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Masking Fluid

I tried a new masking fluid recently and preferred it to my original, so I’m sharing.  The one on the left (Winsor & Newton) cost more and is colorless, so it’s harder to see on Yupo and on top of dried alcohol inks, which are somewhat glossy.  It also ruined pretty much every brush I used with it and dried too fast (on the paper, this is a good thing – but I mean it dried too fast and/or got “boogery” on my palette before I could paint it on.)  Also, it takes an act of congress to get the lid off every time I want to use it, despite the fact that I have cleaned the inside of the lid and the top of the bottle several times.

The masking fluid on the right costs at $2-$3 less for the same amount.  I found it at (drum roll, please) Wal-Mart.  I was skeptical.  (Sorry, Wal-Mart.)  But it performs better – stays wet on the palette longer and still dries quickly on paper.  The yellow tint makes it easier to see, and I have not seen any yellow residue left behind on white paper…and I pile the stuff on pretty thick in some instances.  The smell is a little worse than the one on the left, but it’s a small price to pay for better results.  I have found that when I use white, synthetic brushes with this masking fluid, I CAN clean the brushes and re-use them, so that’s a total win.

Ultimately, the moment of “reveal” is the most important, and the Daler Rowney masking fluid (on right) has proven to be more reliable in leaving behind few to no boo-boos.  It’s also easier to remove.  Daler Rowney wins.

I’m sure I’ll try other brands and types as I continue to experiment, but this is where I am with masking fluid for now.

I read more interesting info on masking fluid here and here.


  1. A little update on this: I encountered a problem. Over the weekend, I did a painting on 144lb. Yupo paper (normally I use the 74lb.) I mention this only because I THINK it’s the only thing that I did differently from my norm.

    Anyway, I painted the subject of my painting, and when that was all done and dry, I needed to apply masking fluid to the edges of the subject, to protect it when I painted the background (yes, I realize this may be backwards, but I have done it before.)

    When I finished the background and everything was dry again, I removed the masking fluid, and some of the subject’s ink came off with it. 🙁

    Again, I have no idea if this has anything to do with the different weight of paper – doesn’t seem to me like it should make a difference. I am sure the inks on the subject were dry before I masked them, so I don’t know why this happened. Unfortunately, there were a few small areas that I couldn’t fix, so it just became “character”.

  2. Hi, Monica. Do you use soap before you dip your brush in masking fluid? Also, how do you remove the masking fluid from the paper?

    • I haven’t used soap before masking fluid, but I should try it. I ruin a lot of brushes (so I always use really cheap ones for masking!) I wonder if this stuff works to remove it from brushes?

      I rub and peel the masking fluid off the paper with my fingers.

      • Thanks for replying, Monica.
        If you rub the bristles thoroughly on a bar of hand soap before using masking fluid, your brushes have a better chance to survive. You need to rinse them in water very well after each use.
        But if you are like me (btw, my name is Monica too!), and you forget that step, I guess that remover or maybe this tool I just found online will work better:

        Thanks again,

        • I masked a portrait this week, and I squirted some liquid dish soap on my brush before using masking fluid…worked like a charm! I even get to use the brush again and don’t have to throw it away. Woo hoo! 😉

          • That’s awesome! 🙂
            You know, I just remember a technique I learned in school, a loooong time ago. Instead of masking fluid, we used liquid gum arabic, which doesn’t have that unpleasant ammonia smell. If you use masking fluid in small quantities, I guess the smell isn’t so bad. But if you need to cover a large area, it could be a little annoying. I don’t remember if the brush used to apply the gum arabic needed any special treatment though. I think I had to throw it out but maybe that wasn’t necessary because they use gum arabic to dilute the pigments to make watercolors. If you need more details about this technique, let me know.

            BTW, I love your artwork! Those textures in the reptilian eyes series are sooo cool!

  3. I just discovered alcohol inks. I am so in love. And I love your work so much. As a water-colorist, I have used a lot of masking fluid. I use something called a ‘colour shaper’ to apply it. They are available at Cheap Joes and probably a lot of other places including local art supply stores. It has a rubber tip, available in many shapes and sizes. I just use a small one with a kind of triangular tip, and to clean just wipe a couple of fingers over the tip and throw the little glob away. But if the soaped brush works, hey…..

  4. If you dip your brush in a little bit of dish washing detergent and pinch off the excess before applying masking fluid, it makes it a lot easier to clean your brush after use.

    • Yes, I do this religiously now. 🙂


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