with Masking Fluid*
©2008 Suzanne Cannon
*links go to www.quietfiredesign.ca
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article first appeared in the May
2006 byhand Newsletter
Using Masking Fluid to make white letters!
I believe I originally learned this technique from
calligrapher Martin Jackson many years ago and if you've taken any
of my weekly classes over the years then you have most likely tried
What is masking fluid? It's a rubbery fluid used by
watercolour artists (and I'm sure others) to "mask" out
areas in their painting they wish to remain white (or unpainted).
It can be painted on with a brush (normally the brush is dipped in
soap first, otherwise the masking fluid will never come out of the
brush) and once dry it may be painted over with watercolours, keeping
the surface under the masking fluid untouched. When the watercolour
is dry, the masking fluid can be removed by a rub with your finger
or a "rubber cement pick-up". I always have my finger handy,
so I use it!
Gather together your bottle of masking fluid, a small
cup to pour into (okay, if you're really lazy then you can pour
it into the lid, but it will get the threads on the cap gummy
- ask me how I know this....)
and a larger nib (I used a Mitchell Roundhand nib #0
without the reservoir).
For this project I lettered on Arches 140 cold press watercolour
||Pour a small amount of masking fluid into the cup.
Warning, this stuff has ammonia in it and it's rather stinky!
||I dip my nib into the cup (not too deeply!) for
this technique. The fluid clings nicely to the pen (this photo
shows the underside of the nib where the reservoir usually sits
on a Mitchell nib). Sometimes you need to wipe some masking fluid
off the topside of the nib or you get thicks where your thins
This was really difficult to photograph as there is not much
colour in the masking fluid. A bit of practice with this technique
always helps! You can see I have it on quite thickly in some
places and less so in others. Yes, some of my thins filled in
with too much masking fluid....
You can see my liner underneath, gee it'd be nice if that "d"
followed the slope line. You get to see all the warts, don't
The masking fluid will dry flat. Don't paint over it till the
masking fluid is dry.
For painting, I used the wet-in-wet technique. I used a wide
brush to apply water all over the surface of the watercolour
Instead of using watercolours for this project, I used Magic
Colour Acrylic Inks. (This allows me the security of being
able to letter over top of the colour after it has dried - watercolour
is likely to get messed up)
It's always a bit of a surprise to see what you will end up
||I diluted the Magic Colors in a Rinky Dink
(about 50:50 with water) and used a smaller brush to add in Process
Cyan Magic Color
||The second colour I added was Mars
The third colour was Delta Violet
which is a very strong colour and can easily overpower other
colours. Tip your paper this way and that and allow the colours
You can see the letters beginning to stand out. Allow this
Once the paint is dry, you may start rubbing off the masking
fluid. Then go ahead and add the rest of the lettering to the
piece. I used a Mitchell #3 1/2 nib for the small lettering.
Keep in mind this is pretty rough paper!