3 Ways to Use Permanent Masking Fluid

Have you ever heard of permanent masking fluid?

Permanent versus removable

Photos and illustrations via CakeSpy

Also known as “permanent masking medium”, this is a non-removable, transparent mask to be used in painting. It can be applied directly to paper, as with removable masking fluid. Unlike removable masking fluid, however, it can be mixed with watercolors before applying them to the paper, making for an interesting colored effect.

Permanent masking fluid

In terms of texture, it paints on a little bit smoother than most removable masking fluids, which can be somewhat rubbery. When dried, permanent masking fluid is much smoother than removable masking fluid.

If you’ve never used permanent masking fluid before, it might not seem intuitive to use a mask that cannot be removed. But permanent masking fluid is a fascinating medium that is well worth discovering. Let’s explore.

Working with permanent masking fluid

Masking fluid

Here are some important tips to know before you even start painting.

1. Shake the bottle first.

The mixture can settle, so be sure to give your bottle a vigorous shake before opening and using.

2. Don’t use your best brushes.

While you can wash your brushes after using, the stickiness of permanent masking fluid can have a permanent effect on bristles, dulling the edges and making them stick. So until you’ve perfected the art of working with permanent masking fluid, don’t use your fanciest brushes.

3. Let the fluid dry, but not for too long.

Like with removable masking fluid, you want to let permanent masking fluid dry before you start any over-painting techniques.

Here’s the catch: don’t let it dry too long. The texture will change over time, so a wash applied over a recently dried layer of permanent masking fluid will lie differently than over masking fluid applied several days ago.

Using permanent masking fluid

Here are a few easy ways to use permanent masking fluid.

Intricate layers of color

Layer 1, masking fluid

Permanent masking fluid can be used to create layers of colors. On this vignette, the word “love” was overlaid with hearts painted in permanent masking fluid. Once dried, a watercolor wash was painted on top. When the watercolor wash dried, more hearts were painted in permanent masking fluid, and a second wash was applied.

Layer 2 masking fluid

See how you get a layered, interesting effect because the different layers have different colors under the masking fluid? Use your permanent masking fluid to create intricate, interesting layers.

Mix with watercolor

Masking fluid with paint

Unlike removable masking fluid, you can mix permanent masking fluid directly with watercolor to make it more permanent. For instance, the green paint used here to write “permanent masking fluid” was mixed with permanent masking fluid. See how it maintains its form when a watercolor wash is painted on top? This spread a little bit because only a small portion of masking fluid was mixed in, but it retained far more structure than the smaller paint portion to the bottom right, in which the letter “p” was painted in green and then painted over with a wash. The watercolor letter all but disappeared once the wash was painted on top. Permanent masking fluid can help you hold on to the details you want to remain visible in watercolor.

Painting over the masking fluid

Paint over masking fluid

Once the permanent masking fluid has set, it will be resistant to watercolor, but less so than removable masking fluid. Once dried, you can paint over it, and watercolor will adhere. This can allow you to create cool, textural color effects with watercolor which are different than if you were painting over the negative space left once you removed the masking fluid.

Have you ever tried working with permanent masking fluid?

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