How often do you wish you could try something new and have fun with producing effects that are not totally controlled. When you face a blank piece of white paper, however, fear takes over and you go back to what you know best

I hope this article will inspire you to take a step into the unknown and let the paint, masking fluid and unpredictability take over.


  • Masking fluid
  • Watered-down masking fluid in a spare bottle
  • ‘Spray it’ bottle (Javana)
  • Water
  • Watercolour
  • Heavy-weight watercolour paper or watercolour board
  • Assorted brushes
  • Gutta bottle and nib (optional)

Step 1

Lightly sketch your design using a soft pencil. Decide what colours will be used and which direction your light source will come from. Where do you want most of the texture to be? Try using the places where the light source is at its strongest and concentrate on areas that draw the eye into the design.

Masking fluid










Step 2

1 Drizzle, dribble or squirt neat masking fluid onto the design; or spritz the fluid, diluted with clear water, from the ‘Spray it’ bottle. If you want to create thinner, more spidery effects, and you don’t have a spray, use watered down masking fluid, then blow it or tip the paper. Sometimes I combine all techniques on the one piece of work.

2 Mask out areas that need to remain white or highlights.

3 Allow to dry thoroughly.

4 Prepare watery mixes of watercolour to form the background. Spray the paper or board well with water. Starting in the area where the light source is coming from, pour a mix of bright, vibrant, warm colour onto the surface, then tip and tilt the paper.

5 Add your basic colours for the focal point.

6 Finally use a complementary cool colour to the area which is in the shade. Tip and tilt the colours until they blend on the paper, but avoid too much tilting or the colours will turn to mud.

Step 3

Allow the excess colours to run off one corner (and tip down the sink). This is the area that you will darken for the shadows. Allow to dry.
Paint using masking fluid










Step 4

1 Repeat the process to strengthen the colours and add new ones.

2 Allow to dry.

3 When thoroughly dry, remove the masking fluid.

Paint negative shapes







Step 5

1 Redraw lost lines in pencil. At the same time, alter the design and work in new shapes that have been created by the masking fluid. Allow the painting to dictate its own design and take advantage of shapes that have now emerged. It’s all part of the fun.

2 Start to add depth by painting negative dark shapes and shadows, while emphasising the focal point and main subject.

White peony by Pauline Hill

Peony, watercolour, 18x14in. (46x35.5cm)

Step 6

1 Add detail to the main area, allowing the background to be just that and allowing the foreground to come forward. Approach this technique with only a vague hope and allow events to dictate what the outcome will be. You will be amazed what fun it is to trust the outcome to fate! We all know how some of these happy accidents become an integral and important part of a painting, so why not let an entire painting be dictated in this manner.


Do not overwork. This style of painting should not be overdone, but kept fresh and vibrant.

This article was taken from the November 2008 issue of Leisure Painter.
More advice on using masking fluid:
How to use Masking Fluid by Tony Paul
Using Masking Fluid in a Layered Painting by Elizabeth Groves
How to Paint White on White - Silver Birches in the Snow by Gwen Scott