below. If you find you need to rub off the smaller areas, the best way to keep stray pigment at bay is to wipe your wingers frequently on a slightly damp paper towel. If you're really concerned about staining your masked areas, you can wait until the piece dries, then clean up the resist areas with a small brush and some fresh water. But I rarely have the patience for that.

You can use the resist to cover an already painted area, as long as the paper is fully dry. Any dampness in the paper will cause the resist to fuse with the paper and become very difficult to remove.

Above, you can see how you get a nice continuity to your brushstrokes when you're using the masking fluid. It would be useful when blocking out characters against a cloudy sky, or to create clean areas next to any kind of splatter texture. I searched around online to see who had made amazing use of this technique, and found a few interesting results, but I bet you guys can do better. Send along any images and I will post them later!


SeƱor Salme said...

Nice tips Emily. What you said about brushes turning into crap if not cleaned immediately after use is utter truth. I've ruined a few brushes that way, until I found out that a colour shaper with rounded point (usually used for polymer clay modelling and the like) is a nice alternative to e brush for applying masking fluid: it's easy to use, and you just clean it with your fingers. I posted about this in my blog, here:


Actually I use masking fluid all the time. Here is another very simple example, this time used to mask airbrushed paint:



James said...

I see that you're using this on what looks like watercolor paper. How well does it work on say, bristol or vellum or any other kind of illustration board? I work primarily in ink and it looks like it might be fun to play with.

Anonymous said...

Damn never thought of utilizing this stuff, always thought of it like frisket or something for airbrush or heavy painting, but after looking at Salme's stuff and this post, I'm seriously considering it a must now. THANKS

rugged breed said...

Wow very artistic, you are such an inspiring artist! very passionate and dedicated to what you are doing, good job keep up the good work!

Zero Dramas

Unknown said...

Wonderful!!..So creative and helpful...something very unique!
Thanks for posting..

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Anonymous said...

Hi, just found your blog. I'm loving it. A word about masking fluid: I coat the brush I'm using in hand soap (the gooey stuff in the bottom of the soap dish), shape the bristles with my fingers, then dip in the masking fluid. The mask still ruins the brush, but the soap helps the mask come out more easily and the brush lasts longer.


Anonymous said...


Awesome demonstration of the masking fluid, to my mind at least by Lewis Trondheim

But my real reason for writing is to say I wish this site would begin posting again! It being a favorite of mine and all.

Best regards

J said...

Dammit, you need a subscribe by email feature for your blog.

Unknown said...

Just simply awesome that was ! I never see such a cool painting last some years.But this once was incredible.
Thank's & Regard's
Richard Lewis
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Anonymous said...

It looks seriously AMAZING! Thanks for the tips!

Unknown said...

I just discovered your site after Googling Scroll Nibs for calligraphy and now I'm obsessed with your blog. So wonderful and informative! Thanks! :)

Summer said...

I've seen some really beautiful masking using a ruling pen - which you posted about before. Supposed to be amazing for that!

Summer said...

You can also use a ruling pen for the masking fluid - it works wonders and is easy to remove from the pen when you're done!