Making serendipitous surprises as they paint, watercolorists allow their paint to flow across the paper in half-controlled, spontaneous bursts of inspiration.
However, there are times when a painter wants to discipline his medium.
Highlights in a subject’s iris, the sun’s reflected light across a quiet pond or the pure white edge of a pink-tinged rose are all areas that need to remain pristinely white.
Painting around white areas is tedious, time consuming and breaks the flow of spontaneity. Fortunately, there is an option that allows the artist to preserve the white of his support and continue to fling paint with abandon.
Magical Masking Fluid
Watercolorists can be a stubborn lot. Many watercolor painters do not use opaque white on their palette. White paint does not exist for their method of painting. This artist is a watercolor purist. While white paint is fine for gouache, tempera, acrylic, oil and casein artists, a translucent watercolorist will not contaminate his medium with an opaque substance. If you examine a painting in which white has been used, you will see at once a marked difference between an area painted white and one that has been created by saving the white of the paper.
To this end, manufacturers have developed a liquid, rubber-like substance that can be applied to form a waterproof film on paper. It is applied with a paintbrush, dries quickly and provides the artist with a safe and convenient method of preserving areas of paper. When the painting is complete and dry, the film is rubbed off the paper with a crepe square pickup. Now the artist can go back and detail the white area that remains.
Make Room For Frisket
This masking liquid is also commonly known as frisket, and there are a number of brands. Grumbacher, Grafix, Pebeo, Winsor & Newton and Dick Blick all produce this versatile fluid.
Grumbacher’s version of frisket is called Miskit Liquid Frisket and is packaged in a 1.5-ounce jar. It’s fluorescent orange, so it shows up to indicate the location of your white areas. This can be an important factor, as there are times when you are painting madly away and just can’t remember all the locations you have masked. Now you know what is white and what is yet to be painted.
Grafix has named their version of liquid frisket Incredible White Mask. Their product is available in 2-ounce, 4.5-ounce and 8.5-ounce sizes. The liquid dries to a cream color, so it shows up against the paint.
Pebeo labels their product Drawing Gum. The manufacturer claims it is water-soluble when wet, and it dries to a light blue color. It is a thin consistency, so care must be used to make sure the paper is completely covered.
Blick Liquid Frisket is also water-soluble and can be thinned with water before use. It comes in a 1.2-ounce container and dries to a pink color.
Masquepen Art Masking Fluid comes in a squeeze bottle with a tube top for easy application. The product is available in a set that includes two 1.25-ounce bottles. One bottle has an 0.08 mm head, and the other bottle has a 0.05 mm head. The set also includes a 1.25-ounce refill.
Winsor and Newton’s Watercolor Art Masking Fluid comes in a 75 ml glass bottle. They have both colorless and colored versions of the product. The colorless is formulated for soft sized papers to avoid staining.
Other paint manufacturers and large art supply houses produce liquid masking fluids. There are variations in viscosity and colors, but they all are intended to protect surfaces with a waterproof sealant.
Frisket Is A Paintbrush’s Worst Enemy
As impressive as frisket is, it is deadly to paintbrushes. It is basically rubber cement. If the liquid dries on your brush, just kiss its hairy little head goodbye before tossing it in the wastebasket.
It helps to coat your brush with a little soap before plunging it into this rubbery substance, but make sure to wipe it off quickly when you are done using it. In fact, walk quickly to the sink, and use soap and water to try to resuscitate your brush. Any particulates that dry will adhere to the bristles and become almost impossible to remove.
Most artists save worn out or damaged paintbrushes to use exclusively for applying liquid masking fluid. If you tend to be forgetful and leave brushes lying around while answering phone calls or seeing to the needs of your toddler, you can purchase inexpensive hobby brushes.
Liquid Masking Fluid – Stirred, Not Shaken
Some manufacturers claim their product is water-soluble. If your frisket is thickening, you can add a few drops of water to thin it down. Shaking the product is the most efficient method of mixing, but shaking will cause bubbles. You cannot use this bubbly concoction on you painting. Your brush may pick up bubbles, which may or may not burst on the paper. This could leave spots that paint can seep through and spoil the pristine white you have worked so hard to maintain.
If you shake your frisket, it must rest until the bubbles are gone. This may take 10 minutes or more. Therefore, stirring may be more tedious, but in the long run it may take less time.
When you are done with your frisket, your brush is thoroughly clean and you are waiting for your liquid to dry, carefully clean the outside rim of your container and the inside rim of the lid. The bottle needs to be fully sealed to prevent air seeping in and thickening your fluid.
The best way to store your frisket is to set it upside-down. This prevents any air from leaking in and increases the shelf life of your product. This is the other reason that you should make sure the rim is properly clean before screwing on the lid. If the bottle begins to leak, dried frisket in your tabouret or on your shelf is a bit messy to clean up.
Liquid masking fluid is a great product that is very useful for both fine artists and craftspeople. If used properly, frisket can make a big impact on your art. Use it as a tool, but be careful that it doesn’t become a crutch.