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Masking (Frisket) watercolor tutorial
OBJECT: Learn watercolor masking techniques.

Materials and a little drawing
This tutorial shows the use of liquid frisket to create light objects on a dark backgrounds and repetitive patterns.

MATERIALS: Arches #140 CP watercolor paper, Incredible White Mask Liquid Frisket, masking tape, a #6 Liquitex synthetic Basic round (for frisket use only), Grumbacher 1" flat red sable, Kalish Kolinsky Red Sable #8 round, and a Kolonok #4 round Kolinsky red sable brush. ...and a blow-dryer, a scrap of paper and a square of artist's crepe rubber.

COLORS (various manufacture): Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Alizarin Crimson, Dioxazine Purple, Cobalt Blue, Pthalocyanine Blue, Pthalocyanine Green, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna. Colors chosen are transparent and semi-transparent.

A stark yellow pear on a dark background and checkered tablecloth became the subject matter.

I drew a simple in-your-face composition in #2 pencil.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley Protecting your lights
I started by stirring the liquid frisket. The solids tend to settle out if not used often enough.

Dipping my already damp #6 synthetic round into the frisket I used the scrap paper as a palette and smoothed my brush to a point.

I then painted a layer of liquid frisket over the entire pear, stem and all.

Do not use your sable brushes for frisket. It will ruin them by getting embedded in the hairs.

Use a synthetic hair brush, moisten it before use. For even easier cleaning, use mildly soapy water for wetting and rinsing your frisket brush.
Masking the details
After the pear was masked I decided which squares in the tablecloth pattern were white and proceeded to mask them all with frisket. Notice the "X" marks the spot in the squares to be dark.

I taped off the edges of the entire painting with masking tape, gently smoothed the inside edges down and allowed the frisket time to dry.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley It's quicker than you think..
Using washes of Alizarin Crimson, and Dioxazine Purple I laid in the red squares of the table cloth.

I varied the color towards purple as the wash receded behind the pear, and graded the main red wash to a lighter red towards the foreground.


Dry it up... Lay in background
After letting the first wash dry, I lightly mixed Pthalocycnine Green and Alizarin Crimson to form a dark murky bluegreen color. With no background detail we'll rely on color and value instead.

I washed in a dark angled green area and adding a touch of Pthalocyanine Blue graded the wash to a ligher bluish green trying to be as "painterly" as possible. I carefully cut in the line of the edge of the tablecloth.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley Underpainting complete... drying time
I finished off the background by mixing Alizarin into the Pthalocyanine Green to make a deep dark Maroon and blended into a shadowy upper left corner.

At this point take a moist brush or tissue and carefully dab up any puddles of paint resting on the frisket.

Allow painting time to completely dry.


Removing the mask...
To remove dried liquid frisket you need a Natural Rubber Pickup. They come in little squares in paper sleeves. They are made of a crepe, a crude rubber used for the soles of shoes. It has a high tack.

Gently stroke the dried liquid frisket from the edge of the painted area into the masked area. I work in short strokes from top to bottom or left to right, pulling with an even light pressure.

The rubber pickup will roll and pull up the dry liquid frisket. Do this carefully and remove all traces of frisket.

If your paper is not totally dry, you can accidentally pull some paper fibers up with the frisket.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley Adding an illusion of depth
I wanted the covered tabletop to have a sense of depth and worked on the areas in shadow.

Using my #8 red sable round brush I loosely mixed Cobalt Blue, Pthalocyanine Blue, and Dioxazine purple in a couple areas of my palette.

Varying the colors as I went, I graded the shadow areas from cooler richer blues to warmer lighter blues in the foreground.
Points of light
After letting the last areas dry, I wanted to keep some highlights open on the pear before I continued.

Using the #6 synthetic round brush, I covered a couple highlight areas on the right side of the pear and let it dry.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley A singular pear
I started working on the pear by laying a light glaze of Cadmium Yellow Light (and Medium) over the entire pear shape.

Adding tiny amounts of Raw Umber, Pthalocyanine Green, and Burnt Sienna I started modeling the form of the pear. I dropped dark "pin pricks" of the pear surface detail in with the tip of a #4 round red sable brush.
Final strokes and clean up
I let the work on the pear dry and then continued modeling the shading on the pear.

Using cool gray washes (Burnt Sienna and Pthalocyanine Blue) I further modeled the shadow side and other areas of the pear.

The tablecloth needed to be more fully realized so I devised a simple floral design over the "X" squares to pull it together. Using a #4 round red sable and Alizarin Crimson in varying values I systematically painted the pattern on the cloth.

After painting was complete, I let the painting dry again and removed the last of the frisket using the natural rubber pickup.
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley
Watercolor Masking and Frisket Tutorial  2009 Gregory Conley Final example painting
To clean up the finished painting I used a kneaded eraser to remove most traces of the pencil drawing in the painting itself.

Click photo to enlarge.

Here we have a 7" square watercolor painting of a yellow pear on a red-checkered tablecloth painted using the Liquid Frisket and Masking Tape techniques.

This tutorial uses a representational approach the the subject matter, pre-planning was needed to protect areas needed for later stages of the painting. More spontaneous approaches to masking are also viable alternatives.

You can use liquid frisket on areas already painted for some amazing multi-layered effects. This works with varying degrees of success depending on the underlying pigments.

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