The Trouble With Masking Fluid


Today’s watercolor, a chickadee and milkweed, turned into an accidental mixed media. The problem started when I lost interest in the painting after masking it out. I let it sit with the masking fluid on it over the winter — maybe even longer than that.

Finally yesterday after the urging of SOMEONE who shall go unnamed, I decided to finish the painting. I washed in the background colors, the stems and leaves, and then took a brand new rubber masking tool remover to get the old, dried fluid off.

There is nothing quite like being well into the middle of a painting and suddenly realizing it is a **FAIL**! I start bargaining with myself trying to think of ways to save it.

It’s odd how many other time wasters can be considered acceptable. It doesn’t  bother me to spend an hour sitting by the pond watching fish swim around, while I try to coax birds to come down and drink. Or an hour watching some stupid TV show. Or an hour on the internet, looking at cowgirl boots.

But an hour or more spent on a painting that ultimately has to be scrapped drives me to the point of near hysteria.

Why is that?!

But I digress. The masking fluid, the artist’s secret magic potion, had gummed up and was the consistency of tree sap. My hands stuck to it. When I scrubbed it with the rubber tool, the stuff balled up and tore the paper.

I started trying everything I could think of to get it off. I used rubbing alcohol. Then Dawn dish soap. Nothing was working!  ARRGGHHH!


Finally, I decided to just paint over it, bumps and all. So even though the piece was a watercolor, and now completely violated anyway, I took opaque acrylic white paint and covered up all the gobs of rubber and torn paper bits.

I’m lucky that the areas which were masked were mostly puffy seed material from the milkweed. The stuff blows around anyway, so it gave me a lot of freedom to work over ruined areas.

In the end, I have a lumpy, textured mixed media painting that is completely unlike my others. Materials used are watercolor, acrylic, and aged masking fluid. Ironically, the end result might be better than the original painting ever would have, as the textures and forced variety of color in the seed puffs have added a depth and variety surpassing the first version.

I will call it a learning experience, although I don’t see myself ever trying this technique on purpose.



About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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