You need to have white in your watercolor painting but aren’t sure the best way to accomplish that?  What are your options?  It turns out there are several I will outline below on how to handle white in a watercolor painting with some tips for each.


Negative Painting

The first option is what is called Negative Painting.  To keep it simple, this is where you paint around the white areas leaving them as the white of the paper.  This can be a little challenging especially if you have a lot of really small white areas.  That being said, I feel this is the best way to handle white.


White Paint

White watercolor paint is another option though usually frowned upon in the watercolor world.  I personally don’t ever use white watercolor paint.  For one it isn’t usually opaque enough.


Masking Fluid

Masking Fluid, sometimes called liquid frisket, works well to preserve the whites of the paper.  If using this, remember to let it dry completely before painting near it.  If you are using a rough textured paper, this can be an issue as the masking fluid can get in the grooves of the paper and be difficult to remove.  Another hint with using masking fluid is to not leave it on the paper for very long.  I recommend under 48 hours.  I have left it on too long before and it will not come off.

You can apply masking fluid using a small paint brush.  I recommend using an older paint brush.  It helps to apply a little soap (of any kind) on the bristles before using the masking fluid.  This helps to keep the bristles on the brush from gumming up.  Another option for applying masking fluid is a ruling pen.  A ruling pen is a good option for straight lines.  These can be adjusted to the width you want your line to be.  You can use pretty much any implement you want to apply masking fluid.  They also make masking fluid in a pen with different size nibs.  I have had some luck with these.  Sometimes, since you need to tap the tip to get the fluid flowing, you can get a puddle of masking fluid so be careful.

There are several ways to remove masking fluid when you are ready.  You can gently rub your finger over it and it will come off or you can use a Glue Residue Eraser.

Here is one brand of masking fluid I personally like.  There are many brands available.

Pebeo Masking Fluid

Here a link to a masking fluid pen.  There are several out there, however, I found this one to work the best out of the ones I tried.

KREUL Making Fluid Pen

Glue Residue Eraser



Another option for preserving the white of the paper is tape.  You can use a masking tape, painters tape or washi tape.  This works really well for tree trunks or the tops of hills or mountains.  Sometimes I have found the paint may bleed underneath the tape when you remove it.  Make sure the tape is down well on the edges and wait until your paint is completely dry before removing.  If the tape is really tacky, you may want to tap the sticky side on your clothes or other area a few times to make it less tacky before applying to the paper.  This will help eliminate the potential of the paper ripping or tearing when you remove it.