Look at those eyes! (Masking Fluid Watercolour Technique)

amelia closeup

I have a very dear friend, the very best of friends actually, and she just became a grandma for the first time. She has the most adorable little granddaughter ever! (and I can say that because I don’t have any grandchildren yet, I might change my mind!, he he).

Anyway, back to the story, I saw this great picture of little Amelia and I knew it would be perfect for a technique I had been wanting to practice. amelia (Isn’t she just the sweetest? <3) 

I first saw the technique here and thought I would give it a shot. I did try it a couple of other times before this project, one I will show you a picture of later in the post, and the other was a commission and I forgot to take a picture of it before it went out the door to its new home. (oops. I do that ALL the time! not good with the camera.)

Again, I digress. So this technique utilizes masking fluid to keep your white areas white, and then a watercolour medium for the main part of the painting. It is done from a photo, so you have to choose your photo carefully…it works best with high contrast, clear photos, that don’t have too much going on in them. You digitally manipulate your photo to desaturate the colour and increase the contrast to near 100%. The blogger I linked to gave me some pretty clear instructions and then I just figured it out on the photoediting program I was using. I printed out the photo on plain paper.

Then I set up a makeshift light table using a plastic form I had already and my bright task lamp.amelia lightbox

I taped the printed photo to the lighttable and then taped a piece of 140lb Strathmore watercolour paper over top so that I could see the photo through it. (Yes, I know, it is not the pic of Amelia on my light table…work with me, folks!) Then I lightly traced the areas of light and dark out on my wc paper.  After removing the paper from the lighttable I used an OLD paintbrush to paint on masking fluid in the areas I wished to remain white.   Old because this stuff WILL NOT come off brushes easily or really, at all, even with the most rigorous scrubbing. (Don’t use your good brushes. You have been warned!)

Set this aside to dry for an hour or so.

amelia prep

While I waited for the masking fluid to dry, I mixed my watercolour. I used shades of blue-grey Inktense blocks and mixed up several varying strengths. Super easy,  just smoosh the block into the palette and add water. You can use a little grater on the block if you like.

amelia set up







Then with the photo as a guide, I used washes of colour to shade in the picture. Make sure you allow time between washes to dry or you will end up with a bit of a sodden mess. (*voice of experience*)

amelia wip

Finally, use an eraser or your fingernail to start removing the masking fluid “skin”. Once started it pulls off easily and voila! your watercolour masterpiece is revealed! A simple frame in a coordinating colour (thank you Great Canadian Dollar Store!) and my friend’s gift is complete.

amelia framed

Oh yeah, my other project with this technique…


It is perfect for pet photos too! (my little Sass-monster! such a good girl)

So I hope you enjoyed this little photo tutorial and that you give this technique a try!


Kindness is the root of all good things


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