Masking fluid allows an artist to preserve paper or paint by protecting it from additional layers of paint. Both watercolor and acrylic painters can use masking fluid. However, for artists that don’t like using masking fluid, if you’re wondering what can i use instead of masking fluid then there are several cheap products that can be an alternative for masking fluid and methods of masking or protecting specific areas of your work.
Alternative products for masking watercolor and acrylics include bleach, wax, and packing tape. Other products that can be an alternative for masking fluid include not painting white areas, blotting paint, lifting paint, and scratching paint or paper to clean paint from an area. With that in mind, what is the best method or product for masking my watercolor or acrylic painting?
What is masking fluid?
Masking fluid is traditionally used by watercolorists, but can also be used in acrylic painting. It is designed to protect an area of a painting that you want to keep unpainted. Masking fluid is essentially liquid latex and can be applied to a painting with a fine-point stick, paintbrush, or anything that gives you control when applying it. Unfortunately, masking fluid will destroy the brush, so make sure to only use cheap brushes for this purpose. Keep favorite brushes for painting.
Apply masking fluid on a completely dry surface. It works best on smooth, thick paper. To remove masking fluid, use a putty eraser. I can apply it directly onto paper or over an already-painted area as long as the paint is completely dry.
What can I use instead of masking fluid?
Many artists don’t like using masking fluid because it takes finesse, and ruins brushes. While I can apply it with toothpicks, a squeeze bottle, or an old toothbrush, if any of it gets in my water or paints, it can make watercolors look dull. Since it has to be applied on a completely dry surface, I have to wait for your paint to dry before adding it. So what can be used instead?
Some of these alternatives work better for watercolor or acrylic. Testing any product or technique before using it in my painting is a good way to learn how to use it without any damage to the painting.
Other Alternative for Masking Fluid
- Packing tape – this can be used for both watercolor and acrylic. It’s removed by peeling it off and doesn’t leave any residue. Make sure you use packing tape that is not super sticky. In fact, if you can find the ScotchBlue painter’s tape that would be even better as it is tacky but not too sticky.
- Wax – this can be used for both watercolor and acrylic. You can buy special crayons for this or use a candle. The advantage of using wax is that it can be easily removed by rubbing it with your finger or a cloth.
- Bleach – plain old household bleach can be used but read on as there are some warnings.
Packing tape works well on watercolor paper if my goal is to keep parts of your painting white. I can cut it into the shape desired, then apply it directly to the paper. The tape will protect the area, and it peels off without any damage to the watercolor paper once the paint is dry. Clear tape lets you see what you’re masking but you can use brown tape too.
ScotchBlue painter’s tape is also a great alternative as it is less likely to damage the paper.
Wax is another substance that works well as an alternative for masking fluid. Either use a wax resist crayon or a candle (like a birthday candle) to apply the wax. Wax goes on easily, just like using a crayon to color a picture, and gives me a softer edge than the packing tape. The drawback to using wax is that it can’t be removed. So it’s important to plan carefully how to place the wax.
Below are some wax resist sticks.
Another product I can use for masking is bleach. Bleach also will ruin the paintbrushes used to paint it on the surface. In this case, applying the bleach will turn the color of the paper or paint white. I can also dilute the bleach and spray it onto my painting for some interesting effects.
Alternative Methods for Masking
- Leave areas white
- Blotting color
- Lifting color
Leave areas white
In watercolor painting, the best way to create white spaces is by leaving the paper unpainted. This is different in acrylic because you can paint over a space with white paint. So, if I plan white space before I begin, I can leave those areas white.
If paint ends up on a space that I meant to leave white, I can blot the color up while it’s still wet using a dry towel. This technique may not work on all colors, especially darker ones.
This technique also works best with paint that’s still wet. Using a clean, damp paintbrush gently lift the color from the paper or canvas. I may need to combine this technique with blotting the remainder of the paint to get it all off.
If I want to add fine white lines or patches to a painting, another method I can use is scratching the paint with a kraft knife. This technique can damage the paper or canvas but works well as long as I don’t cut through the paper. Another option is to use an eraser sponge, one designed for cleaning walls or tubs, to scratch off the paint once it’s dry. To find the best way to use the eraser sponge, I like to experiment on some practice paintings before using it on my final painting.
What Can I Use Instead Of Masking Fluid – Wrap up!
For those of you who have asked what can i use instead of masking fluid, have you tried any of these alternatives to masking fluid? Let me know via the contact us page or Instagram and let me how they worked for you. And don’t forget to share this post with your artist friends – they might be looking for new ways to protect their work, too!
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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